Ounal Bailey is the co-founder of WiseHead Productions and the co-creator of premium drinks company, London Essence. We caught up with Ounal at “The Essence House” London Essence’s two-floor drinks experience which popped up in Covent Garden during the month-long edition of London Cocktail Week this October.
Can you give us a bit of background on the brand – how did London Essence come into existence?
London Essence was founded in 1896 on the banks of the River Thames. It was a company that made essences from the world’s finest ingredients, shipped into London, distilled, and sold on to perfumiers, confectioners and drinks makers. I came across this story as I was researching in the Britvic archives and was immediately inspired to bring this tradition back to life in a modern context, using distilled botanicals for the purest flavours to create a range of premium mixers. When we came to market there weren’t many drinks that were lower in sugar and also made from natural ingredients, appealing to the more discerning and mature palate, and that’s why we refreshed the company with a new mission.
What sets London essence apart from other premium drinks brands?
They say beauty in is the eye of the beholder, and our perfume heritage has certainly inspired our branding; our bottles are distinctive and beautiful – they are reflective of the high level of care and quality that we put into everything that we do. This is also reflected in our product, as the quality is something that our customers can taste. We layer distilled botanicals into each mixer, and this provides a really fresh and bright taste because the process captures the purest flavour of the ingredient. This also means we are able to deliver great taste with less sugar and were the first low calorie mixer brand in the market, all without using artificial sweeteners.
Can you tell us a bit more about the London Cocktail Week Essence House event and the interactive element?
We knew that we wanted to do something a little different this year, with a greater focus on the consumer. We wanted people to have an immersive experience and walk away with a new skill. So, we created interactive elements which allowed people to explore their tastes, their likes and dislikes using their senses and use this to allow them to discover which cocktails they may like to try – something which tended to be beyond their usual selection.
We partnered with the amazing Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart, one of very few experts dedicated to science of gastronomy and flavour perception in the UK. Together, we created a series of interactive taste and aroma tests, providing insight into individuals’ personal taste palate profile.
The venue choice for The Essence House was a no-brainer - a gorgeous venue in Covent Garden which we felt really portrayed our premium brand and, being on Floral Street in the heart of London, it was the natural choice!
Are you happy with the end result?
Absolutely, there have certainly been learnings, but this was the first time that we created something of this scale and the hard work has really paid off. We have had so much positive feedback from both new and loyal customers and just seeing people walk away with a new cocktail choice, an appreciation of London Essence and a smile makes the long days worthwhile. For many of those that came to the Essence House, this was the first post-COVID outing in London, so it was special to be part of that and make it as memorable as possible.
What were your key take-aways from the event?
We have been creating London Essence events since 2018 and of course, given COVID-19, this year was a little different. The event being held across the entire month, rather than a single week, meant that the footfall was spread out a little more, but this also meant that we could be confident that we were providing a COVID-19 safe environment, which was really important for us.
We have always loved being based in Covent Garden and Leicester Square because it feels like the beating heart of London hospitality. This year we took on a much bigger space than in previous years, and attracted some fantastic partners, really building on our reputation.
What’s next for London Essence?
We’re all really excited about what lies ahead for London Essence. The interest and buzz around the brand is there, and this year’s event is testament to that. We love to collaborate with bars and brands, and we have a lot more of that coming up. Events like this one are great because we get to work with some of most innovative bars out there – in the past month we have had Little Red Door from Paris, 1930 from Rome, and Perdita from Barcelona all come to our event and this collaboration helps to spark ideas and creativity not only at home, but across the world.
Ounal Bailey | Brand Director, Co-founder WiseHead Productions