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GinFall Festival - Dunoon

Cocktail Masterclass
We kicked off the afternoon with a cocktail masterclass.

You may have noticed already but gin is having a bit of a moment! GinFall Festival has been making its way around Scotland's village halls and last weekend, it stopped at Dunoon's Queen's Hall for a wee party. Of course it would have been remiss of me to skip this one so I felt it was my duty to attend and report back to you all...something of a theme with this blog!

I ordered tickets for myself and a gin-loving girl friend in the summer - they felt like they were really well priced at £20. This got us entry, a complimentary gin cocktail and a cocktail masterclass. We arrived at 1pm for the afternoon masterclass - our plan was to do the gin festival in the afternoon, wander up the street market to see Dunoon Dazzles which was on the same day, and then head home clinking with our booty.

When we arrived at Queen's Hall we found our way up to the gin festival by basically following our ears - the entertainment was very loud! We headed straight into our master class where our young mixologist took his largely female audience (roughly of a certain age!) through three cocktails - a negroni, a bramble and their own signature cocktail, a clover club. We were were given a little shot of each cocktail to taste and three lucky audience members received the full cocktail that the mixologist made. We also each got a cupcake from local bakery Chouxmake's Cakes which was, as ever, delicious! It was great to see local produce on display. At the end of the masterclass, we nipped up to chat to the guy to ask him for his recipes - we'd liked the bramble and the clover club most and he was kind enough to scribble out the recipes for us to take home and try later (pictured below if you'd like to try them)!

Some bits I collected along the way, including the recipes from the masterclass.

When we came back out into the main hall we began our tour! The stall holders lined all four walls of the hall, and there was also a bar and entertainment on the stage. The singer didn't seem so loud when we came out of our masterclass, so we'd either got use to it or they'd reduced the volume a little! There was a much bigger range of gins on offer than I had expected - I think I'd imagined a smaller display so it was great to see such variety. I grabbed a number of cards and leaflets as I went along (see above) and MANY a sample! At ever single stall you went you, the hosts were generous in offering samples of all their products! At first we accepted with gusto, trying each and every gin as we went along - there was such variety and sampling them neat allowed us to understand the flavours and botanicals. However, by the time we got half-way around the room, we were starting to struggle with the samples - there's only so much neat gin we could manage, bearing in mind we'd already had four shots at the masterclass!

At this stage, we decided a small break might be in order and we took a seat at one of the tables arranged in the centre of the room. I'd had the presence of mind to fill a bottle with some diluting juice before I left the house and it offered us a refreshing palate cleanser before we decided it was time resume our tour of the room! Almost all of the stalls were offering Scottish gins but there were a couple with a range of gin-themed bits and bobs on display. Sue from Doon the Watter was there with a table full of gin-related goodies and some fabulous Joe & Seph's popcorn. I tried some of the salted caramel popcorn and it's so good you have to walk away before you accidentally eat an amount that is, quite frankly, impolite. We later popped up to her shop in town so that my friend could snap up the peanut butter popcorn!

The next stall that caught our eye in a serious way was The Garden Shed Drinks Company. There, we met Ryan - ex professional rugby player turned gin-maker. Ryan's particularly passionate about keeping the business environmentally friendly, having studied Environmental Science at university. Sporting a jaunty pink moustache for Movember, Ryan talked us through his product and gave us a sample to try - by this point we were asking for tonic (!) and so he recommended us a couple of options to try with his gin, into which he popped a bruised sprig of rosemary. It was absolutely delicious and we were both sold. They'd also really thought about their presentation - their leaflet was beautifully designed and the products were offered alone or in natural, festive packaging which came with a Christmas card. This made the perfect Christmas present so my friend snapped up one of those and I grabbed a bottle of the gin along with one of their branded canvas bags (I have a bit of a canvas bag habit). My friend was also unable to resist the Makar gin Christmas baubles - they're star-shaped and filled with gin so will make a lovely addition to her Christmas tree...as long as they're out of reach of the wee one! I also got a little bottle of the Kintyre gin - it's not one I've tried before and I wanted to pick up something local, so this dainty wee bottle fit the bill.

Makar Gin baubles, Kintyre Gin, and Garden Shed Gin.

As we moved on, we happened upon the raffle - for a mere £5 per page, you could win 10 bottles of gin! Clearly we had to be in it to win it so we got our tickets and grabbed our free gin cocktail from the bar which we sipped while we waited for the raffle to be called. Sadly neither of us won but the lady who did was awfully excited...well, you would be! At this point we felt it might be a good idea to head on up Argyll Street to see the stalls at the Dunoon Dazzles Christmas fayre, and we couldn't help but stop at Shellfield Farm's stall for a hot burger with fresh toppings. Mmmm - just what we needed before we headed to the supermarket for tonic and some extras for our cocktails. Of course we had to drop in on Argyll Outdoors to see what nifty gadgets and stocking fillers he had and then it was time for home!

If I had any criticism of the event, then it was a very small one - I would have liked to have seen more local and island gins on show, given our location. I didn't see much local and would have expected gins from Barra, Shetland Reel, Harris, Botanist, Tyree Gin, or The Loch Fyne to name but a few local gins. That said, I enjoyed the day and would happily attend another if gin is still as trendy next year as it is just now!

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