Trade Shows and Travel

We are just back from Glasgow – we took Wild Eve to our first trade show. It so nearly didn’t happen. Living in such a remote part of the UK, the logistics of going anywhere can be challenging, however going by ferry in winter is a real issue.

 We planned for weeks, found the right oak display shelving, got it delivered up here and put it together. We had foam display boards designed by Ianthe Agbloor our ‘go to’ graphic designer and printed up in Stornoway. We made extra bottles of Wild Eve, our Shrubs, Of Harris Flowers and Of Harris Fruits. We packed ingredients into kilner jars to display our wonderful botanicals, had extra point of sale information cards printed and then we neatly boxed it all up. We had a moment of smug satisfaction that we had covered all the angles.

Snowy Road

 Then the snow came. Then the wind arrived. Then the sea became a boiling, roiling mass of white capped waves and big rolling swells. We changed our plans, instead of driving up through the night for the early ferry, we booked an air B&B, drove over the mountains through the snow and decided to try for the earlier ferry that night. It was cancelled. Then the freight ferry was cancelled, then the ferry we intended to catch was cancelled. It was not looking good.

 After a sleepless night we managed to squeeze onto the afternoon ferry that departed Stornoway at the time we were supposed to be setting up in Glasgow. Although the worst of the storm had passed, the sea was still pretty lively. The boat pitched and rolled as each swell slapped into the side of it with a disconcerting ‘thwak’. I have no sea legs and seeing people swaying around and watching them turn from rosy cheeked to white to green didn’t help. The crew helpfully left empty sick bags on every surface.

 I sat unbelievably still. It helped. 2.5 hours later we docked and gratefully disembarked albeit into a blizzard. The drive south was a slippery, snowy, stressful affair. Small roads for part of the journey were barely passable, then a long drive on better roads. We arrived in Glasgow at 9pm and quickly unloaded the van.

Wild Eve trade show

The following morning we finished setting up and then we were off. Trade shows offer insights that no other venue allows, which is why they are so important. You go with a product and the people that visit are working in the industry, if they don’t like the product, you haven’t got a business. Delightfully for us, Wild Eve received a fantastic reception which was so heartening. We spoke to so many people – Matt, Alexander, Judie and I talked from 10am to 5pm for 2 solid days. We offered countless tastings, took masses of notes, immediately made lots of sales and left feeling so happy that both the journey and the show had been really worthwhile.

 There is another element, which is to meet other exhibitors, try their drinks and feel part of something much larger than our own little business. It’s very hard when you’re making far from anywhere to feel a part of a bigger movement – meeting so many like-minded folk reinforced that we are definitely on the right track. There were some real stand outs for us, Lussa Gin is frankly fantastic. They approach their gin making with the same attention to detail that we approach Wild Eve. They are plantspeople and it shows in what they produce. They have replaced the citrus with Lemon Thyme and Lemon Balm that they grow and they have even grown the species Iris from which to make Orris root, an essential in gin to fix the flavour. This is a 6 year process. Hats off to them. I was so impressed.

Lussa Gin

Talking of gin, the UK market is now firmly saturated and gin companies are either dashing overseas to bolster sales or jumping into other areas of the drinks industry to keep themselves afloat. For some whisky companies, gin production was the cash crop to generate income for the years that the whisky was maturing in casks. I think there will be a rush to get whisky out as gin sales falter. For non-whisky distilleries, the picture is less clear, I suspect we’ll see a rash of distilled non-alcs hitting the shelves soon as gin companies pivot to survive. Rum is also in the ascendancy it seems.

Whatever happens, these are tough times for all businesses, increased production costs, cost of living crisis affecting disposable income, climate change, war affecting supply chains, the gift of Brexit that just keeps on giving. I think now more than ever we need to look at our business models and go for sustainable growth that considers environment, materials, ingredients and people – flexible working, fair pay and good conditions. The model employed by Diageo and other corporate monoliths, of mass unfettered international growth has to become a thing of the past to preserve the future for our children and grandchildren

Back now in Harris, we’re following up on the leads we generated and working out who will receive a share of the 10k bottles per annum that we decided would be our production cap. The production number is not a gimmick, it’s what we worked out we could produce without damaging the ecology of this island. It’s enough for our team to earn a decent living and for the flora that we use to flourish. It’s responsible production not greenwashing.

We’re delighted to add Gleneagles and Gleneagles Townhouse to our list of beautiful venues where you can drink Wild Eve and very shortly you’ll find us in Carlowrie Castle which I’m delighted about, having learnt that Isobel Wylie Hutchinson was born there in 1889. She was an incredible woman, an intrepid botanist and plant collector, adventurer and film maker. Brilliant.

Gleneagles Townhouse


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.