It’s a familiar sight on the evening of a Gin Society event at the Cathedral, the queue out the door.
This year the queue seemed a little smaller. Maybe because I was earlier than normal (a definite possibility, as I’m usually late for everything), and possibly because gin festivals are so much more frequent than they used to be, that it’s difficult to pick which one to go to. Even despite the crash and burn of the original gin festival company, there are lots hosted by pubs, bars, and charity events across the country. With mixed experiences for punters.
For all that, a Gin Society festival is one I am always very happy to find myself at. Not only because the local one is hosted at Manchester Cathedral – I may not be religious at all, but even I can appreciate a building like this – but because it’s always a fun night out with friends. Which is kind of the point.
So a super quick how it works.
Your ticket gets you into the festival – and on entry a branded glass, pen, and guide – which includes details of all the gins on the bars, and those at the sample tables. For gins from the bars, you’ll need vouchers – each G&T will cost one £5 at a time.
Then throughout the night, you can visit the gin brands – giving you the opportunity to often meet the gin distillers themselves, but also to sample their gins and some stands will also make you a G&T too (at the same cost as the gin bar). They’ll also be the ones hosting the masterclasses – so rather than a hurried chat at the stand, you can learn all about the gin, the method, the story behind it, and get to know the spirit a little better.
Sounds good? That’s because it is. All this with live music, food in case you get the munchies after a few drinks, cocktail bar in case you want something a bit fancier, and a few other gin-related stands, but more on those later.
For now, it was gin o’clock, and we were greeted by Sipsmith as soon as we walked through the door. Every a fan of their VJOP (it dials juniper up to eleven) I’ve become a bit of a fanatic about their Lemon Drizzle too, particularly the newer recipe which is an even bigger hit of citrus and a little drier than the original. I may also be coveting the deck chairs, which sadly wouldn’t fold up small enough for me to sneak into my handbag.
I obviously need a bigger handbag.
Elsewhere, we got to sample the brand new gin from Sis4ers Distillery, Lime and Thyme, alongside their Signature Gin and their Strawberry Edition. I must admit the latest one has me itching to get into the kitchen as I already have a recipe idea baking for it.
I was also thrilled to introduce my date to Tarsier Gin, with it’s distinctive Southeast Asian flavours. I’m looking forward to heading over to their distillery in Styal for a little visit soon.
As fought our way through the crowd to visit both the Manchester Gin and the Cuckoo Gin stands (we tried to work out if it was the gins, or the rather attractive bearded gents serving us, we’re still undecided). As the Cathedral filled with yet more gin lovers, we began to think that maybe there weren’t fewer gin enthusiasts in attendance, but they were just a little late getting started.
All of which had been to our advantage as we visited newcomers Whitby Gin, with it’s distinctly seaside notes, and chatted to Faith & Sons, sampling not only every gin on the stand, but also the two rums that they’re in the process of releasing. If the talked about rum revival is coming, Manchester might just lead the way.
Our final stops before the gin bars themselves involved Wilton Street Craft Company with their selection of vegan candles (going on my shopping list, who doesn’t want a house smelling of gin and tonic?), and Shelly’s Drinks. The latter offer a spirit drink made using gin. To be honest, the gin isn’t very detectable at all. Whilst I appreciate that these are a ‘spirit drink’, not a gin (and they are very open about the difference), I’m not sure they would be very different using a vodka instead of gin. The key flavours punchy and I’m not sure them being gin based offers much. They’re sweet, and enjoyable on their own.
Finally we hit the gin bars themselves and made our way through a few G&Ts, finding one or two new gins to sample. With over 5000 in the world to sample, it could take me a while yet.