Carrying the Torch – The Gin Sessions

Recently I wrote an article on By Ginvitation Only, a new gin experience started by two of my friends who used to work in the Events team for Gin Festival Ltd. And, two of the staff of the twenty seven that found themselves out of work when Gin Festival Ltd announced it was going into administration.

Since the sad collapse of the company, I’ve taken great comfort in seeing the team blossoming into life post Gin Festival Ltd. They’re such an incredibly talented and hard working bunch and with their rich experience, morals and work ethic, they’ve got a lot to bring to the table.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to since the festivals finished, have said how sad they are as they were such a good event. Well, I’ve got some very good news for you, someone has picked up that torch and is making a run with it.

Naomi Good, another Gin Festival team mate has started ‘The Gin Sessions’. In her words it’s “a much more scaled down version of Gin Festival Ltd”. Naomi wants to focus on putting on good events, working with excellent brands and continuing to share the love of all things gin.

“Over the last four years I have worked endlessly to manage our events program but sadly couldn’t control the commercial decisions that were being made so I saw a slow collapse of a business and community that I loved.”

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She acknowledges the determination needed to start up. “My competition is fierce. I have no external funding just me, a lap top, passion and some awesome contacts. I know I can throw a good gin event, my biggest challenge is selling that to people, getting them on board and getting them to purchase a ticket and attend an event.”

“Starting out with zero social presence is terrifying. So far, I have launched two events and the response has been really positive. I’m getting positive responses from previous work colleagues, brands are being very supportive and potential customers are getting on board.” So far Naomi has set up a Facebook page and Twitter page and due to her being known from Gin Festival Ltd is already picking up lots of followers which bodes well.

“It is with great pleasure I present to you, The Gin Sessions, a small independent festival driven by passion and the desire to explore new and exciting gins.”

“At The Gin Sessions you can expect to find a large selection of gins over 4 bars, some live music to keep your toe tapping and masterclasses from industry experts. We love gin and want to share out passion through a fantastic session packed with a carefully selected variation of gin styles. You will be presented on arrival with your copa style gin glass and a booklet with tasting notes.”

Naomi has organised 2 ‘Sessions’ so far with more on the way.

First up is Bristol, Naomi’s home from home, where she studied Photography in previous years.

The Bristol festival is on:

Saturday 27th October: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 28th October: 18.30 – 23.00

The House of Gin cancelled their dates so The Gin Sessions took over. It’s at the Paintworks which is a fantastic venue, an ex factory converted into an events space. Tickets available here.

The second festival is on Hayling Island and is on:

Saturday 3rd November: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 3rd November: 18.30 – 23.00

The event will be held at Hayling Community Centre. It will be the Islands first ever gin festival. Tickets available here.

Tickets are £10 (plus £1.37 booking fee) per person. This includes entrance to the festival, your gin glass, gin talks and the gin booklet. Book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available through Eventbrite, with built in refund cover.

Naomi’s plan is for five bars. Two classic gin bars, one international gin bar, a flavoured gin bar and a gin cocktail bar. In total there will be approximately sixty gins exhibited with several brand ambassadors which is a great touch. When attending these sort of events it’s so much better when you can meet people who can tell you more about the gins, how they’re made and whats so special about them. There will be focus on local brands for each location as people are proud of where they come from and their local gins. There will also be masterclasses hosted by the brands along with other topics, such as the history of gin and gin cocktails.

In addition to all the gin, Naomi’s well aware of making it a good night with all the extras so there will be local street food and live music.

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“It was really sad when I lost my job, but I’m feeling optimistic. I’m keen to work with as many people from GF as possible. I’ve had awesome support from ex colleagues and I’m hoping to get some of them on board. I’m focusing on small events, no sell out stadiums. I’m wanting each customer to get the opportunity to chat to bar staff, and feel like they have space to roam. No sardines!”

If you have attended any of the previous Gin Festival Ltd festivals, you’ll be able to see where her structure is similar. The bars, masterclasses, copa glass and gin book. What Naomi has been very clever in, is recreating the good aspects of Gin Festival Ltd before it got too big. An event that is intimate, including real interaction with characters in the industry. A genuine, warm and wholesome event that is driven simply for the love of it. Naomi has an enormous wealth of experience in both gin and organising events and her focus is in just the right areas to create some amazing experiences. Well done on picking up that torch and running with it, Naomi. We’re all behind you.

News – Fever Tree shares up by 15%

I’ve just read an interesting article in the Guardian that said Fever Trees shares had jumped up by 15%.

I think a lot of us are pleased about this.

Please excuse the rather old feature photo. I read the article and felt compelled to write something. I used this photo when I wrote a little article about Fever Tree 3 years ago when I was able to ask Luke Benson some questions about what they do there. I was working in a gin bar at the time which is how I got the opportunity to talk to him. This was were I first discovered Fever Tree and I’ve never looked back since. There was a lot of passion on them and that really caught my attention. They thought outside the box, with products like the Mediterranean tonic, boasting some incredible savoury flavours and less quinine than most tonics, making a good recommendation for those who are a little sensitive to it.

However, it’s a changing market. Essentially, Fever Tree created the artisan tonic. And, people love a good idea. Nowadays we are spoilt for choice with amazing brands offering everything from the most well balanced tonic you can get (the quinine level is juuuuuusst right), to amazing flavours that have added a whole new level to the scope of flavour you can achieve with a little experimentation and golly, isn’t that one of the fundamental facets of the gin boom.

From your Delightful Double Dutch to your straight up Distillers Tonic, there is everything to play for in this game. And I used to say that perhaps Fever Tree had hit their point. They’d done what they came to do. They changed our idea of what tonic water could actually be. They upped the game and in turn they changed gin and tonic forever. There have been changes. Co-founders Charles Rolls and Tim Warrilow, selling out a stake but still retaining 14%, just enough to still keep their finger in the pie. Where to go from here? Would the quirky new flavours outrun them? How could they adapt?

Well it seems that their reputation has a particular robustness that is almost impenetrable to attack. I speak from experience when I discuss the loyalty of Fever Tree fans. Whilst working as a Brand Ambassador for a gin at Gin Festival Ltd’s events, I witnessed first hand the transition in event sponsorship from Fever Tree to Schweppes and although it could have been worse (no riots as such), it wasn’t a smooth one. Every other question was “What do you think about this?”, “How has this happened?” and simple statements like “This is a mistake”.

I’m going to bold here and I’m going to share my opinion on what was, at the time, a very sensitive topic. When it comes to me, personally, my loyalty lies with Fever Tree. They changed the game. Schweppes have finally realised they had to do something and they had the money to throw at developing a whole new range of premium tonics. The range is good. I love some of the flavours. But the heart was just lacking a little bit, for me. But that’s just my opinion and we’ve all got one of those.

Long live Fever Tree. This resilience to an ever changing market full of innovation and new ideas allows Fever Tree to sit, solid as a rock, with various tonic waters lapping at their sides. Don’t me wrong, they’re not invincible, but all things considered, being “comfortably ahead of forecasts” is a pretty good place to be indeed. I love some of the new tonics coming out, there are some amazing things out there and we really are at a ‘next level’ stage. But, I just love the idea of a beach, and the one, slightly larger stone, slowly eroding over time, with the tonic waters and smaller stones it has created, swirling gently around that steadfast base.

 

 

From the Ashes – By Ginvitation Only

As most of you will know by now, Gin Festival Ltd went into administration on 5th July 2018.

I’ve kept relatively quiet on the subject, in a similar sense it’s hard to talk of a person recently lost, it feels very much like someone special has gone for good.

As someone who worked for them as a Brand Ambassador for Tinker Gin from April 17 – April 18, I was blessed to be a part of the GF events team, a glorious machine and the best team I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. They were incredible. As I mentioned in a response to a post earlier today, they made magic happen. The sterling professionalism in the face of all sorts of adversities in unloading two arctic lorries at 7am and setting up and entire festival to be ready for 5pm is a skill. Being able to have fun while we did it, rock through 3 x 14 hour days with the customers then take it all down after a double session is an art. I’m aware there are many questions floating around on how or why an event of such magnitude and popularity could collapse like this and I won’t keep you keep you hanging. I didn’t work in the office and I’m not privy to the information to answer them. As the events team, you turned up, turned out and made it work.

Although I cannot help with what happened in the office, what I do know is this, with so many tickets sold currently without sign of refund, and with outstanding bills to suppliers who are understandably being rather vocal, its a big knock to the industry. The consumers confidence has taken a hit and that’s something we all need to work hard to repair. There is no issue with the industry, demand is very much there, companies just need to ensure going forward they take it slow, carefully and are reassuring, for example, selling tickets through Eventbrite, which insures customers a refund if an event is pulled. There are important lessons that can be learned here and we would be wise to take notice.

However, despite the loss, something stirs.

The events team has been split from one glorious machine, into several small groups and persons with expert knowledge of the gin industry and events. Despite the blow of very sudden redundancies, I expect to see the phoenix rising from the ashes as they step forward fully equipped to take an existing business to the next level, or to start their own.

I bring to you, Case Study A: By Ginvitation Only.

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Founded by two ex-employees Dennis Glynn and Sean William, By Ginvitation Only brings the gin to you with independent gin hosting and a Brand Ambassador service. Think of throwing party at yours, or a corporate event, these guys will turn up bringing all the gin, knowledge, plus a bit of cheeky charm. Their aim is to support independent distillers and as Den says they are “Just a few good guys wanting something good to come out of all the negative stuff because that not the true spirit of GF, that’s not what we represented.”

“I came up with the concept. I approached Sean and Adam (designer for GF) and both have been instrumental in making this thing come alive.”

“Then GF folded so we decided to launch – like a Phoenix from the ashes!”

They’ve only been up and running a very short time, looking through their social media I can see menus with gins such as Robin of Locksley, Cuckoo, Turncoat and Handyman and they’re open to other gins coming on board. They’re also looking into bring premium mixers on board. If you’re interested in them showcasing any of your products then please do get in touch.

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Both Den and Sean worked at GF from the beginning and having worked alongside them myself, I can confirm that their knowledge of gin and events is absolutely on point. They’re highly professional and lovely to boot. Both gin connoisseurs, Den specialises in the gin side of things whilst Sean is the cocktail maestro. It’s early days for them so please do show them some support by liking and sharing their social media, and bear them in mind to recommend to anyone who fancies having a party with two of the nicest guys in the industry.

If you’d like to have a look through some of what they’ve done so far, you can check their Instagram or for more information email them at hello@byginvitationonly.co.uk

And they’re not the only ones, another bloom is unfolding from previous employees Adam and Joe, who a little birdy tells me, have recently set up a merchandise and apparel site called Merch Stall.

I wish Den and Sean all the luck in their new venture and have full confidence it’s going to go well. I’m also sure that it’s not the last we’re going to be hearing from those beautiful souls on the events team. Guys, please keep me updated with your gin adventures and I’ll be happy to squawk about it on here. All the love.