Interview with Dobcross resident Shelagh Bourke of The Gin Society
I had the pleasure of meeting with Shelagh last week and, chatting over a coffee, she told me all about gin and The Gin Society Festivals.
Tell us about the ladies behind The Gin Society
There’s 3 of us who’ve worked together in a different guise in the past; Kendra Kennedy, Isabel Mourato myself. Kendra founded the Christmas Markets in Manchester. Kendra and I worked together on the Christmas Markets and went to Florence to get the established traders you may buy from now. I did PR for the Markets until this year. Isabel used to work with Kendra for a while and then they put together an event company called Rule of Three Events, which I then joined. The Gin Society is the biggest event we organise.
And what about gin, is the Old Wives’ Tale saying that it it make you depressed true or false?
Gin is actually vodka with botanicals, it’s the same base. No-one says Vodka makes you depressed so no, it’s not got special properties.
You’ve gone on to run a lot of Gin Festivals. Tell us about them
The Festivals are a little like ‘a wedding without a bride and groom’ – a really interesting, fun time, meeting other people and enjoy the gins. People have a party experience, have great fun without the ceremony part of it all.
We did 17 Gin Festivals last year around the country and hoping to do 25 this year. Buxton, Manchester Cathedral and Saddleworth Civic Hall is one of our smallest. The concept is it’s quite a gentle festival, with a vintage DJ, at the bigger ones, dancers. We have a great singer coming to the Saddleworth Festival.
There’s a World Bar ( Spanish gins, Portuguese gins and so on), a Fruit Bar ( Fruit gins that are very popular), a Prosecco Cocktail Bar and a ‘Be our Guest’ Bar where people can have a little sample of our guest gins. We also have 3 or more distillers come and do a masterclass about who they are, history of the company, what their gins are. These just happen, there’s no booking needed. We’re also doing a talk abut the ‘History of Gin’ at every session at this year’s Festival in Saddleworth; facts and fibs.
So what can you tell us briefly about gin?
We stock 120 gins plus some guest ones. We have local ones and gins from all around the world. The favourites are fruit gins such as Rhubarb and Ginger and Strawberry are very popular especially with the ladies. A lot of people think they don’t like gin but often it’s the tonic, it’s the tangy tonics that they don’t like. Fentimans, our tonic partner, have rose lemonade and grapefruit tonic which are softer so you can taste the gin. Some of the new gins coming out taste of coconut and another of liquorice.
We also do Prosecco cocktails, a really nice long drink, with fruit gin and prosecco. A good gin for a novice is Robin of Loxley Gin, and Manchester Gin. These are ordinary gins that are dry with some nice botanicals and complex flavours, and they do a raspberry that isn’t sweet, and lovely with a light tonic.
The Festivals sound very entertaining and full of drama. How did you three come to be involved with gin and vintage?
We’re all gin fans (said with a very large smile). We have put on quite a few Vintage Festivals and they’re very popular and the gin side just fits with it. We did a pilot Gin Festival in Didsbury and it worked really well. Our first big festival was at Manchester Cathedral and it was amazing. The Dean came! It’s a really lovely venue. We’re back there in April and then in the Autumn.
What do you love about the area of Saddleworth?
I’m originally from the North East, my husband from London. We both then lived in Stockport for ages and we just wanted a change. We found this place by accident and absolutely love it! We’ve made loads and loads of friends, go to everything on the calendar, Whit Friday is my favourite day of the year! I just like the sense of community and the add on benefits of walks and beautiful places.
Shelagh, tell us one thing about you to surprise us
I do flamenco dancing as a hobby! Will that do?
I love everything about Spain. It got me when I was really little. I taught myself Spanish one summer. Then later, as a teenager, I worked out there for a year as a holiday rep.
They are running a Gin Festival at the Civic Hall in Uppermill on the 16 February, tickets are available here – The Gin Society
Like to WIN tickets?
If you’d like to win a couple of pair of tickets to the Saddleworth Gin Festival in February please just answer this question : A gin was recommended for a novice gin drinker, what is it called?
a) Joan of Ark b) Robin of Loxley or c) Richard the Lionheart
Send you answer to us here and we’ll pick a couple of winners on Tuesday 23 Jan at 5pm.