This is the true and unexpected story of ID Vodka as experienced by Adam Mowafi on a surprising trip to Dubai. For some, what he is about to say will seem shocking and maybe even upsetting. But, he speaks the truth...
As someone involved in the world of advertising, I am often most sceptical about brands which claim to have re-invented themselves. However much Chevy Egypt try to convince me their small cars are not in fact re-badged rubbish Korean Daewoos, and however much the owners of Opium claim the club is now Otium, I just don’t believe them.
So last summer I was quite bemused to find an invitation by ID Vodka to try out their latest premium vodka brand Black Onyx at an exclusive party in Dubai. Here in Egypt brand perception often seems to be based on vicarious experiences of friends. Rarely has the person expounding about the product actually tried the product. As such my immediate reaction was "ID Vodka? I heard a friend of a friend once tried it and didn't like it and so therefore it must be true." Then I realised that’s actually retarded. Not one to refuse a new experience, I accepted the offer and packed my bags.
Normally these kinds of press invitations are handed out to YES men - advertising slaves willing to sell their souls and dish out column inches for the prospect of a free peanut or at best an engraved pencil. And to be honest I expected the same with this event - a bunch of sycophants which would lie through their teeth.
With baited breath I arrived at Cairo airport expecting to meet a motley crew of so-called journalists from unknown publications armed with pre-written scripts about how good the product is. Instead I was shocked to find Ayman Baky (Owner of Tamaria), Ahmed Whadan (owner of Tabla and Sky Bar), Hisham Gabr (owner of Camel Bar), Ahmed Ganzoury (no explanation required) and Rawy Rizk (owner of Amici and Level). ID had amassed Egypt's biggest after-dark movers and shakers and essentially their biggest critics. This was something I definitely was not prepared for, and a ballsy move.
Our group of testosterone-fuelled arrogance fun was ushered into the First Class Lounge where it was explained to us that ID Vodka - despite being made in Egypt - was actually an internationally recognised, critically-acclaimed award-winning product. This trip was to prove what ignorant-closed-minded-lemmings we were for not understanding that. They went on to say that ID and particularly Black Onyx was not in fact aimed at those with a penchant for Red Table or Johnny Waller but at discerning drinkers who pay a premium to enjoy the finest international spirits. And as if to put their money (quite literally) where their mouths are (quite literally) they were about to take us on a no-expense spared, high-luxury, high-octane trip of a lifetime.
Landing in Dubai we were taken to our rooms at the Fairmont and told within a few hours we would be required to put in an appearance at the exclusive Cirque du Soir nightclub for the launch of Black Onyx. Dubai was all-a-buzz about this virtually impossible to get into event. The irony! Trust Egyptians to never appreciate what they've got.
Vodka hour approaches and we make our way into Cirque du Soir. An odd situation occurs - with so many club owners and party organisers in one group ,who exactly is going to take the lead and speak to the clipboard Nazi? Eyes shift to one another, everyone here is so accustomed to being in charge yet at the same time wish to be respectful of others’ egos. We needn't have worried. Ganz storms his way to the front of the queue and when asked if are we on the list, proceeds to explain, "We are the list!"
Dubai might have Black Onyx, but it doesn’t have Ganz.
The club is full to the brim with pretty people. Every single table has an ice bucket and a rather dashing black bottle, which turns out to be the star of the hour: Black Onyx Vodka. As we push through the crowds to our table, I hear the locals cooing over this exotic new Vodka.
Then the silliness begins. As if to make a point, our ID handlers decide to serve us up some straight shots. There will be no self-deception by diluting the Vodka with a mixer here. The moment of truth, we look at each other slightly nervous and then bottoms up! Almost simultaneously we all nod with approval. The Vodka is smooth and not an after taste to be had anywhere. This is where things get a little foggy and my capacity for memory dwindles but things got pretty wild and the club was frenzied.
FFWD to the morning of day two and I am back at my hotel room. I slowly stir my eyes. This was the second big test… do I have a hangover? The answer is a resounding no! The only thing I am suffering from is a slight backache from jumping up and down from the lounges.
And I wasn’t the only one. Everyone around the breakfast table was feeling quite sprightly. This was when we were told we were to repeat the whole process again that night, but this time at the uber-luxury Cavalli club. My assumption was they wanted to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that ID’s success was not a fluke.
So just like Ground Hog Day, we find ourselves out for another heavy night. And once again, in between the Moet, there is that tall black bottle. I don’t want to go into too many details, but I can assure you that club-owners really do know how to do it better.
And once again I wake up slightly worried about the repercussions from the night before and once again I am pleasantly surprised, although this time my issue is the lack of buttons on my shirt.
All packed up and ready to return to Egypt, the good and glamorous people of ID decide to ram the lifestyle point home and inform us that our trip is to be extended because we are going to attend the Formula One in Abu Dhabi. We shall be watching the cars race around from aboard a private yacht moored up close to the circuit.
The scene is set. We are literally slap bang in the middle of all the action as our own private DJ plays track after track of easrgasms and a bartender skilfully rustles up Black Onyx Vodka based cocktails. Life frankly does not get much better than this
THE REST OF FOREVER
Finally back in Egypt I have time to collect my thoughts and that’s when it hits me how silly things have become here. Clubs all over the world are serving Egypt's very own Black Onyx including in London, Dubai and Spain and for as much as 250 euros per bottle. And here we are able to purchase it for only 180LE. Yet because of some skewed nonsense misperception we refuse. With all the hassle people go through to get a bottle of international alcohol - including calling a dodgy dealer and waiting patiently for him to get to you while you pay extortionate prices - salvation is literally available at any Drinkies sans effort.
That trip obviously made a good impression on Egypt's party elite because as of this summer you will be finding Black Onyx served at some of the season’s hottest spots including ByGanz and Tabla on the North Coast and Sohkna, not to mention the Tamarai Terrace and Amici… for less than 200LE, purchasable at the venue itself.
So this summer when you see "that" guy with a foreign brand of vodka on their table, just smile with a sense of self-satisfaction because you know better. On your table stands a bottle of Black Onyx.