Sunday was the day of rest, according to biblical doctrine. After that was supplanted by neo-liberalism in the 1980s, Sunday became just another retail opportunity. I’m not religious by any means but I do try to observe that doctrine by doing as little as possible. My Sundays are The Archers, The Observer and back-to-back Columbo, strictly in that order. Last Sunday was no exception except that the weather forced me from my TV into the garden to catch the remains of Summer and the promise of an early G&T.

However, it was an exception in that I had a gracious invite to the Bolton Gin and Rum Festival, part of Bolton’s annual Food and Drink Festival. Thankfully, the good people at Northern Rail, Transpennine, British Rail, or whoever runs the time-challenged franchise, had deemed to stop at my local Deansgate Station to deliver me on time to Bolton. It was a beautiful evening and the lure of a gin-tasting sweetened my mood as I followed the spire of Bolton Town Hall to the marquee that housed the gin. I remembered the marquee from last year’s Gala Dinner which I attended with our own Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul. My only criticism is that it’s always bathed in a weird purple light as if haunted by the ghost of Prince which makes tweeting impossible. My review is, therefore, informed only by my sketchy notes and poor memory. Please also remember that this entire undertaking was done without the aid of tonic water.

GinThere was a smallish selection of local craft gins as well as a wider selection of more 50 gins, some supplied by Aldi, one of the festival sponsors. I stuck with the craft gins but I can highly recommend Aldi’s own award-winning home brand London Dry Gin. At £14 a litre, we at Hamiltonic get both quality and quantity.

I began with Touch Lucky Gin from Wigan. Made with locally sourced botanicals from Haigh Plantation, it had a zesty zing to it and a smooth finish. John, the enthusiastic distiller, was a fellow Irishman from the North and we bonded over our applications for Irish passports. He kindly gave me a miniature for my troubles.

I moved on to Flight Club Gin where I tasted a brew made from macerated Seville oranges, liquorice root, lavender and star anise. A fine gin that I can see being served with breakfast here at Hamiltonic. I had a long stop at Defiance Gin where I sampled their Premium, Wild Rose, Strawberry, Old Tom and Navy Strength gins. They were all fantastic (I think) and they have opened a distillery in Oldham (I think) which I hope to visit soon (I think).

GinThis was followed by a couple of excellent sups of Batch Big Trouble and Industrial Strength Gins, distilled and bottled in Burnley. Big Trouble was named after the distillery dog, who in turn was named after the movie Big Trouble in Little China. I can’t speak for the dog but the movie and the gin were classics. As if this wasn’t enough, I finished off with Simply Timperley Rhubarb, a London Dry gin that is bath-tubbed with reduced rhubarb and strawberries to give it a sweet hit and a spicy aftertaste.

In the dusk light, I made my happy way back to the station and entrusted my soul to the Northern Rail franchise once again. My sincere thanks to everyone at the Bolton Gin and Rum Festival. I apologise for not trying any of the rum but the gin took up all the room in my tum (I think).

By Robert Hamilton, Gin Correspondent