So summer has finally arrived. Sure we’re now all whinging about it, because this is Britain and we love nothing more than talking about the weather, but remember last month when there was one solitary sunny weekend which we all thought might be our only glimpse of the sun? Well of course that would be the weekend I chose to go and find somewhere nice and cool to hide…and where better than a bank vault with gin? I mean, really, it’s perfect.
The excellently titled A World of Gin, which described itself as “Think village fete, indoors…with gin” which feels like a fair way to describe it. The ground floor foyer had a range of stalls with a bunch of gin stands, plus gin-cured salmon created by Andy Low’n’Slow, which sadly I did not get to try because I went rushing over from brunch and sadly there was not enough space to eat salmon and drink gin. First world woes right?
Now as a seasoned gin drinker I’m always a bit wary of things like gin festivals because there’s always the worry that you’ll end up being surrounded by the usual suspects, and thankfully this wasn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gins I’m always pleased to see on a back bar, but if it’s a gin festival I want to try something new and there were plenty of options. The Masons Yorkshire gin was a good find; it’s a pretty punchy gin which certainly lives up to not being “run of the mill” and it might divide people, but I like my gin to have flavour and this certainly does. Masons do three versions: the original; lavender, which will be good in more floral gin drinks, which are usually a winner in my books; and Yorkshire tea edition, which is a nice nod to where this gin originates from. According to their website you can buy Masons from Cellar Door in Sutton Coldfield, I think someone mentioned Harvey Nicholls too, but hopefully it’ll make its way into some bars in Birmingham.
Another new to me gin was the range from The Edinburgh Gin, with their lovely art deco labeling. With a nod to their homeland, this gin uses locally sourced and grown Scottish botanicals, which includes milk thistle and heather, the latter of which comes through in the taste. Considering normal people don’t usually drink gin neat, this is surprisingly smooth and doesn’t need a lot of messing around with. The seaside gin is pretty cool, a is a limited edition which uses ingredients found around the Scottish coast – it’s novel, but more importantly it evokes memories of the seaside, which isn’t easy to do stood in a disused bank in landlocked Birmingham.
And it wasn’t just gin on offer either. I stopped by 40 St Paul’s stand to check out some of their Hockley Tonic. Now I’m convinced that most people that tell me they hate gin actually hate tonic and I don’t blame them because some of it really isn’t the way to get people to like gin. But the Hockley Tonic stuff is superb. It’s small batch, made by the guys from 40 St Pauls who plan to do seasonal variants and care about this stuff on a level that is impressively geeky. In fact, it’s so nice that you could lengthen this with some sparkling water and drink it as a soft drink if you’d finished all your gin.
Another gin-related-but-not-gin find was at The Gintleman’s stall, a sort of Top Trumps for gin brands. Just Gin, as it’s actually called, features international and award winning gins and can be played as top trumps with six categories or something called Quartet, which I am not cultured enough to know how to play; frankly I’d just buy two decks and play Snap if it were up to me. As well as being useful for Top Trumps, the categories also give you useful information about the gins, like the botanicals used, the alcohol by volume and when it was established, as well as the perfect serve. Come Christmas these are going to make a great stocking filler.
And to finish off, I headed down into the bank vault to hunt for gin. The tricksy organisers had hidden miniatures in some of the safety deposit boxes and for any of you that have ever made your way down to the vault in the Birmingham Municipal Bank, you’ll know there’s bloody hundreds of them. In fact, whilst several of us tried to find gin, we were luckier finding things left behind from other exhibitions, including someone’s glasses and some random postcard things…and a rather indecent cartoon, which was the best find of the session. But there was gin, in fact I’d half expect that whoever uses the vault for the next exhibition might end up finding some lost ones.
A World of Gin is having another outing, sadly this time the London folks get all the fun, but the website suggests that there might be more in the way of fun gin-related things, so it might be worth keeping an eye out http://www.aworldofgin.com/