Comment - TFWA 2011: What I Did in Cannes
Tax Free World Association show in Cannes has been taking place this week
So, that's us done for another year. Here I sit, in Nice airport, awaiting my return flight to London. Having arrived on Sunday lunchtime, two days at TFWA World Exhibition is about as much as I can cope with, before I begin to believe that, like George Clooney, I am forever 'Up in the Air'.
This has been my third visit to Cannes for this event, which runs for six days, usually in October. Bringing the exhibition forward by a month – the G8 leaders will be in Cannes next month – has afforded me the opportunity to get a tan.
Of course, I've been far too busy to sunbathe – and, the only time I could really class as mine has been sleepy time.
First up, on Sunday evening, was a party at Vijay Mallya's villa on the island of Sainte-Marguerite, a 20-minute boat ride from the mainland. The head of UB Group was in triumphant mood – despite the absence of promised special guest Gerard Depardieu. The sale of a bottle of Dalmore 62 at Singapore's Changi airport for a staggering US$200,000 – a record – two weeks ago was the cause of Mallya's cheery demeanour throughout the evening. I managed to grab him briefly before the buffet and electric violinists kicked off, and he was – as ever – on eminently quotable form. Diageo and Pernod will certainly take note of what he had to say.
Then, Monday. In the halls, I met up with folk from Constellation Brands and Russian Standard, before hot-footing it to the nearby Majestic Barriere Hotel to hook up with a representative of FIX Wine & Spirits, which handles imported brands across most of Africa. The evening was taken up with the annual Pernod Ricard travel retail dinner, at which I caught up with a good friend of just-drinks, Alex Ricard. I say 'caught up with', I mean 'gave a hard time to'. I refused to believe Alex when he told me he'd not tried Guinness during his four years as head of Irish Distillers in Dublin. I harangued him about Pernod's decision to change the name of the Montana wine brand to Brancott Estate. I warned him that we have him earmarked for great things in the coming years.
Alex, I'm sorry.
To Tuesday – today – and it's been non-stop. Two consecutive Tequila meetings in the morning failed to calm the shakes from the night before. Despite this, Peter Gutierrez, managing director of Jose Cuervo International, and John McDonnell, COO of Patron, were patient with me as I tried to get some insightful questions out.
The fruits of these 'labours' will be laid bare for all to see in the coming weeks.
A couple of launch events covered lunchtime, firstly Edrington Group unveiling its latest Lalique collaboration, a 60-year-old single malt retailing at US$20,000, and then William Grant & Sons trumpeting a new look for Tullamore Dew.
A final sweep of the hall to say hello and goodbye to the likes of Gruppo Campari, SPI Group and Lanson, and my trip was done.
Until next year, Cannes, you've been unreal.
With thanks to Rob Bruce at Whyte & Mackay for inviting just-drinks' to Cannes.
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