Unless you've been living on another planet you won't have failed to notice two things:
1) I like Gin.
2) Gin has been undergoing somewhat of a renaissance recently.
At this point you should know that I have been drinking gin since 1988. I had a brief flirtation with alco-pops for a few years, but then, I grew back into gin again. So what I'm really trying to say here is that I didn't jump on the gin bandwagon.
In 1988 if you asked for gin in a bar, there was no "which gin would you prefer?", you got Gordons or Beefeater and that was it. With Schweppes tonic (Britvic if you were unlucky) and a slice of lemon. I remember Dad bringing home Gordons Export from Duty Free for mum, which was gross, but her regular tipple was standard Gordon's, the smell of Gordon's and Tonic will always remind me of my mum. (not that she constantly smelt of G&T you understand)
Even though Tanqueray has been around since the 1800s, Beefeater was first produced in 1820 and Plymouth Gin was first produced in 1793, it wasn't until Bombay Sapphire first appeared in the UK in 1987, in its distinctive blue bottle, that gin really grabbed many people's attention. Throw Diageo and Pernod Ricard into the mix and Gin went Boom.
Fast forward a few years and there are now more brands of gin than there are days of the year. Shedding its old-fashioned image it has become the drink du jour.
Having gone to the Norwich festival last July, this Saturday we went to Tobacco Docks in Wapping, for our second go.
GinFestival.com was established in 2013 by Jym and Marie Harris, who wanted to create events where people could go to find new gins, find out about the spirit and have a great time along the way. Their first festival was in Leeds.
They certainly tapped into the Gin Zeitgeist and now there are regular Gin Festival events across cities and towns in the UK, with more gins to choose from than ever before.
Tickets are £15 which gets you entry to the festival and your Gin Festival glass, which you can bring home afterwards. On arrival you get your glass, guidebook and a pen (for note making, very important) and then buy your tokens. Tokens are £20 for four - each token gets you one gin (two tokens for cocktails) - from experience we knew 6 gins each would be enough! This time they gave you a really handing little Gin Festival pouch that you can put all your stuff in - including your glass!
Photo: My own
On Saturday there were over 100 gins to choose from. They have a brand section where you can get free samples (unsurprisingly very busy), a cocktail bar and then the main gin room. The gins are divided into Bars A, B, C and D. Bars A and B feature British gins, Bar C features International gins, and D features fruit gins and liqueur gins.
For our first gins of the day we just stuck a metaphorical pin in the book and picked one.
Knowing what gins I already like makes choosing new ones a little easier, but here I wanted to try new ones. These are the six I tried.
The staff are knowledgable and friendly and each gin served comes with its recommended garnish and the correct (Fever Tree) mixer. For example the Hoxton was served with Ginger Ale. I also discovered that Fever Tree Light is actually not a slimline version of the tonic water (slimline tonic is the devil), but a less flavoured cross between tonic and soda water, so if your gin is slightly delicate, I recommend trying the light version.
If you're new to Gin, the Gin festival is a great place to start
If, however, you know what you like and prefer your experiences to be slightly more personal, I highly recommend the Ginstitute where we went in 2015. I honestly should be on commision for them as I've sent so many people there since we've been. Check out my original post here, but also look at their website as they now have London's first Gin HOTEL!
Finally I highly highly recommend this book by Dave Broom, The Gin Manual. Beginning with the history of gin ("a tale of depravity and joy"), through the technicalities of distilling (When can a Gin be a London Dry Gin?) followed by a list of hundreds of brands of gin taste-tested under 4 categories - as a G&T, with Sicilian Lemonade, as a Negroni and as a Martini - and finishing with a large gin cocktail section. This book is a bible for gin lovers. (Thanks Tim and Kay for the Christmas present!)
I don't know what it is particularly that I like about gin - I actually have a really sweet tooth and gin generally isn't sweet. I don't like whisky, and Vodka is just a bit dull really.
Gin is a such a refreshing drink, and comes in so many guises you could never get bored with it.
Oh and in case you were wondering, the Juniper Berry is now no longer under threat - hurrah! The UK National Tree Seed Project, set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has been collecting juniper seeds from around the country to help conserve the declining juniper plant, storing the plants in the Millennium Seed Bank to keep them safe.
Are you a gin fan? Do you have a favourite? Or do you think it's just a case of the Hipster's New Clothes?