Hot town, summer in the city…
Dan and I braved the blistering heat of this record breaking London summer and had the opportunity of showing our stuff at Imbibe’s yearly drinks conference a couple of weeks back. This incredible undertaking was a boundless valley of flavours and spectacle. The Olympia exhibition centre became a Mecca for all categories of drinks. Gin above all other orders of drinks were the most prevalent and appropriately, every imaginable flavour of tonic was in abundance as the Dutch courage’s pairing partner. With a great many masterclasses and discussions of the industry as a whole and a food offering that was super tasty and immense, there was most definitely something there for everyone.
One could really tell that the big players came to dazzle with booths that boasted Colisseum-esque grandiosity. It seemed that the bigger companies like Bibendum, Fever Tree and Freixenet were out to entertain rather than bring in business. This event was more about customer retention and a presence as they are already known by almost everyone walking through the door. Pol Roger had a tiki hut vibe to their immense stand where, as I walked by at one point, a Jimi Hendrix cover artist was sat behind a miniature drum kit and blasting out “Purple Haze.” I got a hot tip that they were pouring their 1999 out of a magnum on Tuesday morning, so treated myself to a taste of that to kick off the day. Gotta say, it was better than coffee.
Our little stand was in the corner of the “Wine Bar” section and was just right for us. It was the perfect size to show 12 wines and two gins, our Wildcraft and Inverroche Amber from South Africa, which we import directly. One of the best parts about where we were was that we were placed just in the shade out of the focused sun that moved away from us as the afternoon came and went. We had a resounding reception from all who stopped by with some definite favourites being the Mercator Chardonnay by Möreson, the Gentle Giant by Haut Espoir and the Auslese Chardonnay by Philipp Lang. It was flattering to have such response to these wines that we hold close to our hearts.
The first day finished and we had a beer or two with some of the good people from Yalumba, who were our neighbours in the wine bar. The air was close and the drinks were necessary and quick in the stifle. We said our “see you tomorrows” and headed off for some superlative Hawksmoor cocktails and a steak dinner with some wine that Dan and I had brought from home. A friend of mine made time to join us and we had a third bottle of wine that was damn fine. Seriously damn fine.
Back to the rooms for a few hours sleep before day two.
In previous years there has been no entry fee, where this year cost a tenner for those not in the industry. Apparently, last year at load out, the floors were littered with the bodies of those who had over indulged in a few too many free “tastes.” Some exhibitors who had experienced this said that it was much more tame and civilised this year. We still had some people swaying their way over to our table for free booze as the second day was coming to a close. It was endearing more than dangerous, so I would have to say it was a good call to charge admission.
We made some friends, had some laughs and got to try a few very cool treats like a crème de menthe from the 50’s that was like the most pleasant version of a liquified hotel-pillow chocolate you could imagine. We’re very much looking forward to next year. If you haven’t checked out Imbibe Live before, you most definitely should plan on showing up for what is a splendid celebration of all, and for all, the good people who make up the drinks industry.
Special thanks to Micaela Ferreira for making it all happen for us.
Drink well and Better,
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Sommelier