All change – Whats new for 2020

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Judging at the IWSC 19.

Happy New Year all!

Some of you may have noticed things go a little quiet towards the end of last year. Truth be told, I was a little stretched and had to hold fire from writing on here for a bit. As much as I love writing this blog, I have to juggle it in with other things and sometimes I can’t quite do it all.

For those of you who don’t know me so well, when I started writing Under the Ginfluence, I was working part time and studying a BA in English and Creative Writing. In the nearly 5 years (April time) I’ve been doing this, I’ve been slowly building my reputation in the industry and it’s leading to wonderful things. Nowadays I’m a self employed writer and spirits judge, as well as working full time and studying for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s a little more than before and sometimes it’s hard to squeeze it all in, especially with more deadlines to juggle.

So firstly, thank you for your patience.

Secondly, it’s got me thinking. I need to change things up a bit. The first step is to drop back down to part time at work. Luckily for me, I work in a University and they’re fantastic for supporting you whilst you do other things too. As of early Feb I’ll be dropping back down to 3 days a week, which means Mon-Weds I’m at work, Thurs-Fri will be my self employed office hours. Just to be at the point where I have official hours is a brilliant thing and something that seemed a world away when I first started. I have a small room in my house that I use as a study. More often than not it’s full of boxes and anything I don’t know what to do with gets chucked in and the door closed. Last weekend I cleared it out and I’ve ordered a few extra bits to transform it into a proper office. I’ve ordered a large corkboard for keeping organised, some filing trays and a shelf to put my plants on. After some organising, my desk actually looks like a desk. I’ve got a bookcase in there already that’s full of nonsense so I’ll be clearing that off to home all of the gin bottles I’ve been collecting around my house the last few years. I’ll have a real Ginfluence HQ. It’s all very exciting.

Secondly, I think I’m going to open my blog up to a little more. So far it’s really been just focused on the gin and just to assure you, the gin will still be the prominent feature, it’s Under the Ginfluence after all. However, I’m finding it tricky to keep up with reviews. Although I’ll have more time for reviews and I’ll certainly be keeping it updated with all sorts of gin related stuff, going forward, I’m going to loosely broaden the content. I’m going to be writing a little more on the judging, on the experiences travelling to events and maybe a little more on my life as a gin person too. This is for me as much as for you. I’ve found that having a few gins in the queue can really block up my ability to write anything at all, and I think having the option to write about more stuff would mean I write more in general. Don’t worry, I’m going to organise the categories so you can click a button and get all the gin reviews and nothing else, if that’s what you’re really into.

I’ll be starting this with a travel diary of my trip to San Francisco for the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits in February. I did have a bash at travel writing when I went last year and there was a great response to it, so much so that I made the joke that perhaps I’d gone into the wrong business. So, fingers crossed I can keep it as interesting this time too!

And with that, here’s my first post of this year, and my first post on here for some time. Boy, that sure feels good.

Thanks for all your support, here’s to a broader horizon in 2020, hopefully even brighter too.

 

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 5: I Am A Sponge

Over breakfast I was told that I’d be moving tables.

The comfortability I’d found on the first day dissipated quickly into nerves. I felt like I’d have to prove myself again. I sound over dramatic, which I am lets be honest, and it was very good to move around and listen to what other people were thinking and where they were coming from with their ideas. I’m just well aware that I’m swimming with some pretty big fish here, and I want to do it right. I shyly pottered through and sat at the the table. The pace had been upped, with us having to feedback much quicker. Also the debating had become more in depth, with several instances of having to come back to a gin that had a varied response, to discuss and agree on a score that was more in line with what everyone thought.

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This is however, very much my first rodeo and I’m well aware that this is a great opportunity to learn as much as possible. I am a sponge. I was constantly listening to all the tables in earshot, soaking up as much as possible. And, I was overwhelmed at the knowledge in the room. It’s a very humbling to be sat around so many experts. On the first day, I met a lovely gentleman, Jeff, who writes on rum and tiki. I clicked when he mentioned that he had got himself an office to get him out of the house because he was “losing all social skills he’d once developed”, by staying at home writing. My eyes widened, “I get you!” I can spend days sat at home in my pants writing, it’s like an addiction. I don’t feel I can leave the laptop if there’s more I can do and before I know it, I can’t even look people in the eye when I’m up the shops for a pint of milk.

Before the first drinks came out on day 1, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. The room is full of people from all areas of the industry. Distillers, bar owners, bar tenders, importers, distributors, writers, all sorts of people. I realised my hands were shaking as the plethora of incredible introductions crept closer and closer to little old me. Suddenly it was my turn and the whole room turned and looked my way. Silence. That sizzle of anticipation. I swallowed, before projecting my voice calmly and smiling as I said who I was and what I did. Smiles and nods, and onto the next. Relief washed over me like I was bare feet dug into sand on the shoreline. I will remember the moment always.

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So, I’ve been doing ok the last couple of days. I reminded myself of this, and I summoned up the courage to sit on the ‘Gin 2’ panel. It’s a great little table! Ben from Seattle based Big Gin, Ollie from Sipsmith and Keli Rivers who is everything a gin judge could aspire to be. Her palate and knowledge of flavour is exemplary! The notes she picks out are mind blowing. I was marvelling all day at her ability to taste, “this tastes wet and…hot, almost plastic, like when you drink water out of a garden hose that’s been in the sun”. I am a sponge. I have been and will keep learning all I can.

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Gins, gins, gins all day and something a little bit interesting at the end as we step in to help on honeyed whiskys, then unaged rums and finally cream liquors. The diversity of flavour here was amazing. It really was a marathon of a day but we got through it. On leaving I met up with the wonderful Lara Victoria and we went for some Italian food at Don Antonia Trattoria. I had spinach and ricotta ravioli in bolognese with garlic and it was out of this world! The service was amazing and the wine was lovely too, another great Pinot Noir from the local area. Great choice Lara!

Another solid 8 hours sleep and I’m up and raring to go. I’m bubbling with joy to be sat with a coffee, writing. Having not long finished a BA and now part way through a MA in writing, I have been spending a lot of time writing because I have too. Writing because I’m stressing over deadlines. The last few days of finding an hour in the morning to write because I want to, has been absolute bliss and I’ll go as far to say it’s re-sparked my love for it. I must find a way to continue this when I get home. I need to remember to find some time to write for love, even when there’s writing for deadlines.

Anyway, today’s the final day! Last gins in the morning, grand panel in the afternoon and the big do in the evening…but I’ll tell you all about those tomorrow. Let me at’em!