Those who know me will know that gin is my go-to drink of choice, and that over time I’ve become a bit of a gin snob. I love trying new brands and going to tastings, so when Gin Festival came to Leeds it was basically my ideal night out.
The festival brings together over 100 gins across four bars in one venue, with some brands attending in person to do masterclasses and free tasters, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to try out some top quality gins that you won’t stumble across in your average pub. I’ve found some of my favourite gin brands at events like this and Gin Festival was no different! I have a preference for light, fruity gins so if you have a similar palate, this is what I recommend you try.
When I arrived I wanted to kick off with something fresh and thirst quenching, and Malfy (recommended to me by Matt at The Gin Shelf) really fit the bill. Made from Italian lemons with a hint of ginger, this gin was light and summery – it’s rare that you find a gin with such an in-your-face lemon flavour. It actually made me feel like I could have been sat on a cliffside terrace on the Amalfi Coast, soaking up the sunshine while sipping on my G&T, and you can’t ask for much more from your summer drink than that.
Poetic License Picnic Gin
The Gin Festival guide described Picnic Gin as the epitome of summer, and they weren’t kidding. The gin itself is unexpectedly smooth and creamy, balanced with the fresh tang of strawberry = strawberry garnish adds an extra fruity punch. I paired it with elderflower tonic, the floral flavour preventing the sweetness from becoming overwhelming. This is a great long drink, that I can imagine drinking like Pimm’s in summer.
Whitley Neill Quince
This was my friend’s choice, but I had more than a few sips of it! I’ve actually never tried quince before, or really known what it is – now I know it’s a sweet-ish fruit that tastes a bit like pear. As a gin it was deliciously fruity and refreshing, and the sweetest gin I’ve probably ever come across. With added touches of apricot and peach and garnished with orange and apple, this feels like a perfect gin to accompany dessert. My friend paired it with Fever Tree tonic, but this could easily be drunk neat over ice.
I came across PJ in the ‘Meet the Brands’ room where they were causing a big stir with their tasting sessions. If you haven’t heard from them it’s because they’re only just about to start selling in the UK, but I think they’re going to go down a storm. They have four variants – a regular dry gin, plus three flavoured gins; elderflower, raspberry and apple – and I got to try them all in of the quickfire tasting rounds. The apple was a bit too reminiscent of Sourz for me, but I took a particular liking to the jammy sweetness of the raspberry gin.
A Few Extra Mentions…
When I go to festivals like this I always take the opportunity to try new things, but I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning a few of my favourites. Edinburgh Gin had three of their range on offer – elderflower, plum & vanilla and rhubarb & ginger – and I can wholeheartedly recommend them for any lover of gin liqueurs. I have a bottle of their raspberry variation sitting in my kitchen.
I spotted several of my favourite Yorkshire brands around, including Masons, Slingsby and Whittaker’s. Slingsby were offering samples of their new rhubarb gin which was delicious – like a true Yorkshire girl I’m always sold on anything rhubarb flavoured. I also chatted to the guys at Sloemotion who have just launched their new Hedgerow Gin, which had a wonderfully crisp, refreshing taste.
The award for the most radical gin at the festival has to go to Black Tomato, made in the Netherlands with black tomatoes and sea water. The tomato comes out most in the smell, which is pretty unnerving, but you can also taste a slight tang when you drink it. I wouldn’t buy a bottle, but it was definitely the most interesting thing I tried all night!
Have you been to Gin Festival before? What are your top recommendations?
I was invited to this event by the lovely team at Gin Festival, but opinions and gin love are all my own! You can buy tickets for your nearest event on their website.