Cleo Farman is back... and she's still got bottle
When we met Cleo Farman, founder of the now extinct Odd Bar group, in 2013, she said the most frustrating thing about being a bar owner is when "things don't go to plan".
Well, things didn't, in the end.
Odd, a Northern Quarter institution since 2006, suddenly closed in January 2018, along with the Blue Pig around the corner and Oddest in Chorlton. Four years earlier Odder, on Oxford Road, had made way for a coffee shop.
A rumoured deal with Mark Andrew of MAD Ltd - operators of Hula, Rosylee, Walrus and more - to save Blue Pig fell through when all of MAD's bars and restaurants suspiciously went bump overnight.
"My biggest regret was who I chose to enter into protracted sale negotiations with," she says. "Sadly, the sale was aborted, which will come as no surprise given the unscrupulous behaviour of the proposed buyer in recent months.”
It was a huge blow for Cleo, who had put everything into Odd. But so it goes, neighbourhoods evolve, tastes change, trends come and go.
But now Cleo - a former PA to Richard Branson no less - is back, and she's not yet ready to put down the bottle... though this time it's her own.
She's just launched a new rum, it's called Diablesse, named after a character from Caribbean folklore, who, by all accounts, is a bit of a tinker. A devil, actually, said to seduce people with her stunning beauty, despite her one cow hoof (a moo-t point?)
Catching up with her at the launch party, which took place at Cottonopolis last week, Farman tells us she's "over the bloody moon" to be back with a new project after "all that carry on".
"I've got a massive rum collection at home," she says, "and I just started playing around with it, trying different blends out and concoctions. It got pretty serious pretty quickly."
So serious that one weekday morning she woke to find an articulated lorry reversing down her tranquil avenue in Chorlton. "I'd done a deal to sample some mixers, I didn't know they were going to leave two pallets full on the pavement outside."
The result, after "about a million attempts", was two distinct, small-batch rums: the Caribbean, "a well-balanced, aged golden rum blending Bajun, Jamaican and Guyanese", and the Clementine Spiced, "a smooth demerara rum flavoured with clementine and spices, with a whiff of toffee apple and warm pimento".
Cleo says in Diablesse she has invented "flavour profiles that have never been created before."
"We hope to tempt rum virgins, convert gin drinkers and enchant connoisseurs," she adds, feeding us another shot of Clementine.
"I’m really excited to be working with quality, honest rums full of character," says Diablesse ambassador and Cottonopolis manager, Gethin Jones. "They have versatility and embrace the potential for innovative rum serves that take rum in a direction not normally associated with this category."