We are getting more than a little bit excited at the prospect of the Gin Fayre returning to St Andrews in Fife for a festive special next month (December 9). Nora McElhone catches up with Gin Fayre founder Jasmine Wheelhouse to find out more.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? We want to know how you ended up in the role of organising a gin fayre – it’s probably many people’s idea of a dream job!
Strangely enough, my background is in education. When I graduated in 2013, I followed the crowd to London and ended up working in one of the UK’s leading youth charities before moving into a more senior position at an apprentice-focused social enterprise. But there was always a little something at the back of my mind asking ‘is this really what you want to do forever?’
Gin has always been my go to drink and whilst I was at university, I had been involved quite heavily in organising different events around the town and loved it… so I just put the two together. I think I contacted almost every distillery in Scotland asking if they wanted to join me at the very first Gin Fayre… a lot said no, but a lot said yes and we had a really successful first event and we’ve just grown and grown since then.
We’ve got our final event of the year in St Andrews and another ten events booked so far for 2018, so it’s a very exciting time for us!
When and where did the first Gin Fayre take place?
The very first Gin Fayre took place in St Andrews in February this year and the response was overwhelming. It actually blew me away. From the first few distilleries coming on board to the event completely selling out in just a couple of weeks, it really was just an amazing feeling. Since then we’ve been in Dunbar, Dundee and Perth but have just finished a road trip around Scotland and the North of England so you can expect us popping up in towns across the country next year…
What are the important ingredients for a successful fayre – apart from lots of gin?
People! We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the distillers themselves or all of the gin-loving people who join us to soak up amazing variety of gins on the day. Honestly though, it’s the guests that make it for me. I make a point of trying to speak to as many people as possible at every event – I like to know what they have enjoyed, what they haven’t enjoyed and what we could do to make the next one better. I’m now starting to see recognise faces and remember names of returning customers, so it’s good to know we’re doing something right!
Why do you think the gin market has had such an explosion over the past 12 months or so?
It’s a bit like the craft beer revolution. People are becoming more conscious of what they are drinking and prefer to support local rather than spend with the big businesses that have dominated the market for so long.
Craft gins emerged and they brought with them different flavours, recipes, exciting bottles and branding and most importantly – a back story. Consumers love to know where their drink has come from which is why The Gin Fayre works so well. Most of the distillers are present at The Gin Fayre so consumers are actually able to speak to them about the drink and understand it. It’s much more personal – in fact, it could not be further away grabbing a bottle off the shelf in the supermarket!
Which gins are you particularly pleased to have bagged for the St Andrews Gin Fayre?
We are VERY excited for the masterclasses! It’s the first time we had a masterclass feature at any of our events and are pleased to say we’ve got some absolutely brilliant hosts – Sam Trett from Minus 33, a spirit described as not quite gin, but something better. He’s a scientist so you can expect to be educated on all things gin, but also entertained. I’m hearing rumours of dry ice and test tubes… It’s going to be interesting!
We’ve also got the Scottish ambassador for Harris Distillers joining us, the head distiller of Darnley’s Gin and Tim Butler, co-owner of the new gin on the block, St Andrews Gin Company. It’s a fantastic line-up!
For the Gin Fayre virgin – how does the event work and what can visitors expect on the day?
A ticket to The Gin Fayre is all about the experience. On arrival, you’ll be greeted by a member of the team, given a welcome drink and goody bag – in there you’ll have our Gin Handbook which tells you everything you need to know about the distillers in the room, tokens to trade in for samples and a few more little treats as well. Then it’s up to you to explore and make your own way around. There are distillers from all across Scotland joining us in St Andrews and they are all very different – it’s up to you to decide your favourite. Soak up their knowledge, learn about their processes, and most importantly try their gin! Quite a lot of the gins aren’t readily available in your everyday shops, so it’s a great opportunity to top up on some Christmas presents or just top up your own collection!
Sounds fabulous! Is there anything else you would like Gin Kin readers to know about The Gin Fayre?
My best piece of advice for an enjoyable Gin Fayre is to chat to the distillers first. They are truly remarkable individuals and know everything about their spirit. I’d make a point of going round the whole event first and decide which gins you want to try before doing a second round…
The Gin Fayre Christmas Special takes place in St Andrews Town Hall on Saturday, December 9.
Fife is becoming a hotbed for Scottish gin innovation. Read more: