Industry news round-up: May 13, 2013

Botanic Inns horatio toddsOur weekly round-up of industry news, for May 7 to 13, 2013

Botanic Inns put up for sale
Buyers are being sought for Northern Ireland’s leading bar and club operator Botanic Inns after it went into administration. The group, which is made up of two companies Botanic Inns and Kurkova, employs over 600 people across 14 bars, pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants. Both businesses are now up for sale after administrators John Hansen and Stuart Irwin were appointed from KPMG in Belfast. They said last week that it was “business as usual”, adding that they were “undertaking a review of the business and have spoken to management, the workforce and other key stakeholders in an effort to determine a successful outcome to the administrations, namely the survival of the business as a going concern”. Click here for more at

Ultra-premium tequila from Don Julio
An ultra-premium expression of Don Julio tequila has been introduced in the UK to meet growing interest in luxury releases of the spirit. Don Julio 1942 commemorates the year that late founder Don Julio González began making tequila in Los Altos in Jalisco, Mexico. Made with prime blue agave, it has been aged for at least two-and-a-half years in American white oak barrels. The result is a silky, smooth character that coats the palate with roasted agave flavours, vanilla and spiced undertones. It will be available through Coe Vintners in a 70cl bottle.

Funkin launches search for bartender role
A nationwide competition has been launched for cocktail brand Funkin to recruit a bartender who is an “Innovation Champion” to work within the company’s team of mixologists. Going beyond a traditional brand ambassador’s role, the prize will be a paid part-time freelance role for one year with a chance to work on future product development. Contenders will be asked to showcase their flair and imagination by creating an innovative cocktail using Funkin products that represents their individual spirit plus a 100-word explanation on why they should be selected to become the new Funkin Innovation Champion. It will culminate in a final in September. Apply by July 19 via

UK bartender wins global Bols competition
Rusty Cerven from London’s Connaught Bar has triumphed against bartenders from around the world to be named Bols Bartending World Champion. He won the grand final of the competition in Amsterdam after he and 20 other international finalists were scrutinised for their cocktail-making skills, commercial and marketing insight, passion for bartending and overall ability to entertain. He was awarded an eight-day trip around the world to four cocktail cities of his choice, as well as a Platinum Bols Ambassadorship, which includes two all-expenses-paid trips to Amsterdam for intensive training. Click here for more, including recipes, at

Plans for EMRO rejected by local councillors
Plans to restrict the hours that alcohol can be sold in bars, pubs and clubs in Hartlepool town centre have been rejected by local councillors. Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee considered proposals for an Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Order (EMRO) to ban all sales of alcohol between 2am and 6am. It was rejected because councillors feared that a reduction in opening hours could have “serious consequences” for the licensed trade in the town centre. Click here for more at

Jake Burger wins Coco Lopez challenge
Leading bartender Jake Burger of The Portobello Star in Notting Hill, west London, has won £1,000 and a 21-year-old El Dorado Rum after being named the winner in this year’s Coco Lopez Cocktail Challenge. The contest was held at The Liar’s Club in Manchester and organised by UK distributors Bennett Opie in association with Hamilton Beach and El Dorado Rum. It also saw Olly Foster of The Liars Club win a Hamilton Beach blender for his Avo Colada, judged as the best Piña Colada on the day. Click here for more at

Flavoured vodka drinks launched in UK
Haywood Drinks Products has added the Eliot’s Mysthic range, a collection of premium-quality flavoured vodka drinks, to its portfolio. After being previewed at the Northern Restaurant & Bars show in Manchester in March, the range is now going on sale in the UK. Suitable for shots or in cocktails, they are produced for Eliot’s by spirits producer Ferreira Duque. The bottles feature reflective holographic graphic labels. Click here for more at

Countdown to World Whisky Day
World Whisky Day, created by Aberdeen University student Blair Bowman, has grown to encompass countries around the world since its launch. It falls on May 18, with events planned across the UK, but is set to get much bigger in 2014 after Blair finishes his degree this summer. Visit for details.

Laphroaig to roll out new look
New packaging for Laphroaig single malt Scotch whisky, distributed by Maxxium UK, is being rolled out globally from this month. It is designed to reflect the quality of the liquid and the rich history of the brand while making it easier for people to navigate the portfolio and identify their preferred flavour profile. It includes a new label with a typeset that creates a “warmer shelf appeal” complemented by imagery relating to the distillery that is over 200 years old.

Monks release Chimay beer to UK pubs
Belgian beer Chimay Gold from the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont is to be made available outside the abbey through a partnership with Bristol brewer Butcombe. It will be sold exclusively throughout the West Country via Butcombe with plans to launch it in London. With an ABV of 4.8 per cent, the blonde beer can be sampled at the Eat Drink Bristol Fashion carnival in Bristol’s Queen Square until May 27.

TCG invests in Squares bar
Managed pub and bar group TCG has invested £400,000 in developing its Squares bar in Nottingham and the Sailors Arms in Newquay, both of which combine a pub/bar and late-night club under one roof. At Squares, new seating booths and softer colours have created a warmer, more welcoming feel. The drinks range has been extended, including the addition of three cask ales, while a new pizza area has created a food option around late-night and live sport occasions. The bar now also opens at 9am to attract breakfast and morning coffee customers and new effects lighting will appeal to late-night partygoers.

New distribution deal for AquaRiva
AquaRiva tequila, which was launched last year by TV celebrity Cleo Rocos, has gained UK distribution through leading drinks company Marblehead Brand Development. The deal will see increased distribution for the brand in both the on- and off-trade. Made 100 per cent with blue agave, it was created by Cleo with master blender Carlos Perez. Marblehead will distribute two expressions, created specifically for the bar trade, the blanco and the premium reposado.

UK bartenders win place in Lillet final
Two British bartenders have won places to compete in the Lillet Twisted Vesper Cocktail Competition in Paris. The latest heat, held at Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel in London, was won by Calum Anderson from The Kenilworth Hotel, Kenilworth, Warwickshire with his cocktail Rhuby Summers. In second place was Ruaridh Muir from Raoul’s in Oxford with An Eye for the Birds which included Lillet Blanc and Talisker whisky. The competition was linked to Lillet’s National Apéritif Day on May 16 when Calum’s cocktail will be served at Maison Lillet in Bordeaux. Further heats are being held in Manchester and Edinburgh this month. Click here for more at

Cocktail focus for new OVD campaign
A new marketing drive for OVD, the best-selling dark rum in Scotland, will see it highlighted for the first time as a cocktail ingredient. Distributor First Drinks has launched the Discover the Dark Side of Rum competition challenging bartenders in Scotland to create a new OVD cocktail. The contest, which is now accepting entries, will feature regional heats in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayrshire and Dufftown in May and June, followed by a grand final on June 18. Click here for more at

Consumer cocktail event coming to Leeds
Cocktails in the City, the consumer cocktail event, will be coming to Leeds for the first time on May 30. After launching in Manchester in 2011 and extending to Edinburgh and Bristol, it will feature pop-ups from bars across the city as well as cocktail demonstrations and tutored tastings with leading drinks brands. Participating bars include Jake’s Bar, The Maven, Mojo, Sandanista, Smokestack, Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor, Bibis Italianissimo, Malmaison, Chaophraya, Neon Cactus, The Botanist, The Alchemist and Trio. Visit

New look for Wyld Wood ciders
Westons is to unveil new packaging for its Wyld Wood Organic cider range, giving it a brighter look and emphasising its place within the company’s premium cider portfolio. Described as an “evolution rather than a revolution”, the design has been simplified and sharpened to give better shelf standout and presence. It will be rolled out into market from the end of May. The alcohol content has also been harmonised to six per cent across the range.

BBPA and Sky promote responsible drinking
The British Beer & Pub Association has teamed up with Sky’s Preview magazine this month to help promote responsible drinking. They are distributing 23,000 posters to licensees who receive Sky Sports in bars and pubs, raising awareness of the alcohol units in commonly consumed drinks. They form part of a range of materials available to download or order from the BBPA website, at

Managed food pubs within M25 suffer, says CGA
The so-called bubble that has helped London’s pubs weather the economic downturn could be over, according to the latest research from CGA Strategy. Its Trading Index highlights that like-for-like sales in managed food pubs within the M25 have fallen in contrast to the rest of the UK over the past year. CGA reports a 1.5 per cent decline compared to like-for-like growth in food sales of 1.2 per cent outside of the M25. However, moving beyond food pubs, CGA added that evidence suggests that, for managed operators, the London market still offers higher revenues and better like-for-like sales than other parts of the country.

Sipsmith boosts capacity with new still
London distiller Sipsmith has increased capacity by installing its second still, nicknamed Patience. It will help the company meet increased in demand for its gin and vodka after the first still, called Prudence, reached capacity.

LIWF organisers announce changes for 2014
The annual London International Wine Fair is to take a new direction next year, becoming the London Wine Fair and moving from Excel in London Docklands to London’s Olympia. Organiser Brintex also said the 2014 event will have two new areas for bulk wine and boutique wines, designed to better reflect the current UK wine business. There will also be a decrease of 20 to 25 per cent in prices for stand space, with a new restriction on stand space to create a “more level playing field”. It will take place in the week of June 2. This year’s LIWF is at Excel from May 20 to 22.

Edinburgh bar undergoes makeover
G1 Group is investing in a major refurbishment of one of Edinburgh’s best-known Irish bars, Biddy Mulligans. The Grassmarket venue, which opened 20 years ago, will be closed for eight to 10 weeks while the work continues, with a reopening planned for June. Biddy Mulligans was part of a package of hotels and bars operated by Festival Group which became part of G1 Group in 2011. Click here for more at

Whisky event brings eccentric flavour
The Edinburgh Whisky Stramash is returning for 2013 on May 25 and 26, presenting to consumers in innovative and often exciting new ways. Held at The Surgeon’s Hall, it offers a chance to taste many whiskies from Scotland and beyond plus eccentric experiences and installations. Visit

Luminar rewards staff for “credible” first year
Alex O’Reilly from Oceana in Watford has been named general manager of the year in Luminar Group’s first awards since its clubs were rescued from administration. The company, which employs more than 2,000 people at 55 clubs across the UK, also named Tom Meill from Liquid in Uxbridge, north-west London, as deputy manager of the year.The awards were run as part of Luminar Group’s annual conference in Northampton. Chief executive Peter Marks praised staff for their role in helping the company to deliver “a credible first-year performance” after the clubs were saved from administration in 2011. Click here for more at

Sales continue growth for JD Wetherspoon
Pub group JD Wetherspoon has reported a 6.3 per cent increase in like-for-likes ales for the 13 weeks to April 28. Total sales, including new sites, were up 9.3 per cent. It means that like-for-like sales for the 39 weeks to April 28 are up by 6.7 per cent while total sales have jumped by 10.1 per cent. Over that 39-week period, the company opened 16 new pubs and sold two, with plans to grow the estate by 30 over the full financial year and by up to 25 more next year.

Prize promotion launched for Irn-Bru
AG Barr is launching an on-pack promotion for Irn-Bru called Bru-Skies, offering consumers the chance to win one of over 5,000 prizes every day, including cash of up to £100 and thousands of pairs of bespoke branded sunglasses. It will feature on a number of Irn-Bru regular and sugar-free bottles including 500ml bottles, running from the start of June until the end of August.

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