Review | Gin and Rum Festival

Words by Saoirse O’Connor and Izzy Boulton

The UK’s largest Gin and Rum Festival came to Cardiff on Friday 28th June to Saturday 29th June. The festival, that was sponsored by Schwepps, boasted over 120 gins and rums to try! We were lucky enough to be invited down to review both days of the spectacular event.

Day One

‘According to chemists, gin IS a solution.’ – Anon

When The Gin and Rum festival landed in Cardiff last weekend, the crowds flocked to the Bay to try out the extensive range of gins, rum and Schweppes tonic. Each attendant received a free glass and guide to the festival, and after arrival I was directed to the till where you could purchase drink tokens at £5 each.

As a gin lover I headed straight for the gin bar and spent an inordinate amount of time looking through the booklet trying to work out what I wanted. The sheer amount of choice at the festival was initially overwhelming, but the bartenders were helpful and informative and helped me choose something a little bit different to what I might usual go for.

Poetic License Northern Dry Gin

My new bartender friend recommended the Poetic License Northern Dry Gin, which the tonic expert then paired with the Schweppes 1783 cucumber tonic water. The cucumber went wonderfully with the floral note and cut through the citrus for an exceptionally refreshing drink. Perfect for summer! If you have a sweet tooth this may not be the gin for you, as the name suggests it is very dry.

My second gin was one for the fangirl in me. When I saw the Peaky Blinders Spiced Gin, I knew I had to give it a go.

Peaky Blinders Spiced Gin

Like the gang it is named after, this gin has a kick to it. The ginger and black pepper gave this gin a spicy bold flavour that made my mouth tingle, while the juniper in the gin gives a big hit initially but fades to a pleasant back note. I was told to pair this with a salty lemon tonic which gave it a nice citrus note. By order of the Peaky Blinders, drink up!

I felt I should try at least one rum, so I went for the Pirate’s Grog Rum. I love pirates so was excited to try a rum inspired by the days when pirates used the island of Roatan as a safe haven.

Pirate’s Grog Rum

The rum is aged for five years in white American oak bourbon barrels and has flavours of vanilla and butterscotch. Not being a habitual rum drinker, I was pleased with my choice and liked the pairing with the muscovado dark spirit mixer which I will definitely look out for.

If you’re a connoisseur of gin or rum, then the festival is well worth a visit. If you’re a casual drinker then it may be worth first exploring what your local bar or pub can offer. The festival is a lovely evening out but can be expensive, if you’re looking for a night on the town then you’ll probably need to head somewhere a little cheaper. But if you’re after a slightly more sophisticated evening then this is the place for you. The free masterclasses offered by different vendors are interesting and informative, and definitely taught me to be a little more discerning next time I’m in Spoons!

By Saoirse O’Connor

Day Two

I headed down on Saturday to check out the action and try a drink (or two!).

The Festival brought 60 flavours of both Rum and Gin to the city. These were categorised into British, World and Flavoured spirits. The venue looked great and was booming with Gin and Rum goers alike. Tables were filled with those who had a taste for flavours that you wouldn’t find on your average bar. Each ticket included a complimentary satchel, a pen, brochure and Gin Glass to be used during the festival which saved on a huge amount of plastic waste. The Gin bar saw flavours such as Ginger and Black Pepper, Turkish Delight, Marshmallow and Parma Violet. The Rum bar saw flavours such as Salted Caramel, Rhubarb, Banana and Coffee. As a delicate touch, each drink came with a garnish soaked in the spirit; Mint, Coconut, Cherry, Banana and Pineapple were just a few of the garnishes available to punters. There was also a wide variety of mixers. There was Schweppes Muscovado dark spirit mixer, and Schweppes golden Ginger Ale, alongside other tonics and lemonades.

Alongside the extensive bar, The Street Food Guy had a pitch to line the stomachs of the hungry punters, there were a number of Masterclasses throughout the day, a handful of Sponsors who were selling their products and offering samples, an in-house DJ, and a raffle in aid of Cancer Research UK.

The first rum we tried was Cloven Hoof rum. They offered an imported Spiced Rum from Guyana and Trinidad, and a darker ‘Over Hoof’ spiced rum which was 66.6%! From trying just a third of a shot of the Over Hoof, we can confirm it is Spicy in all definitions of the word. They also offered a ‘Zombie’ tinned cocktail which was more fruity and definitely more accessible to those lighter drinkers.

Onto Burning Barn who offered Smoked Rum and Honey Rum. Made in Birmingham and on the market for just 2 years, the Smoked Rum is smoked for 24 hours whilst the Honey Rum macerates in rum for 24 hours. By adding ginger ale to the Smoked Rum it took the harshness away from the spirit and was delicious. From the same distillery, Barentsz Gin has been on the market for 3 years and offers a Jasmine Gin which complimented the hot summers day perfectly, and is lightly refreshing.

Our favourite of the day was Cin Cin Gin who offer a Marshmallow Gin and a Parma Violet Gin – both of which shimmer in the bottle. They also produce Soul Rum who provide Salted Caramel rum and Mango, Pineapple and Passionfruit rum. These drinks were definitely for those with more of a sweet tooth; and made to be more appealing to people who don’t usually opt for these spirits.

It was a brilliant day that saw lots of people sharing in their common love for gin and rum, and the sharing in knowledge of how to make these drinks taste their absolute best.

By Izzy Boulton