Where I live in the North East of Scotland, there isn’t a regular calendar of the kind of events and projects to get involved with like you would see in London, Manchester or Glasgow and Edinburgh. So learning that a GIN FESTIVAL was coming to the city, I was first in line!
There was a choice of three sessions – Friday evening, Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening. By the time I got round to actually booking our tickets, the Saturday afternoon session was SOLD OUT! That was a little scary, so we straight away booked the Saturday evening session – it would kick off at 7pm, giving us the chance to meet up for a warm-up gin beforehand (duh, any excuse). It was £25 entry (via Eventbrite) and the tickets were emailed straight through. Simples.
They didn’t really give too much away in the run up to the event, it was all pretty tight-lipped so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Following all of the event’s social media accounts, primarily @aberdeenginfest on Instagram (naturally), it was great to see the different gin brands featured in the run up to the event. A nice photo accompanied by a short intro to the gin just built the excitement even more…
Then came gin day! We met up for a pre-gin (again, duh.) and then headed to The Lemon Tree, a local events venue in Aberdeen city centre. We handed over our tickets, got a little wristband and then we were in!
The live music and bustling sea of keen gin lovers had created a brilliant atmosphere and I just couldn’t wait to get stuck into all the stands, taste the gins and, most importantly, hear the stories! I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the origins of the different gins, how they differ from one another, what makes them special and what they taste best with (after all, that’s what we really need to know, right?)!
The first stand we visited was Lone Wolf – a new gin brought to market by the same ‘punks’ behind BrewDog craft beer. Lone Wolf is bold in flavour, with a particularly strong juniper taste. The company are based in Ellon (Aberdeenshire) and have a growing cult backing. I do particularly like the bottles – it feels like each bottle is unique and packaged just for that individual consumer – good job, Lone Wolf!
Next, we visited Esker gin…
Esker is a modern classic and I absolutely love that its roots are firmly planted in the Royal Deeside. They were super active on social media throughout the festival and I loved that they were liking and replying to everyone’s photos – great engagement with their gin fans.
Stirling Gin also has quite a strong flavour but it’s very tasty; especially when you add that beautiful basil! The gin is infused with hand picked Stirlingshire nettles – a welcome twist on the classic juniper juice…
I am a die-hard Porter’s Gin fan (this will follow shortly…), but Teasmith is definitely up there too! I absolutely loved speaking to one of the founders at their stand (the husband of the entrepreneurial husband/wife duo) and hearing their story. They love gin and had dabbled in the art of homemade sloe gin, but then decided to bite the bullet and take this gin malarkey seriously… and so Teasmith was born! I just think the whole story is brilliant – their branding is beautiful (look at that very on-trend copper detail on the bottle!), they have gone for a very balanced, classic and understated flavour with the gin and just want it to speak for itself. Bravo, Teasmith – you’ve nailed it!
Now, all the way from the western isles, Colonsay Gin certainly had a twist to offer!
Serve with tonic and chilli, you say?! I was a little sceptical, even though I’m a big spicy food fan. But, in my gin? Really? Wowsers – could not have anticipated the taste sensation that would ensue! It punched a kick but was surprisingly nice – it really lifted the flavours of the gin and I was definitely hankering for more…
We had a hilarious visit to Arbikie! The Glaswegian brand ambassador was brilliant and really brought the fun. We tasted their Kirsty’s gin and then the oaky AK’s gin – both were yummy. Before we left, we were also offered a sly try of Arbikie’s own chilli vodka (I know, I’m not really sure that vodka was allowed at a gin festival, but I wasn’t going to turn it down). Infused with habanero chillies, it packed a SERIOUS punch! I couldn’t even finish my tiny little thimble of a taster – it was very strong, but it had a really nice smokey, chipotle taste that left me wanting more… Even though I clearly couldn’t handle it!
Amongst others, we also tried Minus 33 (not technically a ‘gin’ due to its lower alcohol level, but it was very easy to drink, tasted great and is also low calorie… winner!), Caorunn (I think this one is sometimes overlooked as an old favourite in amongst the sea of new and exciting baby gins entering the market – but it is so blinkin’ tasty, especially when you throw in that apple garnish… NOM!), Brooklyn Gin (that bottle though), Brokers Gin (another classic London dry – so easy drinking, lingering nicely on your taste buds) and NB navy strength (whoa – this was seriously strong; to be consumed with caution!).
We had A LOT of fun at the Whitley Neill / JJ Whitley stand – one guy, SIX gins and three different tonics.
The brand ambassador was dishing out all the banter so it was little wonder that he was drawing the biggest crowds! The stand out gin for me was the Whitley Neill ‘Quince’ gin – to be enjoyed neat over ice and best served with cheese… HELLO! Bring it on : )
And our last visit of the night (we saved the best for last…) was Aberdeen’s own Porter’s Gin.
What I love about Porter’s is… actually, I love many things. But their story is great – they took a long time to perfect the recipe, they were careful with their ingredients and they didn’t rush the process. The outcome has been worth it – it’s a balanced, citrus gin that’s great on its own, with a nice tonic or thrown into a cocktail. The gin shines through and it’s just got a really great flavour – if I had to choose one gin for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose that one. But then again, this gin blogging journey is just getting started, so I won’t commit to anything yet 😉
Overall, the very first #AberdeenGinFest was brilliant. I had a great night with friends, tried so many gins and got so much value out of it. I think £25 was an absolute bargain for the high standard of the event – I cannot wait for the next one… get me on that mailing list, because I just know it’s going to be as much of a sell-out next time.
Have you been to any gin festivals? Have you discovered any new gems? Comment below and let me know!
Thanks for reading!