Joe’s Boutique Bar Show Report

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This year’s Scottish edition of the Boutique Bar Show was held at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow’s Merchant City, arguably the city’s cultural epicentre. I hitched a lift on the bus organised by the Scottish Bar Network, which at a fiver including a bloody Mary and a bacon roll kicks Scotrail’s ass.

The hall the show was held in was pretty cool, lots of cast iron everywhere and a nice balcony section where seminars were being held. However there didn’t seem to be enough seating for the seminars which caused many people to give it a dodge. Regardless the show was well presented with 28 different stands representing a broad spectrum of brands and drinks genres. There were one or two peculiar appearances representing products neither niche enough or good enough to be used by the calibre of bartenders visiting the show.

One particularly refreshing element of the show was the way that the Luxardo Maraschino Masters comp was occurring in the back ground at a volume that if you wanted to listen to it you could. For once the waistcoat and bowtie clad, novelty facial hair brigade were put in the corner.

While the moustachioed ones preened themselves on stage the rest of us got on with some serious tasting and brand chatter. For anybody considering going next year, I advise taking a bag, there are only so many freebies one man can hold on his person. A particular nod to Angostura Rum and their display of 3.5ml bottles of bitters, as well as miniatures of their 3, 5, and 7 year old expressions.

Best new product (to me)

The best new product I sampled was Davna Bizon vodka. A polish bison grass vodka á la Zubrowka except utterly jam packed with flavour, almonds and jasmine that are happily consumed straight but also beg for the sweet release of apple juice.

Brilliant Gin

In terms of gin I was utterly blown away by Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin, wholesome and sweet, but avoiding being a syrupy mess. Definitely one to employ during any Christmas mixology. Just down the hall Chase were sampling two of their new gins, a Seville orange gin and also an Extra Dry edition of William’s Chase Gin. Both of them superb, with the apple flavour coming through very strongly in the Extra Dry Chase Gin. They were also sampling Vodka aged in old Laphroaig casks, a little left field and scarily passable as young single malt under blind testing conditions.

The best kept secret

A big highlight of the show was the secret Tia Maria bar. The first I heard of it was when I was tapped on the shoulder and told ‘It is your turn for the secret bar’. Myself and another were whisked away behind one of the stands to an amazing little Italian café set up with just enough room for two. In the café we were served by a man in the character of a classic Italian barista who stylishly refused to break from character. In traditional Italian style we were served an espresso with an amoretti biscuit and a glass of water. The espresso itself being espresso and Tia Maria served in a foam from a syphon, and the amoretti being an amaretto jelly with popping candy; an amazing taste experience, even for somebody like me who passionately hates coffee.

A couple of observations

It must be noted that I left after a few hours ravenously hungry and with a belly full of samples, I’d have loved to have stayed but unfortunately the need for sustenance took precedence, perhaps something organisers should sort out for next year.

Although there was a vast array of brands and drink genres presented I feel that the show proved a missed opportunity for brewers and whisky distilleries with only Innis and Gunn and a few of the eaux de vie brands represented from both of these fields. Particularly at a time of brewery saturation it would have been cool to check out some of these brands.

Joseph Dick

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