Ben’s Blog – Ten Years of Jascots
Having left a very comfortable job in 2001 trading fine wines across the globe there was little satisfaction in actually dealing with wines, the whole reason I am in this business is because I adore wine, and I may as well have been trading sugar or coffee where I was.
I was ridiculously excited about starting with this unbelievably energetic, enthusiastic, vibrant young company called Jascots. 10 years on I am still hugely excited about the company, and how we have grown, the original ethos is still the core of the company – Energy, enthusiasm, love of wine and TOTAL commitment to brilliant service.
For my 10th anniversary at Jascots we met for supper, and not only were there Scotch Eggs (fresh and delicious), but we all had Haggis, neaps and tatties, a bottle of whisky and the crowning glory was a piper blasting the pub away with the purest of highland lilts. Elated and almost in another world, it just showed me that this wee company still gets it so right.
The characters in the company are everything, and the team I joined which was a quarter of the size it is today, was so full of personality that you had to be lively to be noticed. I do not regard myself as a quiet character (a couple in the office will agree with that!!) so I thrived and loved every minute of the challenge, and with the other characters the office is never a dull place to be.
One really exciting part on the horizon in those early days was the purchase of some land up in Park Royal, awesome views of London and with a bit of will-power and some architectural designs The Observatory was built – our dream distribution hub and office. We moved about 2 weeks before the final work was finished to the office, it was the windows that were missing (a small problem). So on one extremely snowy, blustery, minus 4 degrees day, three mad Scotsmen in shorts and tee shirts dangled from ropes and sat on platforms installing the finishing touches, we were inside in hats, scarves and three coats. It was worth it when finished and those that have been up to it will understand why it has won awards for its design.
In the early days, as a small team, there were many jobs out of our comfort zone that we looked after. One of mine was I.T., the only reason that I am mentioning this is because the team now, and especially our Head of I.T., will find this ridiculous. The phrase “Control / Alt / Delete” was quoted with some confidence, and oh did I think I knew all about it…..fool!!!
The excitement of winning new business for me and the team was usually celebrated by the ringing of a large ships bell in the office in Hammersmith. Great pleasure was had in getting the first “bell” of the day, this was no delicate tinkle, it could have been heard in Sussex. I might try and find that bell this week and get it going again, it adds extra humour and energy.
There have been some fabulous trips over the years, Italy for Vinitaly, Bordeaux for Vinexpo, tasting En Primeurs at the Grand Union Tasting, but one of the most memorable was to the Val de Loire tasting with Phil Barnett a few years ago, and realising that after tasting 120 very young Chenins, Muscadets and Sauvignons that neither of us could actually feel our gums, so we thought that our old friend Stella would help. Sadly Madame Artois let us down and for the next morning’s tasting the only thing we could taste was the blinking curry we had had the night before. We did actually find some fabulous wines on the trip, just not on that last day. Many years have passed now and my more mature approach means no curry, nor Stella!!
Other memorable Jascots moments have been a challenge to eat a 30oz steak (not a problem although I was reliably informed that there are babies born at lower weights and my vision blurring slightly on my bike ride home as every ounce of blood was required in my stomach), laughing together hysterically to some very funny emails – check out “eleven” at http://www.youtube.com/
Of course the real treat over the years has been the friendship that I have developed with the my clients and coleagues. Wine is a wonderful industry to be involved in, though we do work hard (I promise!), it is a sociable subject – I entered my tenth year with Jascots with many, many lifelong friends whom I would never have known.
We have of course over the years had some disasters; the massive crack in the road in Hammersmith where the main water pipe leading into West London ruptured and the whole street was engulfed, the phone call from a driver at the weekend asking what he should do as his van had mysteriously tipped over , and when we found some fabulous Californian wine and had to create a label for the uk market……the wine was outstanding….the label a wee bit less impressive!!!! (you know who you are..purple mountain!!!)
My nicknames over the years have ranged from Netanjayho, Sweaty, Plastic (thanks solely to my English accent but passion for Scotland) and Benny boy (which I love – but I do have to try and stop the team introducing me as such, it sounds a bit like I am still at nursery).
The next couple of years with the Olympics and fabulous new additions to the Jascots team is going to be terribly exciting. It feels a bit like it is our time, we have the ammunition, the drive, and litres upon litres of enthusiasm to take us onwards to become most definitely the finest wine merchant in the South East.