Manchester Gin Festival

Saturday 19th August 2017

We attended the evening session of the Manchester Gin Festival hosted by Gin Festivals UK at Victoria Warehouse. Tickets were £13.50 per person. Gin Festivals UK host similar events across the country. This is the excerpt from their promotional websites:

Gin Festivals UK

– – –

“Prepare to have your taste buds tantalised by the 120 different gins from around the world!

What to expect:
– Trade Stands
– Talks & Presentations from some of the finest Gin producers
– Cocktail Demos
– Make your own Gin Distillery
– Live Entertainment
– Indoor Garden Party Atmosphere… and so much more!!!

Tickets include:
Entry Free GIN Bag Including:
– Gin Bible
– Gin Glass
– Gin Sampling Card

Our bars operate on a token system and do not take cash so you will need tokens to get your drinks. Tokens are £5 each with one token paying for a single measure of gin, garnish and a Franklin & Sons mixer.”

– – –

Now, before we go any further we feel like we have to express a little bit of disappointment with the evening. Firstly, the venue was not large enough for the number of people that attended. It might not have felt so claustrophobic if it wasn’t for the fact that we were underground, but the four bars that were serving the 120 gins were constantly packed (we queued for 15 minutes at one bar without moving at all, and gave up eventually).

There were 3 “trade stands”, featuring Manchester Gin, Liverpool Gin, Whitley Neill and Sir Robin of Locksley gins. Here, you could try 25ml samples of the bottles at no cost, with the option to add a dash of tonic, and the stall hosts were happy to answer and questions about the drinks. These were the highlight of the event! Aside from these, each person could sample 4 gins for free from the bar. Any more, and you have to pay £5. The size of the free samples varied drastically between the four bars, with one serving 25ml shots and another pouring less – approximately a quarter of a shot for you to sample. We also noticed the Gin sampling card system was somewhat abused. Individuals would take their gins, keep the bartender talking, finish their gins and order another! This really slowed down service.

There was an additional bar in a separate room that offered to make you cocktails with a selection of gins, for a cost. Other than this, there were no “cocktail demonstrations” as advertised. There were no “talks and presentations” either, and we couldn’t find anything to relate to the “Make your own Gin Distillery” advertised. In the two hours that we were there, we saw one musical performer who sang some classic jazz… and that was the extent of the entertainment! In terms of food, you had the choice between nachos or a burger, which were £6…

The event was disappointing. However, some of the gins we sampled were fantastic!

The Highlights:

Sharish Blue Magic Gin
Sharish Blue Magic
This is a Portuguese gin which uses extracts from the Blue Pea flower which gives this drink its colour. But when you add tonic, the drink turns pink (that’s where the “magic” comes in!). Aside from the colour-changing novelty, this gin actually tastes delightful. Botanicals include coriander, angelica root, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, lemon peel, strawberry and raspberry. The result is a smooth, sweet gin. They recommend you serve with apple. 
Blind Tiger Piper Cubeba
Blue Tiger Piper Cubeca
A Belgian gin created by Deluxe Distillery, this expression uses a cubeb pepper, malted barley, lavender, orange blossom, ginger, green cardamon and liquorice root. This one was a highlight for the flavour intensity from the second it hits your tongue! A lot of gins out there are all about the finish, but this one was an experience for the palate too. They recommend an orange garnish.

Xolato Chocolate Gin

3. Xolato Chocolate Gin

This one has made it onto our August Wishlist. This was another one from Belgium, and it was served to us with a sprinkle of cacao nibs which was a nice touch. The gin itself is made with 15 botanicals, including Colombian cocoa beans from Colombia, hazelnuts from Piedmont, almonds from Avola, pepper and Madagascan vanilla pods. The chocolate flavour is subtle and not over-powering, nicely balanced by the nuts and spices.

We obviously couldn’t sample all 120 gins, but we tried a variety. They provided a decent, diverse selection, with gins from all over the globe, and local brands too such as Manchester Gin and Zymurgorium. The experience wasn’t great, but we did get to try some gins we wouldn’t normally get to sample. It’s possible that with a few tweaks, more vendors, a larger venue and a better system of bars in place that this could be a fantastic event.

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