Stepping into London’s Gin Festival, you would be fooled into thinking you had been transported back to a 1920s speakeasy.
Jazz music filled the air as festival goers mingled and sampled the 100-plus gins on offer.
Jym and Marie Harris, the festival founders, said the Tobacco Docks in Shadwell were the perfect location for the festival.
“We really like to use interesting buildings but obviously we have to use buildings that are of a size that you can use for a gin festival so that’s why we picked the Tobacco Docks,” Jym said.
“The Tobacco Docks is a stunning place, it’s absolutely rich with amazing history and it’s got amazing little nooks and crannies.”
The festival certainly attracted scores of gin lovers, with each arrival receiving a gin glass, a gin bible, a pen, an order form and their entry badge at the door.
It all began when Jym and Marie Harris attended a gin tasting session that left them with a disappointed taste in their mouths. The pair decided to set up their own gin festival to celebrate and share their love of this spirit with fellow fans.
“This is going to be our biggest and most interesting festival – we’re putting on loads more stuff, we’ve got loads more music, live art, loads more gins and we’ve got loads of brands giving away free samples,” Jym said.
This year’s festival was sold out. So, what can you expect from the festival next year?
“Great music, a really good atmosphere and just a general great night out drinking gin, that’s been the philosophy of our company since we started.”
The aptly named “gin room” is lined with bottle after bottle of gin just ready for the taking. There are four designated bar areas with British gins, international gins and flavoured gins with everything from elderflower to hazelnut gin to have a taste of.
With live music from quirky jazz bands playing everything from a violin to a washboard, gin masterclasses from industry professionals and free samples, it’s certainly a different way to spend your day.
Gin sales were set to reach their highest figures yet last year at £1bn – a 25 per cent increase since 2012 – but what is it about gin that the Harrises and a significant number of the British population love so much?
Jym said: “Gin is such a unique product; every single gin you ever try is different but it has a common factor so if you try one gin you’re going to love a lot of other gins.
“It’s such an open spirit that it’s great for interpretation so you’ll find that people really just enjoy dabbling and trying different things.
“I think that’s why I like it so much; it’s the actual fact that there’s so many different varieties.”
“We came here because we love gin – we have been drinking it for a long time,” said Lucy Millar, 49, and Pauline Farndale, 47, both from Bedford.
“We tried to get tickets last year but they sold out so quickly so we couldn’t come. Gin has become so popular in the last few years.”
Jym and Marie Harris plan to hold another festival in London next year.