So back in June/July last year I went to my first gin festival – the Social and Cocktail GinFall Festival. I was dabbling in Twitter and Instagram but didn’t have a blog or anything. I think I posted my spoils of the day but other than that didn’t make much mention of it… Even though I really enjoyed it… So much so that I went again this year.
The noteable difference this year was that they didn’t give you a burger… Which was a shame because the one we got last year was a surprise winner… We did, however, get a welcome drink this year which I don’t think we got last year… Although I’d stand to be corrected.
The welcome drink was Boe Passionfruit Gin with some other fruit juices fired through it… Light and refreshing. It’d be far too easy to drink this to excess as it goes down like juice.
In terms of the stalls/stands I remembered the stairway and basement (where the entertainment and food were) being littered with them last year but to a far lesser extent this year. The stairs simply had the table with the welcome drinks and downstairs were a few little crafty stalls and Sean Murphy selling and chatting about his excellent book Gin Galore.
The food selection was a little disappointing this year, if I’m being totally honest. We grabbed a plate of nachos each which were pretty good considering.
We then headed upstairs and saw that the main hall was packed with exhibitors.
I’m not going to discuss EVERY brand on display but more the ones that really stood out for me. That’s not to say the others weren’t good but, for whatever reason, the ones I’ll talk about were really stand out to me… It’s personal taste… Let’s not fall out.
First up was Darnleys which wasn’t a brand I was familiar with but, I’ll be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed. The standout for me from them was their Spiced Navy Strength… It was absolutely awesome. Also on display they had their regular strength spiced, original gin and very berry.
I can see myself, without doubt, picking up a bottle of the Navy Strength Spiced Gin very soon… I believe they’ll be at the International Scottish Gin Day event in Edinburgh on 3rd August. So, if you’re headed there too, swing by and get a taste for yourself.
Onwards… Next up was LinGin. I first tried this a while ago from a gin club I was part of at the time. The tonic they supplied really didn’t do the gin justice which was a real shame. By chance I ended up with two minis and so, with the other, I researched a recommended serve from the guys themselves and it was truly delicious… Just goes to show the difference a tonic will make.
On display from these guys were their London Dry, Zesty Sherbet and Four Mary’s Bonny Bramble. The stand out from their selection for me was the Zesty Sherbet. It had a nice freshness to it without seeming to be an overly flavoured gin… If you know what I mean. Also it’s worth noting that it was 46%… Which I wasn’t expecting.
We then moseyed down to the next stall and it was Loch Fyne that were stood there ready to greet us… The funny thing with this is that the gin wasn’t the stand out to me… It was their chocolate orange whisky liqueur. I hate whisky… I feel It’s super important that you know this. But I honestly loved this and, from the limited time we hovered about their stall, this seemed to be their top guy. We were in for the first session and visited Loch Fyne within the first hour of it kicking off and I’m sure they had almost sold out… Says it all. If you have the opportunity to get a taste of this (whether you like whisky or not) I definitely would. I wasn’t going to (see previous comment re hating whisky) but I’m glad I did… You might wonder why I changed my mind and tried it… Simply the smell… Glorious.
Next to the Loch Fyne lads were the good people of Kings Hill Gin. You can see from the photo they had a lovely display sat there waiting. They had two drinks out for tasting… First up was their Small Batch Scottish Gin which was absolutely superb. They also had their Rhubarb and Amaretto Gin Liqueur out to sample and it was very nice… You can see they’ve put a load of effort into the bottle for this as it is absolutely stunning.
The guys told us the story of the name so, given the fact I thought it was quite an interesting little story I’ve done you all a turn… I’ve copied it from their website and pasted riiiiiiiiight…
Here —> King’s Hill takes inspiration from a brave gamble long ago between King Robert the Bruce and Sir William ‘The Crusader’ Sinclair, deep in the Pentland hills overlooking our still.
King Robert and Sir William were in the area tracking a rare white stag. The King staked his Pentland estate against the life of Sir William that he would be first to capture this magnificent beast. Sir William with the help of his trusty hounds, Help and Hold, won the bet. In return, The Crusader named the spot where King Robert stood “King’s Hill”. Drawing on this rich history; our Gin has captured the essence of the area – bold, beautiful and bloody marvellous.
Founded in 2017, King’s Hill Gin is the first spirit from The Pentland Still.
Next on the agenda was McGin. A gin made in Glasgow ( I think it is contract distilled by the guys at the Glasgow Distillery Co) this one caught me off guard for some reason. I wasn’t expecting too much from it but it was really superb. They had, if memory serves, three different serves available to try. The winner for the three of us was the chilli and ginger garnish… Superb.
My dad was quite taken with the branding as well and ended up chatting to the guy for a wee while about it… If the guys from McGin read this… He would really like one of the shirts you were wearing… How do I go about getting him one?
Now… I never bought this gin but my dad did… Which is why I didn’t. But I reckon this will be a future purchase. I really REALLY enjoyed this gin and 100% recommend giving it a go… This is a very serious gin with a lighthearted look.
Next we wandered into the realm of Biggar Gin. Those of you who follow my social media know I’ve been keen to get a bottle of this for a while so I was thrilled to see Stuart there displaying his goods.
I love Biggar… Absolutely love it. Stuart was serving it up with Cushiedoos tonic which was a new one on me but I really enjoyed it.
I obviously bought a bottle. Biggar also sell these awesome little tin cups… You should buy the gin and a tin cup… I didn’t get a cup but we were two days out from going on holiday so I was “lucky to be allowed to buy what I got never mind a cup…” so…. there you go.
Just round the corner and down a bit from Biggar was the House of Botanicals. Funnily enough although I enjoyed their gins it was actually their exceptional bitters range that I was interested in. Now that I have found my love for the negroni I have become aware that something people add to them to give them a little extra oomph is “bitters” not like Campari but like little drops of delicious you put in in addition to everything else.
I picked up three – Teapot, Spanish and Aphrodite. Very nice.
We then encountered a totally new brand to me. Pilrgims… To my shame I’d never heard of them… I have now. As you can see from the photo they do an Original Gin then three liqueurs – Blueberry & Basil, Raspberry & Ginger and Strawberry & Black Pepper.
The Original Gin was, genuinely, one of the stand outs from the whole show. I loved it. The choice came down to this and Biggar for my “regular” gin purchase… You have no idea how close it was.
Anyway… The gin was stunning and the liqueurs were also very nice. I picked up the Raspberry and Ginger one (as I figured it would rock a bramble).
The guy that was there selling the stuff was cracking. Turns out we had encountered him and his lovely girlfriend before. Long story boring Louise and I went on the Tennants/Makar tour some time ago… They were very generous with the samples (Makar I’m looking at you!!) and Louise ended up a wee tad worse for wear… The tour concludes back at Tennants where they give you a pint of whichever one of their beverages you want. So I was sat there with this chap and his mrs while Louise was in the bathroom regretting drinking so much… All was not lost though as I gave this guy her pint so he won out of her misery…
I had been wanting to try McLean’s Gin properly for a while. They were at the GinFall last year and I DID try them… However, they were located on the stairs so it was super cramped and very very busy when we were there as folk were squeezing their way downstairs for their burgers. I actually had intended on picking up a bottle last year but, given their out the road location, it was simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind” and I totally forgot until I was halfway home.
So on display Colin was showing off his Cherry Bakewell Gin and his Something Blue Gin, which he created to commemorate his wedding… Something Blue, right? I loved both. However, with a cheeky grin Colin pulled a bottle up from under the table and told me he wanted me to get a taste of this… Something Clear. Wrapped in paper to celebrate the McLean’s first wedding anniversary and bottled at 50% this was really quite a special little drink… However it was Something Blue that truly won me over and I walked off with a bottle firmly in my grasp.
Final stop was to the Garden Shed. You all know I love this gin… There’s something very special about it. The flavours come at you in waves and its honestly a gin like no other. If you haven’t tried it I really urge you to seek it out… BUT I wasn’t there to try their gin as I have it (I’ve also reviewed it – Garden Shed Gin Review)… It was their Cote Rotie Aged Gin I was interested in. I had already tried it at the Gin To My Tonic Festival in Glasgow earlier this year and loved it but didn’t quite know what to do with it… Now I did… Now I wanted it for a negroni… I bought it… It’s amazing.
So that’s it… My round up of my personal highlights from the GinFall Festival in Hamilton this year. Its a great local(ish) festival that tends to hit smaller venues. I think the tickets are about £15 or something so really inexpensive for the amount of samples on offer.
A lot of the gins that were on display here will also be at the International Scottish Gin Day event in Edinburgh’s Mansfield Traquair Centre on the 3rd of August so its as good an opportunity to try them as any other… Also I’ll be there so come over and say hello if you’re around.
Speaking of the International Scottish Gin Day Festival I’m running a competition on Instagram and Twitter to win a pair of tickets to the big day… Ends tomorrow (15/07/2019) so hurry up and go enter.
Don’t forget to enter the competition for the tickets… Clock is ticking on it though so best get a move on!