ImbibeLive 2016 at Kensington Olympia (London, UK)
It was a great pleasure to find time for an afternoon at this huge trade fair on Tuesday 5th July. I hadn't been in the UK to coincide with this event in recent years and it is always fun to interact with the customer-facing side of the drinks business.
I feel that visiting ImbibeLive gave me a good insight into current and upcoming trends in UK hospitality and service. There are some great innovations coming through, just as there are many passionate individuals and I discovered plenty of brands which I had not yet come across in general commerce. Sometimes this made me regret that I am not in London, Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester or similar places more regularly but the advantage of this is that I am able to approach these places each time with a fresh enthusiasm rather than the jaded air of the hardened city-dweller.
Below are a very few highlights for me but I wholly accept that 6 hours was barely time to scratch the surface and I apologise unreservedly to the numerous stands and teams I was unable to visit in that time.
Warner Edwards gin (Northamptonshire, UK) - I have closely followed Tom and Sion since visiting their distillery in Harrington in 2013 (from sheer unbridled curiosity that it existed near to my home-ground). I am always favourably impressed by their attention to detail and every time I taste their gins I remember why they are worth keeping an eye on.
Fever Tree mixers (London, UK) - newly launched Aromatic Tonic Water and recent Mediterranean and Elderflower Tonics. I had heard of the Aromatic tonic via a Warner Edwards tweet (@warner_edwards) so I wanted to try this new launch and the other speciality tonic waters. It was well worth the detour and I would definitely consider trying all three of these in future drinks.
Meantime Brewing Company (London, UK) I am undoubtedly very late on this particular bandwagon but I only encountered these beers last year at a wedding, presumably because I have been largely absent from the UK for great swathes of time in recent years. I like them all and find they work especially well with food.
Twisted Nose gin and Wasabi vodka (Winchester, UK) This was flagged up to me via a tweet from the Imbibe UK team and I thought it sounded interesting. I am really glad I went to speak with the guys on the stand and was fortunate to chat to Paul Bowler, creator of the Winchester Distillery. The watercress gin is clean and refreshingly peppery whilst the Wasabi vodka packs a lovely punch and works brilliantly in a classic Bloody Mary.
No.1 Family Estate sparkling wines (Marlborough, New Zealand) I stumbled across these wines via Amathus Drinks stand and I am so pleased I did. It was great to talk New Zealand wines, and especially sparkling wines, with Virginie Le Brun, daughter of the owner and winemaker Daniel Le Brun. These are excellent sparkling wines and I will be following up on this enjoyable meeting.
Gut Oggau wines (Burgenland, Austria) I managed to squeeze in on the final place for the 1.30pm Wine Session chaired by Eduard Tscheppe and Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck discussing their family-owned biodynamic vineyard. This was a lovely opportunity to taste through their wine portfolio and also view a snapshot of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages in Burgenland.
Akashi-Tai sake (Hyogo province, Japan) It is always a pleasure to taste a flight of sakes and all the more so when there is a knowledgeable guide to help explain the differences in polish and milling (I will endeavour to talk about this on a future occasion) to distinguish their characteristics. These are excellent sakes and they are available in a range of London bars where the staff are often able to explain the differences or create fabulous cocktails with this unique and lovely spirit.
Special mention to some fascinating Flemish gins including Butcher's gin (beef infused) and Lobstar gin (premium marine gin containing 250g pure lobster for every bottle), Meyer's Gin (Asparagus gin paying "tribute to solid Flemish culinary heritage). These were all, without exception, interesting and well-realised. I would order all of them again in diverse contexts!