The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Olly Wehring.
British Guild of Beer Writers Awards - We Have a Winner
26 Nov 2010 15:09
Into London yesterday evening, to soak up the atmosphere, beer and Indian cuisine on offer at the British Guild of Beer Writers awards dinner.
The atmosphere at the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street hotel last night can best be described as jovial, with a hint of bullish. The brewing industry, much like the spirits and the wine industries, attracts a certain kind of person: down-to-earth, deep of laugh and ruddy of cheek. But, the ongoing travails of the brewing industry and, more specifically, the pub trade in the UK has drained some of the colour from those cheeks of late. Whereas the battle used to be for share of throat, the fight now is to get the throats in in the first place.
Some of the beers on offer last night, however - I was particularly taken by Blue Moon and Chimay - show clearly that, once the punters are in the net, there is more than enough on the beer menu to get them hooked.
I was particularly thrilled that just-drinks' beer commentator, Larry Nelson, picked up the award last night for 'Best Writing for the Beer and Pub Trade'.
If you've caught Larry's musings on just-drinks this year, you'll see that this award is more-than-justified. If you haven't, then get involved.
Foster's - Brimming with Ashes confidence?
24 Nov 2010 11:03
One of the biggest rivalries in world sport kicks back in this evening. Tonight, at about midnight, we can expect the first ball (please let it not be as ominous a ball as four years ago) of the Ashes cricket series, between England and Australia.
Whilst here in England, cricket fans are trying desperately hard to keep their expectations in check, in Australia, the widely-held belief is that the home team are by far and away the underdogs this time around.
I'm not entirely sure, then, if Foster's Group's brewing unit in the country, Carlton & United Breweries, is preying on this fear or playing the bullish Australian.
The beer firm is offering a free beer for every adult in the country if the Australian cricket team wins the best-of-five-match series. Vouchers will run in Australian newspapers should the home team prove victorious.
England has not won a series in Australia for 24 years.
Must we throw this filth at our kids, II?
18 Nov 2010 17:21
Do you remember the story we ran earlier this year about a TV campaign in the US for 901 Silver Tequila.
Of course you do.
You may also remember me saying at the time: “You can't do that!”
Well, I'll say it again – this time to UK bar chain Revolution. The firm is launching a 2011 calendar to highlight the launch of its new online 'vodka-shop'. The calendar features current female bar staff, dubbed – by the company – 'the Vodka Vixens'.
Folks, you can't do that!
Movember - Rogues Gallery I: 15 November
15 Nov 2010 15:18
This year, just-drinks - and by 'just-drinks' I mean 'me' - is joining the Movember brotherhood. During the month of November, members grow a moustache (or 'Mo') to raise awareness of and funds for the fight against prostate cancer.
As promised at the beginning of this month, we will have an ongoing rogues gallery of Mo's here on just-drinks.
Much as I should apologise for the delay in putting up this first gallery, it would have been pointless any earlier, as I really did not have a whole lot of 'tache to flash.
But, to the gallery.
First up, we have Marcin Miller, MD of Quercus Communications here in the UK. Marcin has previous in the face furniture arena, and we all bow to him.
Second, please be upstanding for John Campbell, distillery manager at Beam Global Spirits & Wine's Laphroaig distillery up on Islay. Modest to a fault, John looks too tired to send a photo of how his Mo looks today - this dates from late last week.
Finally, yours truly - words, for once, fail me.
A further update same time next week.
If you would like to appear in just-drinks' Movember gallery, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Spin Bin - October 2010
02 Nov 2010 13:11
In the first of a series of monthly visits to 'Press Release-Land', just-drinks is proud to bring you the best - and worst - of October's spin.
“The meaning of sexy is subjective and very open to interpretation. Our new ads are suggestive, asking consumers to look beneath the surface of the graphics and interpret what Skyy sexy is for themselves.” - Skyy Spirits.
"Unwilling to add just another cherry vodka to the market, Stoli spent years refining and perfecting their recipe to offer a flavor profile that perfectly balances sweet and tart, a spirit with a rich cherry aroma perfumed with aromatic hints of vanilla. On the palate, Stoli Wild Cherri delivers a bright and juicy hit, a full, fleshy cherry taste accented with touches of red plum and a pleasing piquant tartness." - Stolichnaya.
“We’ve been telling beer drinkers to ‘man up’ and order a light beer with great taste. We decided to follow our own advice and ‘man up’ when it comes to Miller Lite’s involvement with soccer." - Miller Coors.
"We would encourage the trade to stock up with Wolf Blass in anticipation of the sales drive this campaign will create." - Wolf Blass.
"The “sneak première” of Absolut Watkins was staged at legendary Villa L’Abri in Cannes during the TFWA World Exhibition at an extravagant party for trade press and VIPs, complete with set designs and extras employed to add an out-of-the-ordinary sense of the timeless glamour of classic luxury travel ... . Absolut Watkins was received with great delight and enthusiasm by the invited audience." - Absolut.
“We are extremely excited about the new global campaign. In Havana, people remain true to themselves and appreciate the simplicity of human interaction in every day life. ‘Nothing Compares to Havana’ sums up this refreshing attitude and by highlighting the informality, passion and generosity of the city, reiterates Havana Club’s authentic Cuban heritage.” - Havana Club International.
"Christmas is a time when you are allowed to relax and step away from all the rush and bustle of normal life, to shut the door and sit by the fire. It does not have to be a continuation of non-stop chores and everyday routines like the rest of the year. For a well-earned moment of calm this Christmas, why not put your feet up and unwind with the perfect Christmas tipple - a warming glass of smooth, full flavoured Three Barrels brandy." - Three Barrels.
"The Guinness team will be able to talk to rugby’s passionate fan-base and remind them that the most memorable times watching rugby are when you are with your friends whether that is at the match, down the pub or at home." Diageo.
“After distillation, Zacapa undergoes an amazing journey from the volcano-shadowed lowlands to the head of a valley 2,300m above sea level where the cooler altitude in its ‘House Above the Clouds’ enables Zacapa to acquire its true and highly-rated aroma, unique qualities and signature taste profile.” - Diageo Korea.
Going Four Loko - Must... Pass... Out
27 Oct 2010 17:28
You may have seen our story earlier today about claims out of the US this week that Phusion Projekts' Four Loko brand has hospitalised nine students who drank the stuff.
We heard about the hospitalisation from CNN - you can see their original report here.
I highly recommend you watch it through to the very end, because the last line of the news piece really is the story of my - and possibly your? - life.
TFWA World Exhibition - Day Two
20 Oct 2010 11:01
After Monday's gentle breaking in, the Tuesday is traditionally the day when the TFWA really starts to buzz. That was certainly the case for me.
Yesterday was a day of meetings, starting with a coffee with Alex Mervart from juice and purée producer Funkin. Alex is here to push Funkin's pouches to airports, while also hunting for spirits firms to tie-up with. The company has already partnered with the likes of Beam Global and Bacardi, with the co-branding of its cocktail mixers. More, please, asks Alex.
Then, to Patrón's stand to catch up with COO John McDonnell. I usually meet up with John once a year when he comes over to London, and I'm always impressed with his bullish approach to the industry. Yesterday was no exception, as you can hear for yourself.
A trek along La Croisette to the Hotel Martinez followed, to meet up with Solomon and Joshua Ani. The father/son combo have set up an import company for the Diamond Standard vodka brand, and are on the hunt for distributors. So, if you're looking for a EUR145 (US$200) per bottle vodka to sell to your high-end clients, give them a shout. And, no, they didn't give me a bottle.
Come sunset, come party. Firstly, William Grant & Sons hosted a drinks reception on a boat moored in the harbour to show off Glenfiddich 19-year-old. I have moments when I enjoy my job so much that I have to pinch myself – sunset on a boat (and what a boat - even the TV was huge), in Cannes, with a dram of single malt was one of those times.
Back to reality, of a sort, and off to the Carlton hotel for Pernod Ricard's annual dinner. As ever, it was good to catch up with several folk I hadn't seen for quite a while, and fun to put the head of Pernod's travel retail unit in the Americas on the spot.
It's been all go.
TFWA World Exhibition - Day One
19 Oct 2010 08:57
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes opened its doors yesterday morning (18 October) for the first day of the TFWA World Exhibition. The sun and the sea looked pretty inviting after leaving London in the dark, but it's in the halls of the Palais that the bulk of my time here will be spent.
The exhibition areas looked very lively for the first day, and it will be interesting to see if the pace keeps up during the busiest periods, today and tomorrow. The atmosphere was upbeat but, again, let's see if that was novelty or substance as the week goes on.
The evening kicked off with a tutored tasting of Diageo's Johnnie Walker Double Black by global brand ambassador, Jonathan Driver - one of the gentlemen of our industry. Afterwards, I was introduced to Jane Ewing, who has been managing director of Diageo's Global Travel and Middle East division for barely three months. Jane's promised me a few moments of her time later today, so drop me an email for any questions you may have for her.
Then, on to the Absolut party for the launch of Absolut Watkins. Cue, cocktails by the pool and synchronised swimmers.
Welcome to Cannes.
Postcard from Orkney, with Highland Park
15 Oct 2010 01:13
I've just got home from a memorable two days on the northern Scottish island of Orkney, as a guest of Edrington Group's Highland Park single malt brand. Not only was it my first trip to the islands – located seven miles north of the Scottish mainland - it was also the furthest north I've been in the British Isles.
The journey up was certainly part of the adventure – I can heartily recommend the Caledonian Sleeper train, which leaves London at 2350 and arrives at Edinburgh Waverley at 0730 the next morning. I slept like a baby in my cabin as the train headed north, and was woken by breakfast and the morning's Scotsman (it's a newspaper, potty-mind).
An hour-long flight from Edinburgh took us to Kirkwall, the main town on the island of Orkney, population: 20,000. From the airport, our local guide, Jim, took us on a tour of the Scapa Flow area of the island – one for the World War I and II buffs. A quick lunch was followed by the obligatory distillery tour, which took in the malting rooms and peat-fired burners for Highland Park. Orkney is home to two distilleries, the other being Pernod Ricard's Scapa, barely a stone's-throw from Highland Park.
In the evening, we boarded a boat and sped across the Bay of Kirkwall to the island of Shapinsay – a white-water trip of 30 minutes in the dark, which raised the proximity of the elements to concern-creating levels. An informal, rustic dinner in a locally-run restaurant included seafood, steak, darts and Highland Park. Time was called at gone midnight, and we headed back to the main island with a bottle of cask strength being passed around on deck.
Not responsible drinking, I concede.
The next day, we continued with the tour of the island – lochs, seals, curlews, neolithic stones, St Magnus' Cathedral and the rocky coast of Yesnaby (next stop, Canada). And, of course, a dram to ward off the wind.
With thanks to Susie Davidson, Matt Turner, Gerry Tosh, Ken Grier and the Orcadians of Highland Park. I'll be back.
NB: The trip was made all the more evocative by the 71st anniversary of the sinking of the Royal Oak, with the loss of 833 souls, at Scapa Flow by a German U-boat.
Some dirt, yesterday
23 Sep 2010 13:32
Now, I'd appreciate it if you didn't guffaw or conclude that today is a slow news day, because, respectively, it's not funny, and it isn't. But, yes, this is a picture of a pile of dirt.
One of the more curious press releases I have received arrived overnight, from California. It turns out that this soil comes from some of the vineyards of Napa which border the Napa River in the Rutherford American Viticultural Area.
The Rutherford Dust Society (of course!) is looking to restore the natural flow of the river, the banks of which have been steeply eroded of late. Subsequently, six landowners, including the David Guggenhime family. the Quintessa Estate, the Ranch Winery, Frog’s Leap, Caymus, and Carpy-Conolly Ranch, have rededicated seven acres of vineyard to the river corridor worth US$2.1m.
“This must be the most valuable dirt in America,” said project coordinator Gretchen Hayes in the statement. “It is truly a mountain of Rutherford Dust, and the greatest wines in America are grown in this coveted red soil.”
Let me know if you'd like some and I'll put you in touch.