‘Could have been the whiskey, might have been the gin. Could have been three or four six-packs, I don’t know, but look at the mess I’m in’ – Irish Rovers
I’m always a little dubious when the word festival’ is added in front of anything and they seem to be popping up more and more; whiskey festivals, food festivals, chili festivals, and in my experience it’s always felt like an excuse to get a captive audience and over charge them.
I am however a fan of drinking gin with my friends in the sunshine so when a group of girls I don’t spend nearly enough time with thought it would be a good reason for us all to have a catch up (like we need an excuse) the £11 ticket price didn’t actually seem like that much of a rip off.
It was a bonus that this particular gin festival was being held in the gorgeous Wylam Brewery in Exhibition park, which I’ve been a few times over the last few months and always had a great time. We were also extremely lucky with the weather when we went in second weekend in July so were able to spill out into the lawn and enjoy what little we get of the British summer.
The Bathtub Sessions advertise themselves as a Gin Festival with a twist (although to this day i’m not completely sure what the twist was). They have a bevy of distillers who have travelled from all over the country to give you their first hand experience of how they make their gin and allow you to sample their wares.
The £11 entry gave you your own commemorative gin glass and purchasing the gin is done on a token basis. Tokens are £5 each (so it’s essentially a fiver a drink). There were 4 or 5 different stand you could visit and props where it’s due, all the mixologists know their stuff, who knew there was so much to learn about gin!
One thing I do love about the festival atmosphere is it gives everyone some common ground and a talking point. Perhaps it was the weather or perhaps it was the gin but everyone just seemed to be mingling together asking each other what they were drinking and what recommendations they had – north east friendliness at its best!
We ended up have three drinks each; first I tried a gin and pink grapefruit mix from the Newcastle gin company which is based at Bealim House in Gallowgate. When you normally just live off lower end supermarket gins, trying something a little less mass produced is a real treat and this one was very smooth and tasted amazing with the grapefruit tonic. The second two I had I ordered off the menu we were provided with on arrival as a guide. I love anything fruity so had Boosma Dry Gin which is a ducth gin and served with indian tonic and fresh strawberries. The gin itself wasn’t infulsed with fruit but it did take on the flavour of the fresh fruit so was the perfect blend of still being about to taste the gin without it being sickly sweet.
I’m so pleased my last gin was my favourite though as it’s always a bit of a disappointment when you wish you’d just stuck with what you like. They didn’t have anything that was kiwi based (my second favourite fruit after strawberries) and was recommended an Italian lemon gin called Malfy which is made with the same lemons used to make Lemoncello (and I love Lemoncello). Served with Indian tonic and fresh lemon slices it was absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t too sharp or too sweet and the lemon flavour wasn’t too overbearing. It was like a gorgeous tasty alcoholic lemonade. I loved it so much that a bottle has gone straight on my birthday list!
We didn’t try any of the food but a friend of mine who went did and was less than impressed. The queue for one was massive so obviously they didn’t have enough staff on serving. It was also over priced (£19 for two people? – Ouch) and it was all just a mess of different things; lamb, noodles, and prawns you have to peel. Who serves prawns you have to peel as street food when you’ve nowhere to sit?!
So Bathtub Sessions may have gone some way to restore my faith in the idea of a festival although I think certainly o the food front they need to up their gave and not rely on the captive audience. I must admit though this was very well run, it wasn’t over crowded (however had it been raining and everyone was inside this may have been a different story), the staff and mixologists were fantastic and you didn’t have to wait too long to get served.
Anywhere that introduces me to my new favourite gin can’t be all that bad in my eyes.