Gin Festival (Victoria Baths, Manchester)

Friday 3rd November 2017

We were kindly invited to attend the winter Gin Festival at Victoria Baths in Manchester! They hosted 5 events over 4 days, and we attended the Friday evening session which ran between 6.30pm – 11.00pm. The retail price of tickets were £16.

This is an excerpt from their promotional website:

– – –

Gin Festival

“On arrival you will be handed your very own Gin Festival Copa Balloon Glass and a brochure that tells you all about the gins at the festival.

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 Fever-Tree mixer.

Throughout the event there will be live music and entertainment, talks from gin industry experts, delicious food and lots of chit chat with other gin lovers!”

– – –
 
You might remember that we attended a similar festival back in August hosted by GinFestivalsUK (read it here), but this GinFestival.com event (don’t get confused!) blew it so far out of the water that all that remained were smithereens.
 
Victoria Baths
Victoria Baths Bar Room
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Victoria Baths is a remarkable venue in the process of being restored, perfect for festival events. The building leaves you marvelling at the history of this public swimming pool and Turkish bath, with striking stained glass windows and mosaic decor… but I digress.
 

 

Upon arrival at the festival, the friendly staff handed us a pack containing a very informative gin guide and a wonderfully sized copa balloon glass. We were also given a wristband which would become our contactless tag that we could top up with money at designated stations and use as wearable bankcard. 

 
Top-Up Station
Contactless Wristband
 
 
 
 

 

 
The first room we entered was adorned with colourful lights and a whole load of alcohol! There were four bars where you could purchase a large helping any one of 100+ gins for £5 with your wristband, all of which were served with the recommended garnish. You can then pour your mixer yourself, free of  charge. The regular/light tonics were available on the bars, but there was also a Fever-Tree stand which offered flavoured tonics – Elderflower, Mediterranean, Aromatic or Lemon – or soda water, lemonade and ginger beer available as mixers if you prefer. The bar staff were more than helpful with their mixer recommendations which depends on the flavour profile of your purchased gin.
Fever-Tree Stand
Bar C

One thing we noticed was the environmental considerations of the festival. There was a volume of information about the restoration project, for those interested. There were no plastic straws available – there is an increasing awareness of this issue with many companies pledging to abandon plastic straws all together – and the bars were separating recyclable glass. It was a shame though that the same consideration was not given to the large number of disposable plastic shot glasses which were used liberally. 

Aside from the bar room, there was an entertainment hall with live music and food stalls, and a brand room where you could try free samples of gin. The brand room had stalls from Manchester Three Rivers, Cuckoo, Thomas Dakin, PJ, Tinker Gin, Black Tomato or Brocklands, where you could ask questions and try serving suggestions. 

Black Tomato Gin Stall

 

There were also bar areas where you could buy cocktails with your choice of gin, and masterclasses throughout the evening hosted by the brands that had stalls in the brand room. We attended a fantastic masterclass delivered by Manchester Three Rivers, which was informative about the history of gin, the company’s beginnings and ethos, and the flavour profiles of their product (all members of the audience were handed a sample in a shot glass and then a bottle of their gin was passed around, which we particularly enjoyed!).
Manchester Three Rivers Masterclass
Overall, it was a brilliant, bourgeois, boozy evening, and a steal for the retail price. We were happy to have our faith in boozy festivals restored. The gin selection was large, with bespoke brands alongside more established bottlings, the live music was entertaining, the venue was perfect and all of the staff were welcoming, knowledgeable and happy to be there too. They even handed us a carrier bag for our large glass souvenirs as we left, which was a nice touch!

The Gin Highlights:

 

Gotik London Dry Gin

1. Gotik London Dry Gin

This is a 40% ABV Portuguese gin the first to come from the Ribatejo region, which uses a combination of a whopping 21 botanicals, including butternut squash and tomatoes! Gotik gin is complex: smooth and sweet, crisp and aromatic. Cinnamon, cardamon and red fruits prevail. The recommended serving is rosemary and Indian Tonic. This gin is only currently available in the UK via the GinFestival.com website.

 

Manchester Three Rivers

2. Manchester Three Rivers

As Mancunians, you might say we’re biased, but we think it would be difficult for you to find something wrong with this number. Smooth and dry, the 40% Three Rivers gin uses 11 botanicals, including oats as a nod to the industrial era working class in the area. Other botanicals include Madagascan vanilla, cinnamon, almonds and orange peel, finishing with black pepper. They recommend serving with cherries in the summer months, or rosemary and gin-infused apricots in the winter. Fancy, right?

3. PJ Gin Elderflower

PJ Gin Elderflower

Another GinFestival.com UK exclusive, PJ Gin comes from Belgium and the Crafts Spirits Company. The company do 4 variations: Dry, Elderflower, Raspberry and Apple. We didn’t get the chance to try their standard dry gin, but we did try the other flavours. Whilst the Raspberry and Apple varieties were very tart (almost like the cheap Sourz liqueurs you get from the supermarket), the Elderflower was truly delightful. It was subtle, fresh and simple, probably because they only use two botanicals aside from the mandatory juniper berries: elderflower pollen and lemon.

 

 

If you also attended, we’d love to know what you thought of the festival and your favourite gins, so get in touch!

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