In an article written before Christmas, Toby Lowenstein, one half of the brothers masterminding The St Andrews Gin Society, stated that their aim was to host events that delivered everything promised to students in advertisement for a price that wasn’t eye-watering. As Toby says, their events would be “as exciting, detailed, immersive and professional in real life as [presented] online.”
A brave and promising statement, Mr Lowenstein.
The photoshoots, directed by the society’s own photographer, Ewan Harvey, built even more upon this promise. With incredible locations and professional compositions, the anticipation for the Maiden Event was continually built up, right up until the day of the event itself. A dangerous gamble; if the event failed to meet expectations, the future of the society would be left on a cliffhanger.
At first, I did start to worry that the evening would not at all live up to these (by this time enormous) expectations. The evening seemed to start out at a fairly slow pace. It took a while for the room to fill up, which was worrying given we arrived about 45 minutes after the doors officially opened. But, within an hour and a half, most people had arrived, and I have to admit I sighed in relief for Jonah and Toby. Held in a social room in the Hotel Du Vin, the event was fairly small scale. With only 200 guests, it felt quite exclusive, despite ticket sales being open to everyone quick enough to get their hands on them. It was definitely an event for the sophisticated and the society did well to maintain this vibe throughout through their artistic direction.
The only thing that ruined this vibe for me was the music. At the beginning, it seemed unrhythmic and slightly clunky in comparison to the rest of venue and didn’t entirely seem to fit in with the theme. However, as the guests got onto their third and fouth gin and tonics of the night, the music seemed to magically improve to encompass some classic bangers which definitely helped to enhance the entertainment factor of the evening.
Upon the announcement of the theme – and that there was a dress code – I know that I was not alone in fearful curiosity at how “botanical” would be pulled off. I was definitely pleasantly surprised: the event did fully embrace the botanical theme. Perhaps the most blinding thing on first entry into the event was that everything was green. While at first this was slightly disorientating, especially with clouds of dry ice enveloping the floor, it did combine well with the draped ivy and fairy lights in the centre of the room. There was even a snake – although only in the entrance to the event so as not to panic the more faint-hearted amongst us.
The beauty of the venue was also key to the success of the photos both taken by guests themselves and Ewan Harvey. It’s a credit to the Maiden Event to utilise the skill of a student instead of hiring an outside company like many of St Andrews’ first-rate events, meaning that more attention (and money) could be paid to other smaller details of the event. It also meant that the photos were far more accessible at an earlier date, simply through the Maiden Event Facebook page.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning what should be the shining star of the event: the gin. With the promise of four free fancified gin and tonics – plus free vodka shots from a beautifully carved ice luge – this was what drew me in the most. Mixed in front of your eyes, and with the chance to trial gin before you committed to a full drink (or a chance to get even more drunk if you were to treat gin tasters as shots), the Gin Society managed to make even this part of the evening more fun than regular free drinks. The stamp cards provided to make sure you had only the four free drinks you were entitled to were a little tedious to carry along with your drink – and with nowhere to put your finished drinks, this part of the event was not friendly to those, like me, too lazy to hold things. However, the drinks were good enough – and plentiful enough – that this was a seriously minor detail.
A measure of success? I’d say the fact that St Andrews Crushes, St Feuddrews and St Fessdrews were all a-buzz about the Maiden Event for days afterwards (even if some comments were less than complimentary) demonstrates the growing bubble of excitement and interest surrounding the Gin Society. Watch this space – the Lowenstein brothers are changing the face of St Andrew’s events one all-immersive evening at a time.