Having a break from daily wine and spirits tastings, The Buyer’s Drinks Editor heads to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. But, minutes after arriving in the city finds himself boarding a Hendrick’s-sponsored double decker and getting dropped off outside the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Leopard. Spots.
Edinburgh by bus with Hendrick’s Gin at the wheel.
You don’t go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to get a break from the pop. You can try to but you’re not going to. Simple as that.
Drink is very much part of the world’s largest arts festival. 24/7. Everyone seems to be enjoying it, quite liberally in fact, and, incidentally, in the years I have been attending, I have yet to see one bit of bad behaviour.
The Ministry of Marginally Superior Transport
This year’s Festival has a number of drink-related shows, the comic Thinking Drinkers who mix tasting with Carry On style humour, and a number of events at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society such as a biometric tasting to discover your whisky profile. Err. Lots?
The highlight was the Ministry of Marginally Superior Transport, a double decker converted into a moving gin palace by Hendrick’s Gin.
The wheels start falling off
The Fringe is a marathon not a sprint, but try telling that to yours truly who had been travelling all day and could think of no finer way of spending an hour than by getting up close and personal to a very large, very cold Hendrick’s Gin and tonic made by people who know what they are doing.
Conveniently the ‘bus depot’ was 19 doors from our accommodation which, in itself was reasonably well located – three doors from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. What could possibly go wrong.
So, within 10 minutes of arriving at our digs, we purchased an online ticket for £2.50 (administration fee according to the booking service) and had left aforementioned digs. Hastily.
“Get On the Magic Bus!”
With the bus destination board reading ‘Another World’ and ‘1866’, we were greeted by an officer of senior rank, or presumably an actor whose production of Oh What a Lovely War! had been cancelled this year.
We were handed large Hendrick’s Gin and tonics in cut crystal glasses and shown upstairs where the impressively-modified upper deck left no stone unturned in terms of period detail.
Everyone had a seat in front of a table boasting a wireless, fan, passport and macaroon – cucumber-flavoured no less.
The G&T was first rate. As was the entertainment – actors in period dress who interacted with the passengers, made gags about Edinburgh landmarks on our sightseeing trip and gave us paper and pencils to note travel transgressions of fellow passengers.
This was all done with that Phileas Fogg-style persona and language.
I then had to have a fairly aggressive altercation with a fellow passenger – he and I were both briefed – or was that the booze taking hold? The host did say ‘do it aggressively’ didn’t he?
Reinforcements arrived fairly soon thank God in the shape of a second serve of Hendrick’s – this time as a fruit cup and, appropriately enough served from tea pot and cups. The gin was mixed with elderflower, lemon and some other useless non-alcoholic stuff.
Close but no cigar.
Seriously guys, stick with what really works because, as another Scot might say, “Ye canne change the laws of physics Captain.” It’s got to be G&T.
Scotland’s smallest cheese museum
Our host who was doing the sightseeing commentary on the bus was now pointing out sites of interest.
We were educated about Scotland’s smallest cheese museum, for example, built by Prince Albert for Victoria that looked, to the untrained eye, like Holyrood Palace. “Go in and ask to see Prince Albert’s cheese and they’ll be happy to oblige,” we were helpfully told.
There was some interesting background to the cucumber monument too, built to commemorate the now-paved over cucumber fields of Edinburgh that, I have to confess, I had always known as the Plinth.
By now it certainly looked like a cucumber.
There was some other cucumber-themed humour that seemed to be directed at just one ‘game’ female passenger. At times it felt like some of the actors were in great need of her phone number, but I could have been mistaken.
Seriously… a clever promotion
What I found particularly clever was that, despite the fact that we were in a moving shrine to Hendrick’s Gin, the brand name was never mentioned by the crew, not even once.
The passengers did that themselves through the poems we were asked to write en route, presumably because we all wanted to win the full bottle of the stuff that was being dangled as a carrot* incentive-wise.
Guys if you want to put my entry close to the top I won’t mind at all – ‘Purple Haze’ by Ginny Hendrick’s (see what I did?) was the title. Not sure you will be able to read the writing (moving bus) but it was clearly a winner.
What I also thought was smart, was how for eight hours a day this witty, attractive-looking promotional tool is driving across every cobble of this beautiful city, the streets of which are packed with pedestrians all gawping at and photographing the bus.
Good too that when we alighted we were only a few doors away from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society whose menu (called The Bar Bible) includes over 3,000 malt whiskies.
An hour I found myself on a Festival Fringe stage, bright lights in the eyes, trying to play the spoons and make a vain attempt at ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ in front of a club audience who were, it can only be described as, pissing themselves.
Then we had to sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’.
We had been in Edinburgh less than two hours. You couldn’t make it up.
*Note – avoidance of overuse of the word ‘cucumber’