EN meets the organiser of The Spirit Show – an event dedicated to everything new, unique and alcoholic.
Early in November, EN was browsing a list of upcoming events and the ‘The Spirit Show’ caught our eye.
What could it be? An event taking a glimpse into the world of the paranormal? Finally, a trade show for those who meddle in the supernatural?
On closer inspection, it soon became clear that The Spirit Show, now in its second year, is actually an event dedicated to rare, unusual and premium alcoholic spirits.
Show director Geraldine Reeve, whose background includes dmg world media and Telegraph Events, was approached in 2016 by two investors to launch and run a brand new Whisky Show.
“I did a lot of market research,” she tells EN. “There are a lot of whisky events out there and there are also lots of gin events, and what I was finding was that you tend to get a lot of men going to the whisky and a lot of women going to the gin. There wasn’t anything that people could go to as a mixed group of friends or couples.
“There were a lot of food events and they’d have spirits exhibitors but it was more peripheral, whereas with our show what we wanted to do was make the spirits the heroes.”
And heroes they are, collectively providing in the region of 300 different tasting possibilities for the approximately 6,000 expected visitors to try.
“We’ve got gin, whisky, vodka, rum, tequila and more unusual things like Mezcal, Cachaça and Absinthe. And then some really obscure liqueurs.
“The aim of the event is to showcase things you wouldn’t find at your local supermarket or your local off-licence. They’re independent. Often it’s a one-man or two-man band like craft distillers. This show gives them a real opportunity to showcase their spirits to a really big audience.
“We did a lot of legwork last year to create the brand, and we’d come into a market where we weren’t well known. We know how to put on a good event, but sometimes it takes people a year to buy into you. They want to see how the first year goes. The show has grown by 30 per cent and our ticket sales are currently triple what they were this time last year, but we’re not resting on our laurels.”
The show is split into sessions: one for trade on the Friday, then a five-hour consumer session on both Friday evening and Saturday. For visitors who pay the ticket price tastings are unlimited, but Reeves says the show’s visitors manage not to – how shall we put it – overdo it.
“Because we’re a premium spirits show people come because they’re really serious about trying something new, rather than just trying to drink as much as they can for the price of their ticket, which is good,” she explains. “Our average age last year was 45, but it can be anything from around 25 to 65.
A lot of the products that are on offer – because they’re premium spirits – are over £30 for a bottle. We’ve got some rums in the show this year that are over £3,000 for a bottle.”
Luckily the average visitor is in a position to purchase the odd £3,000 bottle, with an average income of around £75k at last year’s event. But Reeves says price isn’t the main factor.
“It’s not necessarily high-end, but it is more unusual,” she says. “It’s for someone who is maybe drinking Hendricks but wants to get a bit more into gin, broaden their horizons a bit, and they’ve maybe got the deeper pockets to be able to do that.
“The show is perfect for those kind of companies; they don’t often get that opportunity – outside of a bar environment – for people to sample and buy bottles of their spirit.”
Exhibiting at the show also allows distillers to show off the personalities behind the brand, and build up relationships with potential customers.
“There’s a gin company that we work with called Poetic License, they’re based up in Sunderland, and their distiller came to the show last year,” recalls Reeves. “He had a huge personality and he was coming up with all these weird and wonderful types of gin. To get him out of the distillery and for people to meet him was a good selling point.”
Now in its second year, the Spirit Show seems to be on track for a bright future. Plus, taking place as it does at the very start of December, it should be perfectly positioned to capitalise on the Christmas crowds looking for the perfect present.
And perhaps, muses EN, that is the true spirit of Christmas.