REVIEW: The Gin Fayre, Perth

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Juniper Events Glasgow Gin Festival a couple of weeks ago, when I saw that there were tickets still available for The Gin Fayre at Perth Concert Hall last weekend then I took the chance of getting them & decided to have a day trip up to the Fair City. 

I visit Perth a couple of times a year as I organise & run dance weekends at the Salutation Hotel but don’t really have the time to get out & relax so I was looking forward to this day. 

Since I had booked tickets for the session starting at midday, I decided to make sure that I’d had something to eat before starting drinking and since it was a day out then I decided to start with a treat and had a McDonalds breakfast in Glasgow beforehand. Not the healthiest way to start the day, but it was absolutely delicious.

I took the train from Glasgow Queen St since it was only an hours journey and then a short walk from the station down into the city centre. The weather was slightly less agreeable in Perth than it was in Glasgow, but it was dry and as long as the gin was wet then everything would be fine! :-)

We arrived at the Concert Hall about 10 minutes past twelve, and there was a queue to get in which stretched out the front door – people were eager, clearly. We waited around 10-15 minutes to get in, finding that there were 2 people checking the tickets and handing out a booklet.

It was hard to find out much information in advance about how this event was structured – I had no idea whether it was going to follow the Gin Festival route of paying an entry fee with very few tastings & thus almost every gin has to be purchased, or the Solid Liquids route where it’s very much about tasting and meeting the distillers / distributors. 

The Gin Fayre website or the Facebook Event page also had no definitive information on what brands would be attending … I knew a couple in advance but only because of their own social media posts. The website has information on a number of different brands but simply states that they can’t guarantee who will be there, but a Facebook post stated that there would “80+ gins” at the event

So the people checking the tickets advised that our entry ticket (£10 + fees) entitled us to 10 samples, plus 1 “full” drink from the bar. We could also buy tokens for additional samples at £1 each if required. This sounded not too bad I guess, although with “80+ gins” in attendance then I guessed that I wouldn’t be getting to try the majority of gins on offer.
Upon entry into the foyer I had a quick look through the booklet and discovered that there were 18 brands in attendance, a couple of which had more than 1 gin on offer so I knew that I wouldn’t be tasting everything – and I also realised that the “80+ gins” were only available at the bar (either for the included drink or additional purchases). However there were a number of brands available for sampling which were new to me & I was definitely keen to try them.

The initial set of vendors were located in a back section of the foyer and were already extremely busy. I started out with a tasting of Lilliard gin which I mentioned in a previous Ginstagram post for their distillery tour. The gin was very nice indeed and I would be eager to try a full measure of it in future. The distillery has only been up & running for a couple of months and upon my small tasting, I’d encourage you to give it a go if you come across it.

I then moved into the second room which I found to be quite small & narrow and already it became clear that there was not going to be much space to move around as I made my way to the back of the room for my next tasting & another new-to-me gin, Indian Summer

This gin has a yellow colour due to the inclusion of saffron in the distillation process, though not the neon yellow of Ungava nor the bright orange colour of Saffron gin from France. Other botanicals include angelica bark, almonds, coriander seeds, cassia, juniper berries lemon peel, liquorice root, orris root and orange peel.

It is bottled at a higher-than-average 46% by Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky in Huntly, Aberdeenshire.

At this point I should note that the mixer sponsor of this event was Bon Accord who I came across at Glasgow a couple of weeks ago.

Next up for me was a long-awaited try of Isle of Harris gin and it didn’t disappoint. It was also great to be able to have a quick chat with Emma from the distillery, and I hope to be able to bring you a feature on Harris at some point in the future.

If you read my Scottish Gin Awards post then you’ll know all about my love for their bottle design and it really is striking – and they also have glasses available to match

Of course it’s no good having an amazing bottle if the contents don’t live up to it, and I’m glad to say that they do. You can definitely get the feeling of sea-freshness from the aroma, yet tasting provides a citrus element with Mrs Ginstagram getting mango as a predominant flavour. I’m glad that I was able to try this gin finally, and look forward to trying it again as a perfect serve with some tonic and a slice of grapefruit.

It was back out into the foyer now, heading for Dundee gin which again would be the first taste for me. The event was becoming more & more crowded, and it took several minutes to be able to try the gin.

 During that time, I had the chance to listen to the conversation between Peter Menzies promoting the gin and other customers – and I was absolutely cringing if I am brutally honest. When you hear someone using comments like “I’m right here for you baby” and various other dodgy lines including talking about putting bromide into his gin, I just found it offensive. 

Anyway, I tried the Dundee Marmalade gin with Prosecco (no chance to taste it on its own) and the Dundee Gin with tonic. I didn’t like the former at all - I’m not a fan of Prosecco with gin as I wasn’t keen on the Boe Peach & Hibiscus mixed with it in Glasgow, although Mrs Ginstagram is rather partial to Edinburgh Gin Raspberry Liqueur with Prosecco.

I didn’t mind the standard Dundee Gin but I didn’t really find it distinctive in any way so I doubt that I would have this one again. It was also disconcerting to discover that Dundee Gin is neither bottled nor distilled in Dundee – in fact, the exact whereabouts of both seem to be a closely guarded secret. Anyway, with the dodgy “chat up” lines still coming thick & fast, it was most definitely to move on! 

Next stop was the Avva stall, where they had their Navy Strength on offer. I missed being able to try this in Glasgow due to lack of time, so I wasn’t going to miss out again

As is usual (for me) with a Navy Strength gin, it was extremely sharp to the taste when neat but ideal when the tonic was added. The gin is also produced in a standard 43% proof by Moray Distillery which is based in Elgin.

I very much enjoyed this tasting and would definitely have no hesitation in ordering it. There are 11 botanicals including rowan berries, dandelion, red clover, mint and nettle which combine to produce a flavour which is herby but with the juniper shining through.

Another gin that I missed out on in Glasgow was Esker Gin which is produced in Royal Deeside

Esker Gin is produced by Steve & Lynne Duthie and is created in a traditional copper still with over a dozen botanicals including heather, milk thistle, peppercorn, citrus and silver birch sap tapped from trees on the Kincardine Castle Estate. It is also distilled using water from the River Dee.

Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to speak to me during such a busy event, it was really appreciated, and I’m eager to have a bottle of Esker on my gin shelf soon!

I follow Crafty Connoisseur on social media as Steve & Brenda are always posting details of new brands they have in stock and it’s on just gins but also whisky, vodka, rum and more. At Perth they were in attendance promoting Kokoro Gin

Their stall was extremely busy even though it was at the far end of the side room, and they were attracting lots of visitors with this unusual gin.

It’s a London Dry Gin distilled with eight botanicals and fresh Sansho berries imported from the Nagano prefecture in Japan. 

Steve & Brenda actually had some berries for people to try, although these are not necessary as a garnish because they are already contained within the gin. With a very distinctive smell, the berries were actually quite nice to taste producing a number of different sensations.

The gin itself has a peppery taste and is one which you’d break out to have something different occasionally rather than one which you’d sit and drink all night.

Thanks to Steve for saying hello, I know it wasn’t easy when the stall was being inundated!

It is tradition for myself & Marie to always stop by Makar whenever we come across them, given that their Glasgow Gin is one of my personal favourites

We had another taste again of the Old Tom which I am definitely warming to, plus the Mulberry Cask edition. With a £5 discount on the gins, and having conveniently just finished our current bottle then it was time to stock up & we had made our first purchase {albeit that it was one I was going to be done doing anyway at some point}. I’m still looking to do a full write up on Makar although I know I’ve been promising it for a couple of weeks.

We love Makar because of its spicy taste and the garnish of green chilli is essential, so upon wandering back into the foyer I made my way to the Colonsay Gin stall which also features either green chilli or orange as a garnish.

This was one of my favourite gins of the day, definitely now in my Top 5 List, and I will be doing a fuller review on its own by the end of the week. So you haven’t heard the last of this lovely gin by any means!

Back into the small room & I was able to get to try another new gin – Glenwyvis, based in Dingwall

The Glenwyvis Distiller takes its name from an anagram of former local distilleries – Glenskiach and Ben Wyvis, and you can read more about their history on their website. They are 100% community owned and their green credentials stretch to making deliveries by electric car where possible.

The main botanical is hawthorn berries, and that combined with the juniper produces a very attractive taste – so much so that I decided that this was going to be the one to add to the collection

I’m loving the attractive whisky-style display tin also. As well as the original Highland Gin which I purchased, they also have a limited edition North Coast 500 Gin which unfortunately we weren’t able to try.

If you haven’t heard of the North Coast 500 then check out the website here

It sounds fantastic (I’ve been following progress since I first became aware of it last year) and apparently it’s had a fantastic impact on tourism in the North of Scotland … this might well be a future Ginstagram road trip in 2018 as it’s been a few years since we were up that way, and only just becoming introduced to the wonderful world of gin (specifically at the Dornoch Castle Hotel where the barman recommended Blackwoods 2012 Vintage Dry as a gin to try, and it’s been quite a Gin Journey since then!)

The recommended serve is over ice with light tonic, together with orange peel & a sprig of bruised coriander. 

Next door (figuratively speaking) was Wild Island Gin, and it was fab that one of the ladies had actually not just heard of the blog but actually read it also – thank you so much

I had tried this gin in Glasgow but was eager to try it again, and it confirmed my thoughts that this definitely needs to find a space in my collection at some point, particularly since they will shortly have the “essential” (lol) branded glasses to go with their beautiful bottle design.

This gin is made from botanicals sourced from Colonsay (though it's not actually distilled there), and it’s great that they have been able to produce another fantastic gin which really does stand out amongst the competition – it’s just unfortunate that I can’t afford to buy every bottle that I like! :-/

I tried the Wild Island with lemon & mint which was delicious … I always think of a jar of sliced lemons when it comes to gin, as do many others, but the fresh lemon really enhanced the flavour of this gin … this will definitely be a future purchase!

It was time to head North (figuratively speaking) on my Gin Journey, all the way up to Orkney Gin who had 3 of their gins on offer

I was immediately drawn to the Rhubarb Old Tom which was absolutely delicious especially when combined with some ginger beer. However we were also able to try the other gins on offer (thank you!)

Johnsmas is the Orcadian midsummer, when the sun barely sets below the horizon, and so this gin is offered up for long summer evenings. It is floral in both aroma and taste, and although I didn't dislike it, it is probably not a gin which suits my palate. However it was a different story when it came to third option, Mikkelmas

The Mikkel Feast was traditionally celebrated by Orcadians from 29th September to 12th October to mark the end of the harvest and the end of an Orkney summer. The tradition still lasts today, with each island hosting its own Harvest Home, a traditional meal and dance that lasts long into the night.

The gin is strong in taste of both orange and cinnamon, with a spicy finish, and both of us enjoyed this one. I’d be a very poor gin fan if I purchased every bottle I liked, but definitely one to add to the list!

I made a quick stop at the Boe stall which had been non-stop since doors opening, and they were almost sold out of everything even before the crowds appeared for the second session! I was lucky enough to be able to get a sample of the very last tasting bottle of their brand-new Bramble liqueur. 

This wasn’t available at the Juniper Glasgow event, and I was not surprised to find out why it had sold-out … it was delicious, and perfect for a long drink coming in at 20% ABV. I could have been seriously tempted by this (despite my earlier pleas of financial plight earlier in this blog!) if it hadn’t already been sold out. Looking at the Boe website it doesn’t appear as though it is available online yet but I'll keep an eye out for it.

Wandering out into the Concert Hall foyer again, the Persie stall was extremely crowded (as it had been all day) and I had no chance to chat with them (sorry) other than to be able to say ‘thanks’ for the sample of their Zesty Citrus Gin and Sweet & Nutty Old Tom. 

I wasn’t keen on the latter (though Mrs L rated it highly) but y’all know I’m a sucker for citrus gins and this one was very nice. I hope to catch up with Persie in the future, perhaps by making a visit to their distillery as I would like to try the Sweet & Nutty again rather than writing it off on the basis of such a small taste.

By this time it was 2:10pm and there was quite a large queue for the bar at this point, so we decided to forego any more tastings (we’d already gone ‘over quota’ though not every stall was diligent at marking them off in your book) to get the full G&T included in the price. After queueing for about 20 minutes it became obvious that the queue was not moving very quickly, primarily due to their only being 2 people serving behind the bar. 

I visited the gents (you didn’t really need to know that I guess, sorry! Lol) and whilst I was away, one of the ladies who had been taking tickets on entry came round the queue saying that she didn’t think we would get served, and would people please take an extra token for a sample instead of their full drink from the bar. Having already tried most of the gins, this didn’t seem like a great option and unsurprisingly most people said no. Some ladies in front of me suggested to the staff member that she could prepare some gins as they weren’t bothered what brand they had (I was! Lol), and off she went behind the bar to follow up on that. A few minutes later, with the queue barely moved, she appeared with a tray of about a dozen gins made up – which she then promptly offered to the end of the queue who had only just joined? This was repeated a couple more times as we inched our way forward, with fresh drinks always being offered to the end of the queue to stop it getting any longer – very disorganized!

Eventually after 50 minutes of queuing, at 3pm, I finally got served and had the choice of the 80 gins to choose from … I opted for Adnams Copper House for myself, and Fifty Pounds for Marie. I was very surprised to be asked what garnish we wanted – um, surely that's the whole point of having a barman so that you are getting the recommended garnish? Being put on the spot & having no mobile signal to check the Ginventory app I opted for the safe option of lime in both. It suited the Fifty Pounds but the Adnams would have been better with orange I think although it was still very nice.

After queuing for 50 minutes in a very hot building I was looking forward to resting my sore feet (I suffer with plantar fasciitis) and having a long cool drink. However we’d not been sat longer than 2 minutes before being told that we’d need to “leave the area” as “we are closing” – you honestly couldn’t make it up. So off we were moved to the other side of the entrance barrier to finish our drinks, more than a little p!ssed off – and not due to any gin.

Overall I had a good afternoon & really enjoyed meeting some of the distillers but generally I think the event lacked some organisation which could be easily improved but was also extremely busy (see photo below as an example) for the amount of space available … either sell less tickets or book more space would be my suggestions. 

I also read afterwards of reports on social media that people were queuing for up to an hour just to get into the event for the second late-afternoon session which again confirms my suspicion about organisation and over-selling. However No. 18 have responded saying that they are taking all the feedback into account & looking to see how they can improve future events, which is a good sign. 

I should also mention Maxwell's Desserts who were in attendance at the event. I don't eat cakes so I'm afraid that they held no appeal for me, but apparently "they all look delicious!".

The delights on offer were:

  • Gin Bakewell Muffins
  • Chocolate & Cherry Gin Cups
  • Gin Lemon Drizzle Loaf
  • Passion Fruit Gin Cheesecake
  • White Chocolate Gin Fudge

And 3 types of Gin Marshmallows:

  • Strawberry & Lime
  • Bramble & Citrus
  • Rhubarb

We enjoyed some of the Bramble & Citrus marshmallows, and I can confirm that they were absolutely delicious - I'd definitely want to have these again!

Other brands at The Gin Fayre were Gilt (which I already a bottle of), Minus 33, Valentia and Shetland Reel - apologies that I didn't get to your stalls due to the issues with the bar queues.

After the event, we headed to The Venue in St John’s Street for a couple of drinks & some food – and I’ll be doing a full review on that shortly.

Thanks for reading!