Here at long last is a proper update and some pictures of the work we have been doing at the EUVS on Bendor. While Sarah has been draining the drinks cabinet at B&T HQ, someone has been working hard day and night (honest). The work has been demanding but very rewarding, and now that the end of phase one is in sight I can look back at all we have achieved with a great sense of accomplishment.
Myles, Alex, Max and I have settled into a routine now and the work is progressing well despite a few complications and delays. Alex and Max are now responsible for cleaning the back of each bottle and attaching a barcode, then when there is space on the table moving them over for processing. Myles and I split the responsibility for entering them onto the database and wrapping them to protect their labels, the boxing them ready for transporting. At the end of the day yesterday the computer informed us that we have processed 2104 bottles out of the 2492 on the system.
It is monotonous work but in broken English and decidedly questionable French there is a good deal of banter between us. This coupled with the occasional drama has helped the time to pass. Yesterdays big drama was brought about by 2 builders who arrived to plaster the wall in our storage room. Despite promising not to make any mess we returned from lunch to find him using a rotary sander to smooth the plaster work… ‘ah, monsieur, is zeees ok? I ‘ave made no how you say? Dust’ I think that despite the language barrier he got the gist of what Myles had to say! Fortunately only a handful of bottles were in unsealed boxes so it’s not a big deal.
Anyway here is a brief rundown of some of the highlights and lowlights of the last 5 days.
Day 1 – holy sh@t there are a little of bottles here… we get stuck into the task at hand and by the end of the day have cleaned and labelled six cabinets worth of bottles. At this rate we will be done by Thursday I optimistically think to myself. You live and learn.
The highlights for me today where the whiskies. Bottles of bourbon and rye that are crying out to be opened and made into Old Fashioneds and Manhattans and bottles of scotch wanting a crystal tumbler and a small splash of water! The other highlight was finding out that Myles has a stash of bourbon, bitters and a bottle of Antica Formula on the island… Thank God for that! Chin chin!
Day 2 – progress is good once again with a further 5 cabinets done. Two days of barcoding bottles is getting to me and Myles is starting to look cross eyed at the computer, so maybe tomorrow we will rotate. Today we learnt that Max, one of our French co-workers is in the French special forces, we joke that his basic training involves learning to surrender… ah, he has been trained to kill people with his bare hands too... less jokes at his expense!
The highlight for me today was dealing with all the rums. There are some beautiful bottles and amazing labels that serve as a real eye opener about how society has changed. I am not sure that ‘Rhum Blackman’ would be considered a socially acceptable house pour nowadays. Some of the labels really are an eye opener! It makes me think that this is more than just a collection of bottles. The museum reflects changes in society over the generations and gets me thinking about drinking in bygone eras.
Enough reflecting on the deep and meaningful side of booze... I have just found the collection of Jane Barbencourt flavoured rums! Anise rum anyone? No, maybe not!
Day 3 - progress is slowing and enthusiasm is waning so I drag the laptop over and fire up itunes… only to realise that I only got as far as loading Seattle bands onto it. A bit of Nirvana anyone? Pearl Jam? Alice in Chains? After lunch no one wants me to turn the music back on for some strange reason.
We have done a quick inventory and by the end of the day two things are clear 1) we will not be done until Friday (if we are lucky) 2) we don’t have nearly enough boxes and packing material. These are not problems, they are opportunities… oh wait, we are on an island with no shops. Maybe these are problems after all.
Day 4 – Today was a real slog as we start finding bottles that are not on the system or take a lot of searching for, realise that there are 250 or so new bottles that don’t show up on the database and have to start improvising with our packing material. This is becoming a real labour of love, but there is still real pleasure found in handling these bottles.
Today I find myself pondering the amount of work that has been put into restoring and preserving this collection. It is important work and Jared and Anistatia have achieved a huge amount over the last couple of years. I am really grateful to have had the chance to be involved in this even in a small way and I really hope that bartenders and industry figures get a chance to get over here. It is worth the effort to see this collection. I also wonder if the museum will be added to? It would be great to see products added before they change or are no longer produced.
Highlight of the day was when Myles and I got the tired jollies at the same time at the expense of a small Norwegian chap we met today… hmmmm, more sleep and less time spent staring at the computer me thinks.
Day 5 – well the labelling is complete now and after a quick journey to a removals company Myles returns with 25 more boxes for us to use. We battle on and by the end of the day have packed a total of 2104 bottles. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Myles needs to get his family off the island for a day and I need to drink beer in the sun, so Saturday will be a day of rest.
The highlight today was handling bottles of rare cognac as well as some of the obscure liqueurs that are in the most amazing bottles. They don’t make them like they used to that's for sure! Lowlights were the pastis cabinet, as the smell of anise has yet to vacate my nostrils and of course our encounter with the afore mentioned builder!
Myles and I will come back to the museum on Sunday and crack on with the last few hundred bottles. On Monday the ‘cube of doom’ (a present from one Patrick Ricard’s daughters to him, containing bottles of Pernod Ricard’s products from around the world) will be dismantled for the third time ready to be moved along with everything else.
That’s all from me for now!
Shorter and more frequent updates will follow now that my computer issues are resolved!
Right now there is an ice cold beer and a sandy beach calling me!