Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
The show, now in its sixth year, attracted bartenders from Germany, central Europe, particularly Austria and Switzerland, and a surprising number of western Europeans.
BCB ran from October 9-10 and had a focus on spirits samplings and talks, with many of the drinks world’s top global brands in attendance.
There was also a Mexican theme to many of the events and samplings.
Among the speakers were Dushan Zaric, Angus Winchester, Ian Burrell, Philip Duff, Steffen Lohr, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown, Gaz Regan, Marian Beke, Jonathan Downey, Jörg Meyer, Ryan Fitzgerald, Esteban Garibi, Dave Broom, Tomas Estes, David Suro und Mauro Mahjoub.
Global tequila ambassador Tomas Estes, alongside other tequila producers and representatives of the Tequila Exchange Project, talked about the challenges for artesian producers in global markets and the issue of a potential agave shortage.
Estes said it was difficult to know what impact the shortage might have. “There is no knowing what the demand will be in 4-5 years. Crop projections is a challenge – agave takes 7-8 years to grow. There’s no way to regulate crops,” he said.
Ian Burrell, global rum ambassador and serial cocktail competition judge, gave a speech entitled How to Lose a Cocktail Competition.
La Lion Bartender, Jörg Meyer, and Jonathan Downey of Milk and Honey fame offered their views on the dos and don’ts of establishing successful bars,
Advice from the pair included the importance of building relationships with customers and industry members in order to find good business partners.
Downey said a clear strategy – and sticking to it - was important in establishing a successful chain of bars, and told the room of bartenders that “often the founder of a business is not the best person to run it."
Both agreed that the site of the bar should be chosen ahead of the style of the bar, and that bartenders are often too focused on drinks and not on customer service.
Over 90 exhibitors attended the event, including stands from Campari, Bacardi, Diageo, Borco, Beam.
Many smaller brands were also at BCB with the intention of increasing awareness among bartenders and/or finding a German distributor.
Luciano Maruca, international sales manager of the Austrian-produced bergamot flavoured spirit, Gamot, said the show was a valuable opportunity to engage with German and Swiss buyers. “It’s important to give visibility to our product and connect with distributors.”
Ian Smart, business development director of Protégé International which represents Irish whiskey and rum brand, The Wild Geese, said: “Germany is a very important market. Not only is it the driving force of the European economy it is a very strong spirits industry. We’ve been to Rumfest in London, which is a bit more of a consumer event, but this is a very bartender focused show.”
Conor Ó hAonghusa, international sales director of Global Premium Brands, which owns Gin Mare, said that while the gin brand has representation in Germany, there was “potential” to meet with Danish, Russian and Italian importers. “There’s a lot of international visitors here – and a lot of enthusiasm in Germany for gin. All the best people are here, the speakers are innovative – this is the show I would not like to miss.“
Reflecting on the show, BCB joint-founder, Helmut Adam, said the show had been growing consistently over the years, but had retained a “quality focus”.
“We started with 16 exhibitors, six years ago. Now we have Czech, Austrian and Italian visitors – it’s becoming more international. We want the show to grow further and are looking at two new venues for next year."