21 April 2016

Spirited Sermons at Reverend J.W. Simpson with Glendalough Gin

After discovering that I would being attending Spirited Sermons, part of a series of talks with gin tasting, alone, I decided to treat the evening as little date with myself. I changed my top. I put a pop of coral lipstick on. It was going to be great, company or no company.

This particular Spirited Sermon, hosted by Glendalough Gin, was held at Reverend JW Simpson, a basement bar (aren't they all nowadays? I'm still a sucker for them, though) on Goodge Street. Like a lot of London bars - or the ones worth knowing about anyway - the outside is always hidden or inconspicuous, so I was weary of being able to find the place.

Luckily, my beady eyes didn't miss an unassuming, single-fronted black door with "Reverend JW Simpson" above the doorframe.

The stained glass was really quite pretty, and even though I looked really stupid taking pictures of the outside, it was totally worth it.

I then hesitated, debating whether I could face going to a social event alone. But then I remembered it had taken me an hour to get there and I wasn't wearing my fancy Clarins lipstick to bail on myself, so I sucked it up and descended the stairs.

I was greeted by an eccentric waiter, and I couldn't figure out whether this was the "vibe" of the place or whether it was just... him. I explained that I was here for the event (also holding up my camera as an explanation) and was lead to "The Gin Room" - always a good place to be, no?

But it then transpired that the people I was sat with - two couples - were not only not part of the event, but very much on dates. So I was plonked on a chair in front of them, one couple on my left, the other on my right, and introduced to each of them, having to shake their hands. And may I just say I have never felt more alone, more single and more stupid with my bulky camera, not knowing where to look. Um.

I was then given water. When what I really wanted is a gin cocktail, pronto. The same eccentric waiter kept filling our water glasses up as I tried to find new things to photograph and when I'd given up with that, sending my friends urgent whatsapp messages saying different variations of HELP - what do I do?!

After a little while someone came along and spoke to me about the different cocktails - starting from the lightest variety (with elderflower and prosecco) to the more intense (infused with sloe gin) at the end. As part of the experience we were to try three. And when I say "we", I mean... me. As it transpired, I only ended up having two, which was a shame.

I was told I could make the cocktails myself (with the assistance of a bartender), so I haphazardly poured, mixed and shook my way to something that resembled a drink. I opted for the lightest, and enjoyed it, because anything with elderflower and prosecco always goes down well with me. But I did try to drink it quickly.

Quickly followed by another...

At this point I was a bit confused - had the sermon begun? When was the masterclass? By this point it was approaching 10pm, and I was genuinely baffled. The couples, as lovely as they were, didn't want to have to babysit me, which I completely understood, as I didn't want to have to be babysat.

When I asked the eccentric waiter when I was to be taken through for the masterclass (by myself) he informed me that the experience had actually begun with the trialling of the cocktails. And then he decided to take pity on me, sit across from me, and declared that we were "on a date". Which made me feel so embarrassed, and I didn't know whether to laugh or go along with it, and the two couples were looking between myself and him, trying to conceal their laughter. It was joyful.

Finally, I was told that I - along with the two couples if they wished - could come through for the last talk. "Last" indicating that I may have been forgotten about. This was semi-confirmed when one of the guys I'd been sitting with murmured that our waiter was very much drunk, so inviting me to the event I'd come here for had most likely slipped his mind.

The guy giving the talk was called Charlie, who worked on behalf of Glendalough (or Valley of Two Lakes) with All About The Cocktail. What makes Glendalough Gins so special is that the ingredients are foraged 4 times a year in the wilds of Wicklow County. So depending on the time of year, you'll be buying a different gin - Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter. This is done to capture the essence of each season. Pretty cool, huh?

We tried Autumn, Winter & Spring - as Summer hadn't been distilled yet. I'm really bad at tasting spirits straight, as it reminds me of my university years and provokes my gag reflex (hahaha), so I'm probably not the most insightful of people when it comes to describing the notes and flavours of a botanical spirit. What I can tell you is that Spring was by far the easiest to drink, whereas Autumn and Winter were heavier and less palatable. Put it this way - they all would have tasted better with tonic... I'm such an alcoholic philistine, clearly.

It was towards the end of the tasting that I saw the eccentric waiter leave with his coat. I thought nothing of it, as it was approaching 11pm and I thought it was the end of his shift. However, someone in my company came over and said he'd just witnessed a "small scene" whereby the waiter was fired. He'd been on a trial shift... and was blind drunk. So, so awkward.

All in all, an interesting evening, to say the least. I think if it hadn't been for the fact a) I had no one with me and b) I hadn't been served by a clueless, drunk waiter, my experience would have been a little bit different. The actual establishment, as well as the cocktails and talk, were really quite lovely, and I'd like to go back and sample more. 

For more information on Glendalough Gins, visit www.glendaloughdistillery.com/

Check out Reverend JW Simpson here.

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