Gin + Festival + 8th April = Birthday present perfection for my mum. As soon as this event appeared on Facebook I went to Eventbrite to book two tickets. And, thank goodness I did. The event sold out in just a few days. On Day 22 of #100DaysNoTV the Cambridge Corn Exchange was the venue for Mum’s 67th (ssh, don’t let her know I told you!) birthday celebrations.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a festival of gin in the heart of Cambridge. I’d been to plenty of beer festivals but this was always going to be a totally different experience! I imagined it might be more like a food & drink festival, with lots stalls offering tasters and selling their wares. In reality, it was a lot more sophisticated than that.
We were welcomed into the foyer and a lovely lady gave us a complimentary glass and a quick run down of what the evening offered: on top of the obvious tasting and drinking, expert talks & presentations ran throughout and there was live music on stage. Mum and I bought four drink tokens each (they seem to be the trend for festivals these days) and made our way into the central part of the Corn Exchange.
The space was very nicely lit with coloured lights from floor to ceiling; it had the ambience of a night in a trendy bar. Everything was set back along three sides (the fourth was the stage) so it was easy to get around, and there were a few tables with bar stools in the middle.
An impressive number of brands were present and there were many more gins available at the four bars. We worked our way around each brand, having a little taster as we went. 🙂 I don’t want to bore you with our thoughts on all, so will just run through some highlights.
At events like this it’s always great to see local brands represented. There were a couple of Cambridge brands, which is awesome. Even better for me, as an Ely resident, was seeing The Ely Gin Company with their amazing range of flavoured gins. They put so much thought into the flavour combinations that it’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
Can you imagine blending your own bottle of gin? Well, in Cambridge you can! For me, that’s one of the most exciting things about The Cambridge Distillery: they have created (or tailored) many bespoke gin blends. You can also visit their Gin Laboratory for a tasting experience. I would love to try that one day.
Whenever we go to Southwold in Suffolk, Rob and I always have a pint of Adnams real ale, and I was very surprised to see them at the festival. Did you know they also made gin? It was news to me! Their Copper House Dry Gin was voted the world’s best gin in 2013 and, I have to say, it was delicious.
When you found a gin you really enjoyed, you could head to one of the bars, redeem a voucher and have a glass of your chosen gin with tonic. You could have a garnish too, specifically chosen for your particular gin. The festival’s tonic of choice was Fever-Tree and I don’t know if it’s just clever marketing, but it does have a much nicer taste than other tonics.
There was an international bar and Mum and I were both surprised, and so happy, to see Mahon Gin. We had a holiday together in Menorca years ago and went on a gin tour in Mahon, the island’s capital. Its distinctive bottle, with a drawing of a windmill and the little handle, hasn’t changed! And, nor has the taste. Yum!
The guys of Sir Robin of Locksley Gin deserve a mention too, just because they were some of the friendliest we spoke to, it was certainly one of my favourite gins of the evening (you can happily sip it neat!) and who doesn’t love the name? 🙂
As we were supping our second gin of the evening, the stage came alive with acoustic duo, Holder and Smith: jazz violinist and Gypsy jazz guitarist. Music was probably the one thing the night had been missing until then, so it was really welcome.
We didn’t make it to any of the talks. If I’d been there with Rob, I would’ve gone to one or two. But, Mum didn’t fancy it and, after all, it was her birthday! 🙂
We left via the ‘off-licence’ as it seemed rude to leave empty-handed! (Plus, you got a canvas bag with your purchase, and I do like my canvas bags.) I was tempted by the array of merchandise with quirky gin slogan. In the end, we left with a bottle of Ely Gin with Lemon.
We left rosy cheeked and full of happy memories. What a lovely mum and daughter evening.
After the event I had a look at the Gin Festival website. It’s become a bit of a national phenomenon since 2012, with events happening all over the country this year. It’s entirely down to two amazing people, who took it upon themselves to create a festival for our beloved spirit. A big high five to wife and husband, Marie and Jym. 🙂
Bye for now!