Capturing the British spirit en route to a Sydney sense of place

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

I tried my best just to stay at rest
When the moon and the wind both died
But you locked me in with your best friend
Honey your window was open wide
I escaped in time to see your man
Truckin’ in that bar again
He was fondlin’ Lucy and singin’ to Suzy
Suckin’ up a bottle of gin – Jerry Jeff Walker, ‘Suckin’ A Big Bottle Of Gin’

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, he walks into Heathrow’s.” Rick Blaine, Casablanca (nearly)

A quick hair of the (Copper) Dog pre-flight in the Virgin Atlantic lounge

This Blog comes to you from a combination of Interim Bureaux; firstly, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 and secondly onboard Virgin Atlantic 206, 35,000 feet up in the Chinese sky, somewhere between Yichun and Pingxiang in Jiangxi Province.

I’m en route to Sydney, via Hong Kong, to prepare a special report on the ambitious transformation of Sydney Airport’s commercial offer, especially the International Terminal. It’s a tough schedule: I’m straight off the plane on Tuesday morning and into meetings and an airport tour a couple of hours later, the start of a busy two days in the New South Wales capital.

Much as I’d like to add on the short journey across the Tasman to my hometown of Christchurch (I haven’t seen the beautiful Garden City since 2011), that won’t be possible due to a crazy editorial count-down over the next few weeks.

For us, like many in the industry, the new, earlier timing of TFWA World Exhibition means a particularly hectic September. All this editorial copy for our blockbuster Cannes Print Edition needs to be turned around fast, while maintaining the relentless journalistic flow that our website, The Moodie Davitt, demands. But, hey, I’m not grizzling, this is what I love doing.

The Virgin Atlantic consumer experience offers a chance to sit back and reflect on it all. It’s very good. And consistently good. I usually fly BA, where so often the experience fluctuates according to the mood and approach of the crew. It (and they) can be excellent but equally I’ve experienced plenty of sour attitudes. Virgin has been hugely successful in nurturing a culture of conveyed enthusiasm and consumer friendliness among its team. This flight has been a typical example.

Heathrow Airport’s gin sales grew +36% in 2016. It now sells over 40 varieties – some 96% of them British-made.

There’s always a talking point or two about the Heathrow retail offer and two stood out to me on my fleeting pass through the commercial area on my way to the Virgin lounge. I’ve commented before on the excellence and diversity of World Duty Free’s gin offer, which reflects the surging popularity of this most traditional of spirits in recent years and particularly the emergence of boutique and craft brands. Heathrow Airport revealed recently that gin sales grew +36% in 2016 and it now sells over 40 varieties – some 96% of them British-made. This is exactly what airports and their retailers and food & beverage partners worldwide should be doing to promote national and regional wares. Besides being a corporate responsibility, it’s also good business. Even the best e-commerce offer can’t capture the taste, aromas and sheer experience of a great in-store promotion.

Good to see therefore World Duty Free and Heathrow Airport hosting a ‘Best of British Gin’ festival with a fantastic array of the country’s spirits on show. They range from the traditional household names to a host of newer labels such as Williams GB Gin, a Heathrow exclusive produced by Chase Distillery specifically for the airport.

[Time for The Great Escape, the suitably themed cocktail made by James Chase of Chase Distillery, using the exclusive-to-Heathrow Williams GB gin).

The festival also features cocktails and dishes infused with the spirit in several restaurants and bars and even the BA lounge. And of course there’s a social media link, the nicely themed #Destinationgin (also check out the excellent web promotion at Exclusive Heathrow G&T-bags are available as a gift with purchase on every bottle of gin over £29. This is a true Trinity promotion, in which all three stakeholders are contributing in a meaningful way.

I liked the Union Jack sofa (see below) but the rest of the layout and merchandising for the promotion was a little too dark, haphazard and temporary looking for my liking. In fairness, it looks like there is refurbishment going on here, but otherwise it’s a campaign that captures the British spirit in every sense.

No-one could say that about the Jo Malone store, the olfactory equivalent of the freshest gin & tonic you ever sipped. This is simply a gorgeous shop, exquisitely designed and merchandised, superbly staffed and full of an eclectic, ever-changing range. In my top ten airport stores’ list, this gem of a shop would be right up there. In an airport already putting its best gin foot forward, Jo Malone is surely the perfect tonic.

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