On Friday I was at The Kraken Rum’s special “Dine in a Perfect Storm” event in London. How did I, someone who has never drunk alcohol, end up dining at a rum themed event where the cocktails flowed freely and the entire thing was the creation of one of the world’s leading rum brands?
To answer this, we inevitably have to go back in time a few years. My love of that other tentacled beast, HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, connected me with Jonathan Chaffin’s “Horror in Clay” tiki mugs. For the first photos I ever took of his first two mugs (the original Horror in Clay mug and the second “Innsmouth Fogcutter” one) I used a bottle of a well known brand of rum as a background prop. (After all, you can’t really have a tiki cocktail without getting some booze in there somewhere!)
When the world at large saw the photos, the feedback was generously positive, but one comment was “you should have used Kraken rum.” I didn’t know the brand (as a non-drinker I am usually a bit rubbish at alcohol brands) but I looked it up and discovered a very clever branding, with a tentacled Beast as the brand mascot that very much tied in with the Lovecraftian feel of Cthulhu. I introduced the Kraken bottles as supporting props in my next batch of Horror in Clay photos and the two have often sat together since.
The very next Christmas, the Kraken released a special ceramic bottle made by Wade ceramics. Wade are a long established (since 1867) brand respected worldwide and they created a truly impressive bottle that I couldn’t resist buying (even if I gifted the rum inside to grateful family members!) I am glad that I did, since the ceramic bottles have gone on to become valuable collectors’ pieces with new designs released each year.
I followed the Kraken’s social media feeds and saw some of the amazing merchandise created for their American webstore. Sadly the international shipping on these items is prohibitive but my friends in America (Hello Tro!) have sent some of the smaller items to me over the years with other packages including the brilliant Kraken Rum Book and a tentacled shot glass. The Kraken then released their own tiki mug in America, which naturally I had to team up with the Horror in Clay Cthulhu mugs for extra tentacled tiki action!
When the Kraken launched their UK “League of Darkness” I signed up, to stay up to date with their latest happenings and in the hope of some more merchandise for the UK. Through the League I have been able not only to get early access to the newer ceramic bottles (vital as they sell out so quickly) but also a great limited edition Kraken hoodie. In fact, when they accidentally sent me TWO of the hoodie I ordered they were even kind enough to tell me to keep the spare one – so my partner and I now have matching hoodies thanks to the Kraken!
The Kraken brand is also well known for the events that it hosts, sponsors and attends. The photos I have seen on their social media posts (and in The League of Darkness) have always made me think what fun they’d be to attend, but I also thought it would be a waste to attend a cocktail drinking event and not drink any cocktails. The most recent event, though, looked to be something a bit different and also right up my street. When I found out about “Dine in a Perfect Storm” I thought that it would be a Kraken event I could more certainly enjoy. The idea of using technology to create an indoor storm and then serve guests a feast while the storm raged was a novel one – and my own work photographing immersive events such as my many Halloween clients and the actor/VR combination show based on Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “War of the Worlds” currently running means I knew the potential this had. Since there would be food and a performance (of sorts) then I wouldn’t feel so foolish passing up the drinks – and my partner Lisa said she would be happy to help out with drinking the extra cocktails!
Naturally we couldn’t resist wearing our matching hoodies to the event. On arrival, a host dressed in suitably nautical 18th/19th Century attire welcomed us inside and escorted us through a darkened tunnel to the first bar area. He gave us each some “treasure” with which to purchase our drinks – a clever use of old pre-decimal UK currency. These served as drinks tokens throughout the event.
This first bar area was very small and quite busy, but also very friendly. The hosts, despite their period clothing, were mainly performing typical logistical tasks, but there was one actor in a character role as a sailor telling larger-than-life tall tales of his encounters with the Beast and how he managed to escape. He told the stories with gusto and didn’t flag for having clearly had to tell them over and over again all afternoon/evening. The clever use of contact lenses for his character was something we didn’t even spot until looking at the photo afterwards!
(Please note that some of the photos from this point onwards were taken with my “holiday” camera – a pocket sized Canon SX420IS. This is the camera I use in my leisure time, not for professional purposes.)
When our time arrived, we were called together and led along the corridor. Before entering the dining area everyone was given a Kraken branded waterproof coat (with an exclusive design we were delighted that we got to keep afterwards.) This would prove very useful as the way to the table involved walking through a literal shower of water that surrounded it.
At each place setting was the menu, presented in a rolled up scroll, with lovely cutlery and plates that would certainly not have been out of place at the Captain’s table at sea centuries ago.
The food was all blackened to suit the black ink theme, but tasted just right. (This sinister bread roll and black ink butter was no different to the “ordinary” coloured ones I am used to in restaurants!)
There was a squid centrepiece that smoked impressively with dry ice – but that we were warned not to try to eat! The food came quickly and efficiently as the storm raged – the technology being cleverly used to ensure that the rains subsided enough for the waiting staff to serve us without the food getting soggy en route.
The theming had been very carefully thought through, even down to the shells housing the salt and pepper and of course the cocktails flowed throughout – four different recipes over the course of the evening each of which Lisa assures me was both tasty and also VERY strong! (The Kraken remained the star of the show, no scrimping on the portions!)
Wind machines, lighting effects, “rumble” effects (or just loud bassy speakers) all added to the creation of the storm and someone somewhere was doing a very good job of moderating the levels so they were always impressive, created a great experience but didn’t interrupt or spoil the eating experience. The most “showstopping” wind moments were always between courses and the overall noise level was never quite so high as to prevent conversation. (I’ve certainly eaten in louder pubs or clubs!)
Once the meal was finished we were invited to the second bar adjacent to the dining table for further cocktails and Kraken ice cream. This I DID taste, as I don’t avoid alcohol in food, and I can say first hand it was VERY tasty (despite the sinister black sludge appearance.) The closest ice-cream flavour for comparison to my taste was the “bubblegum” flavours I’ve had at Baskin Robbins.
The need to prepare the table for the next sitting meant that we were soon sent back to the first bar, where again more cocktails were on offer plus the chance to chat with some of the Kraken team about the event, to praise them for their great branding and (in my case) to nag them mercilessly about my desire for more of that stunning US merchandise to be made available over here!
Based on the ticket price (£25 per head for public, slightly under this for League of Darkness members) we reasoned that very little profit was being made. A three course custom-dyed seafood meal in a high-tech controlled environment with at least four cocktails per person and only 20 people in a sitting, in a central London location? I paid more than that for a café breakfast in Brighton the following day! However as a stroke of marketing genius I think it’s a very clever use of budget, as it’s something that everyone who was there will talk about for a long time and the press coverage it will generate will be much further reaching than if the money spent creating it had simply gone on traditional print advertising.
Praise the Kraken – and a big well done to the team behind this clever event that the following photo sums up nicely.