When the invite to attend the Gin Festival popped up in my inbox, and I was asked the question “Do you like Gin?”, I had to confess that – ehhh, not really, kinda, still new to trying gin. But what I did know is that if I was going to find a gin that would suit my taste buds it would be at the Gin Festival, so I happily accepted the invite, hoping to find the gin for me. I was allowed to bring a friend, so took one of my besties Abi, a recent Gin convert with me.
The Gin Festival has been around for a little while now, it tours almost weekly across the country and I’ve admired the event from afar from some of my friends in Nottingham and Leicester. But this was it’s first visit to Peterborough, in a rather wonderful location too, Peterborough Cathedral. I must admit, something felt a little bizarre drinking underneath a hanging Christ (not in the sense that he was hungover), but the atmosphere of the Cathedral was lovely and cosy on a busy and bustling Saturday evening.
On arrival you’re welcomed with a Gin glass to take around with you (and you get to take it home), this is a genius idea as it cuts down on the need to have staff constantly cleaning up in a very busy environment. Inside the glass is also a Gin Guide which describes the hundred gins available, I referred to it throughout the night as the Gin Bible and I’ve kept it handy with the corners folded down of the ones I tried, and might want to get myself a bottle of in future.
The Gin Bible was split up into four different sections, each section had a theme, so from UK exclusives to Deyhydrated Fruit. Each section was assigned a different bar A-D so you knew where to hunt out the 25 or so Gins available on each. Each gin single was £5, double/gin cocktail £10. The system operated on a cashless system, so every atendee has a wristband with a chip which you top up with credit, which means you can move around the venue and swipe your wrist when ordering which helped keep the queues moving as there was no one rustling for money in their purse.
The layout for the cathedral being long and narrow really didn’t make the best space for queuing, with queues for the bars winding around each other and we were having to walk around figuring out where one line ended and where the next one began. The main bars were located at the front part of the cathedral where they had a live music playing from a couple of different bands which only added to the friendly, jovial atmosphere and had quite a few people having a dance after they were a gin or two down.
Towards the back of the cathedral there were a few different Gin sampling stations which were free and included a shot or two of different gins and a talk through the gins with owners/employees of local distilleries. Our favourites were probably Two Birds Distillery, which is local to us and has grown a lot in the past few years – and the Black Tomato gin was quite an entertaining piece of showmanship!
Tucked around the side was the street food, which we didn’t know was there, I think we both might have regretted eating quite a hefty amount of pizza before we left Abi’s house, they had selections from Salt and Pepper Fries to Gyozas. Either way everything smelt delicious and it was a mistake having a walk through to see what they had!
What I quickly learnt at the festival was that it wasn’t that I didn’t love Gin, but infact I don’t like tonic – I find it a very overpowering flavour and detracts a lot from the gin itself. All tonics and accompaniments were provided free of charge by Fever Tree, alongside the tonics they had a few other options including Lemonade – which I loved as it wasn’t as sweet as normal lemonade, but didn’t have the bitterness of tonic, so it allowed me to taste the gin flavour without being overpowered. They also had an Elderflower and a Ginger Ale also which I’ll be trying more of in future.
My favourite Gins on the night was a lilac coloured Sweet Violet gin from Zymurgorium. It had the taste of parma violet sweets (turns out I think a lot of other countries don’t have parma violets it’s a very distinct tasting sherbet sweet). As well as another gin called Cornish Cup that was very pimms like. What I also found was that a lot of the time the fruits added to the gin can really enhance the taste and make a lot bigger impact.
I can officially walk away from the Gin Festival as a convert, I hope to see the Gin Festival return to Peterborough in future, but I may have to go check in to other local ones in Leicester and Nottingham. There’s a big wide world of gin out their to discover, and I think it’s going to be my tipple of choice over Christmas. I think lots of people presume, like I did, that they don’t like Gin – but I’d encourage you to try with something else other than tonic, step away from the dry gins and ease yourself in, as I think personally, there’s a gin for everybody.
Are you a gin fan?
* Ticket entry and drinks provided in exchange for a review of our experience.