It began with a passionate team of Gin-terested people, the same boys and girls that have years of experience creating events within the drinks industry such as Whiskey Live Dublin and Irish Whiskey Awards, as well as being the faces behind the Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines on the Green and the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, they felt inspired to give gin its own stage to shine.
The first Gin Experience Dublin was the gathering of over twenty five Irish producers and a bevy of global all in attendance, with nips of gins of every kind, bespoke serves, food pairings, masterclasses, foraging lessons and gin cocktails from some of the best mixologists, bars and restaurants in the country. And the Gunpowder Gin Cupcakes were awesome, great work cupcake bloke! And the amount of knowledge on tap was amazing, the brains, distillers and faces of all the brands we know and love. At hand to inform and delight.
With an action-packed schedule, it was truly a gin experience, where one could be infused in the flavours of the precious botanicals, and the event met the needs of all comers, from the gin geeks, bartenders and complete gin-newbies! The festival ran over three sessions and everyone was packed, a true representation of how popular gin has become!
“An event created exclusively for gin-thusiasts with a drop of passion and a squeeze of expertise” – Gin Experience Dublin. A festival that brought together the best gin producers from Ireland and across the globe on the 6th & 7th of April in the iconic Printworks at Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin.
Bringing the experience back to the way we drink, this Dublin based gin festival embraced the copious amounts of gins from local fare to the global wonders on offer, in every style available. One of the pillars of the new school of mindful drinking, is drinking less but drinking better, so this festival brought all the players to the table, boutique, craft, wild, quirky and all the big players here and abroad. And the popularity of good gin is evident.
With the adaption of the Spanish style of serving and the new offerings in the form of tonics, the simple and ordinary is a thing of the past. From the less is more to big production pieces, gin was on show and all the players where happy to discuss their brands. And the main thing is I walked away with new knowledge and I got to try some newly launched liquids, all round for me a success. And the festival if continued could eventually rub shoulders with its global counter parts Bar covenant Berlin and London cocktail week.
From the Be-Gin-ing
So where did it all start. Gin has had a long and colourful journey, beginning with its creation in Holland in the early 17th century, sold by apothecaries to treat stomach ailments, gout and an array of other medical issues at the time. Favoured for the potent medicinal properties of juniper, gin was discovered by the British during the thirty-year war, where they were given jenever, for “Dutch courage” and to fortify the soldiers in the bad weather.
More in style to a whiskey than the bright flavoursome liquids we know today, jenever was brought back to England and became popular for its medicinal properties and ability to inebriate. With legislation by the crown to try promote consumption and production of English spirits, Old Tom gin became the popular drop during the 18th century. The style is slightly sweeter than London dry (which hadn’t been created yet) and dryer than jenever.
Abuse of alcohol by the poor (partly helped by the fact gin was so cheap and it was safer to drink gin and beer than the water), lead to more regulation and tighter controls, and then gin riots. These all lead to gin production being taken up by respectable firms and the need and want for these companies to create something new, the Beefeaters and Tanqueray’s to name a few. That was the beginning of some of our modern gin granddaddies, who experimented and researched new methods and so London dry was born, a sophisticated lighter form of spirit which in turn helped evolve style of cocktails being created.
Now we jump to the year 2000, I’ve just started my bartending career and I’m introduced to gin. General consensus is it’s old school, a beverage quaffed by my grandparents, etc! And then jump to modern day to where the misconceptions have been swept away and after gin’s every increasing market share over the last 5 years, its popularity has exploded
Gin nowadays has a lot more to offer in flavour, either it be a classic G&T or in a carefully constructed libation. And the change can be said to have come from people’s palates, which have changed as well (just think about how flavoursome base spirits are in vogue, in contrast with the more neutral vodka).
The Spanish style of serving gin has aided in inspiring the masses on a global scale, large wine goblets, copious amounts of ice, fresh and dried botanicals, with some just for the hell of it, but the gin revolution has given bartenders an opportunity to compliment and excite the mass of available gins on the market. Gins available, have exploded driven by craft distillers and distillers seizing opportunities, there are thousands of gins in the world.
The Standouts- Gins and things!
Not a new kid on the block, these brands helped lay the foundations and lead the way in the London Dry style, the classic Tanqueray has just four botanicals, juniper, coriander, angelica and liquorice make up the 4 part DNA of this wonder created in the 1830’s and still to this day a fan favourite. In 2000 they released a sophisticated citrus-forward take using the base recipe and adding grapefruit, lemon, orange and chamomile, created to be used in a perfect martini.
Said to fall under the new western style category. Tanqueray 10 was on show and I partook in a martini and it was outstanding, simplistic with enough brush strokes to add subtle flavours to show the liquid off. Mixed up by Niall Molloy from Diageo and served from one of the best big budget stands at the fest. Definitely one of the best global brand stands at the show. In the guise of fruit and flower sellers bike, their bar was adorned with cocktail paraphernalia, botanicals and walls of bottles. Top notch customer interaction across the board.
House of Botanicals Old Tom
The stand was back to basics, understated but that was the point the focus was the liquid, and Dr. Adam, the company founder and liquid director, was at hand to launch this new gem and to pass on knowledge. The lucky attendees were present to witness gin history, a reimagined take on an Old Tom from the bitters master.
The botanical makeup of this gin featured juniper berries, angelica root, orris root, coriander seed, cassia bark, almond, orange peel and lemon peel with delicate saffron and chamomile flowers. To finish, and to create the Old Tom style, it is sweetened with a hint of muscovado sugar.
“Launched to the world in the April of 2018, House of Botanicals Old Tom Gin is the first foray into the world of botanical spirits for the Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s brand”. It was a product inspired by the classic cocktails and originator styles of gin.
Mor Irish Gin Pineapple Edition
Established in Tullamore in 2015, they started with the release of a berry and floral forward Mor, and then last year they launched a limited edition pineapple variation inspired by the fact pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and quality, very much a bartender’s symbol amongst the Irish community.
Geek fact – there’s a pineapple as part of the crest on Tanqueray gin lids. So of course, it would be popular with bartenders, due to the connection to the fruit. It has a juniper focus, and a pineapple forward profile, complimented by the addition of lime, lemongrass and bergamot.
I think its great, delicious in a Negroni, or with an lemon tonic. Its always a sign of quality when a gin can be consumed neat, and this rises to the challenge. Their stand was in a great position and constantly busy, and while their main focus was on the liquid, the customer interaction and knowledge were great . Thanks to the success of the limited edition, the festival served as the occasion for the official general release and its addition to the regular line up of Mor Gins.
Their ethos of sustainability, use of local wild ingredients and their need and ability to navigate the pushing of boundaries successfully makes it a true Irish brand to watch. They’re one of the only producers to pick fresh and wild botanicals, that a couple of hours later, are brought back down from the mountains and meadows and are distilled to create all of their offerings.
At the festival, they shared a special variant created for the occasion: a Wild Blackberry and mountain heather gin, with no added sugar, its sweetness coming from the berries. Absolutely amazing liquid tart berry and with a little spice note. Their line-up was packed, they had their four seasons, beech gin and sloe gins for tasting. Along with their year round Wild Botanical Gin.
On the Friday I was representing Candlelight Bar mixing up some wild fare for Glendalough’s cocktail master class, the Wild Gimlet consisting of homemade gorse cordial, pine needle bitters, mingled with Wild Botanical and Blackberry & Heather gin. The uptake and interest in the masterclasses was high.
Their back bar was stand out. A purpose-built apothecary styled back counter with period styled drawers, its shelves full with dried and preserved botanicals in jars, and vintage light fittings, with subtle but effective brand symbolism.
It wasn’t all just about promoting gin, creativity, entertainment and information exchange, the Gin Experience had a generous and caring side and at least ten euro from every ticket sold was donated to Debra Ireland a national Irish charity, established to provide support services to patients and families living with the debilitating skin condition epidermolysis bullosa.
Darren Geraghty, is the Bar Manager and cocktail specialist for Candlelight Bar @ Siam Thai Dundrum and Malahide and well-respected consultant, started his career in 2000 and has represented Ireland on the world cocktail stage and won numerous Irish titles.
At Candlelight Bar, he has built the brand and bar team, focusing on of high quality but reasonably priced drinks, excellent customer service and a distinctive splash of speakeasy styled flair and theatre. The award winning Candlelight Bar has secured two for the Irish Craft Cocktail Bar Awards Best in Leinster 2016 and 2017, RAI Best Cocktail Experience and Sky Bar Awards Best Restaurant Bar 2017.