York Barbican, Saturday 24th February 2018
Gin lovers of the UK, rejoice! Gin Festival is stuffed full of tasty gins just waiting to be sipped, and it’s (probably) coming to a city (relatively) near you! Last weekend the festival made its first northern pit stop at York’s Barbican, and I was pretty thrilled to be asked to come along, get tipsy on some delicious gins and share my thoughts.
Turning up for the Saturday evening session I was a little nervous to be announcing myself as a blogger so I could actually get in (#blogwanker), but the welcome couldn’t have been nicer and we were ushered to the entrance by a couple of bubbly staff members and given a welcome speech explaining how things worked and where everything was. Then we were handed a cute little tote bag containing our Gin Festival glasses (which we used during the event and then got to keep), brochures telling us about all the available gins, press passes (I’ve never felt so important), wrist bands for paying at the bars and a couple of other VIP goodies. After which we were released into the festival, briefed and thoroughly ready for gin.
On our walk over we’d been musing about how the Barbican would work for the event as I’ve only ever seen it fully chaired up for sit-down shows, but it transformed remarkably well into a much more open-plan space; a small shop area was situated in the foyer and the main hall was lined with bars, food stalls (which we didn’t manage to sample but they looked and smelled delicious) and brand stands with the stage occupied by a vintage-style band (followed by an excellent Mumford and Sons-esque cover band) that provided a live soundtrack to our gin consumption, and some seating and milling space in the middle. The energy was up and the floor was full of gin lovers when we arrived, and we headed to one of the easy to spot top up stands to put some credit on our wristbands, then headed straight to the bar. The wristband system worked incredibly well as a swift ‘boop’ of a wristband was all that was needed for payment, so the queues were fast moving and we never felt like we were waiting for too long.
My first gin was the Aduro Pink Passion gin, which came recommended by the festival as one of their top 10s, which was floral and fruity with just the right amount of sweetness, suitably garnished with raspberry, mint and orange. DanMan went for a more unusual choice of Aduro Bell Pepper gin, which was unsurprisingly accompanied by red pepper and tasted, unsurprisingly, quite a lot like bell pepper. Although unusual it was actually quite delicious and definitely one to try if you’ve got more savoury tastes, and it piqued my interest to try a more out-there gin for my next choice.
Whilst sipping our Aduros we meandered over to the brand stalls (did someone say free samples?), where brand reps were giving out tasters along with information about some select gins. Highlights were the lovely Bernadette telling us about the British made, Spanish style Tinker which had the robust citrus flavours I’d expect from a Spanish style gin. Brockman’s was recommended as an ‘end of the night’ gin and had distinctly adult branding – leather aprons included – and a wonderfully palatable flavour bursting with blueberries even when sipped straight. Kuro was a Japanese inspired option that was less distinctly flavoured than the others and would probably suit more earthy tastes. Safe to say we left that section of the festival feeling a bit merrier than when we arrived.
By the time we’d finished taste testing from tiny sample cups of gin we were more than ready for a full size portion of gin, and this time we both went for a more savoury option; the gorgeously named Black Tomato. It came garnished with basil which is a favourite flavour of mine, and oh my, it tasted like a greenhouse with a refreshing tomato tang and the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. It was my favourite of the night by far because of how unexpected it was and suited to my particular tastes, but I imagine it wouldn’t be for everyone. It’s worth mentioning here that all the gins also came with a mixer recommendation that the bar staff very helpfully pointed out to us, and although I’m usually a gin and soda gal (like nobody else, ever, apparently – I just think tonic usually tastes icky? No?) I went with it and stuck to the recommendations and, you know, I think I just might be a bit of a tonic convert! The Black Tomato came with salty lemon tonic which complemented it perfectly despite sounding like something that would make you scrunch up your nose.
At £5 for each G&T the drinks were reasonably priced considering the quality of both the spirits and the mixers, and as such we ended up going for an unplanned third drink as there was so much to try. I went for Tinker Pink which was delightfully sweet with a definite taste of strawberries and went down very easily, and Dan went for Poetic License Old Tom gin which was less to my tastes but perfect for him as it had a rounded, peppery flavour from the oak casks it’s aged in. The balcony level of the auditorium was open as seating so we made our way up to have a sit while we finished our final tipples, and looked out over the bustling festival goers below (many of whom had loosened up enough for a good dance by this time).
We left with a spring in our step and a bottle of Masons Yorkshire gin (paid for in part by a voucher kindly given to us by the festival in exchange for this post), which I’m sipping on while writing this! We had a great time at the festival and didn’t even get a chance to attend one of the free masterclasses, so along with all the many gins we didn’t get around to trying I have more than enough reasons to want to return next year! The festival has many more stops all over the country in next few months and I’d thoroughly recommend going along if you’re a gin-lover – or even you’re not; there truly is something for every taste. Tickets are about £12 for admission and there are usually a few days/times to choose from, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a fun and unique night out.
I was given entry to the event gratis but all opinions are very much genuine and my own (although I did get the impression they were trying to ply me with alcohol so I’d give them a good review – it worked). And remember, enjoy your drinks safely and responsibly pals!