The story of Ginfall - the festival taking gin to Scotland's local communities

Ginfall is aiming to take the humble gin festival out of the city and into some of Scotland's bigger towns and local communities, finds Sean Murphy.

Published 6th Mar 2019
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

It's the UK's fastest growing spirit category with hundreds of producers, varieties and events popping up all over the country.

Now, riding on the wave of success that is the Scottish gin sector, a pair of drinks entrepreneurs are taking the juniper spirit out of the city and bringing it to the masses, with an event that's aimed at the often neglected audiences of Scotland's bigger towns and local communities.

Ginfall, which is returning after a successful first year, is the brainchild of David Higgins and John McIvor, the team behind Social and Cocktail, one of the UK's most successful drinks events companies.

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David explained that, after taking an interest in gin previously through their drinks company and having watched the gin explosion unfold, the pair wanted to look at doing an event that would really be different, he said: "We felt that some of the other major drinks events were being a bit too specific in who they were targetting and were perhaps being a little city-centric.

"A lot of the bigger towns with large populations like Paisley, Oban and Hamilton, for example, had never been approached to host a gin event like this and we just thought that was crazy.

"We quickly found that people were more appreciative when you go to the extra effort to bring these events a little closer to home."

Launching early last year, the pair stated that they originally set out to create a gin festival that had all of the producers and experiences of other events but with an added "fun factor" that included street food, live entertainment, a cocktail bar and cocktail masterclasses.

Finding the right venue in each location was also key.

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John explained: "We felt that if the venues were a good fit for us in these areas then we would take our show to them.

"There are some places that we haven't found the right venue for yet, Dundee for example, but we are hoping to fix that in the future."

Surprisingly, their first ever event, which was planned for this time last year in the Pollokshields Burgh Hall in Glasgow's southside, almost never went ahead due to the arrival of the now famous 'Beat from the East'.

David said: "Thanks to the terrible weather, it took some gins two days to get to us, but eventually the event still went ahead.

"We didn't think people would turn up, but many of them had been cooped up in the house for days so that even if it meant putting ski ones they were coming out. It turned into one hell of a party and It was a really good start for us."

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A large part of the success of the events they believe is the community spirit and the buzzing atmosphere at each one, as well as highlights such as the Gin Raffle - the proceeds of which go towards funding their charitable initiative, Community Cocktails - and the local entertainment which go a long way to making Ginfall stand out from the crowd.

Following sold out events in places like Oban, Dunoon and Helensburgh, the Ginfall team are bringing the festival back in an even bigger format this year, returning to most of their previous venues and even expanding the concept to a few more.

David stated that the popularity of their previous events and the "overwhelmingly positive feedback" from the people who attended, as well as the venues and the producers, meant that they felt they were on the right track. He said: "We had eight successful main events and several smaller ones last year and dozens of people were coming up to thank us for bringing an event like this to their town."

So, what can we expect from this year's scheduled events at places like Troon, Hamilton and Dunoon?

David said: "This year, we've added a new 'Tiki Rum Room' to our events, as we believe rum will be the next big thing. We'll have rum producers from Scotland and beyond and a Tiki Bar serving classic rum cocktails like the Zombie, the Hurricane and the May Tai.

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"The rum connection will add to the fun, and for our first event at Helensburgh on the 16th of March, will serve as a fun connection to the people who usually come from the Faslane Naval base."

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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