Words by Simon Difford
I woke up this morning to find yet another email from a PR company pitching a story idea “which hopefully is of interest for the revamped Class!” It’s not just the use of the explanation mark that’s bloody annoying, I’m no longer anything to do with CLASS – yes capitals, it’s an acronym (or at least it was when I was the publisher).
It's true we are relaunching a quarterly publication with beautiful design by Dan Malpass, but it is our long dearly departed Difford's Guide Quarterly, not CLASS magazine. Difford's Guide Quarterly was not a "trade" or a "consumer" title - it was aimed at discerning drinkers (as is this website) and it was available in the UK and America with our best sales in Borders and Barnes & Noble. It was about the stuff we like - great cocktails, booze and bars. We're bringing back the quarterly name but it will be quarterly-"ish" - we hope to publish four a year but we'll only publish each one when we're ready and we think it rocks - not when seasons dictate.
And, just as before these will be soft-back books - "bookazines" if you like, with ISBN numbers. Magazines are throwaway - we aim to produce something you'll want to buy and keep. With the help of James, our trusted printer, Dan has already decided on what paper this new thing of beauty will be printed on but we're going to keep the contents something of a secret ahead of publication. And, if you're a PR - sorry but we already have all we need for the first edition.
We (Dan and I) launched Difford's Guide Quarterly in 2004 but were forced to stop after three years when Rob Cooper (now sadly departed) purchased the majority shares of our publishing company in order for us to work on his new brand idea, St-Germain. We helped produce and market the product - I worked on the juice and drinks that could be made with it while Dan contributed his design genius. We had a Citroen H van restored and branded St-Germain, and we became elderflower evangelists for the next eighteen months.
It was with some relief that I was able to strike a deal with Rob in 2008 and take over full control of the publishing company (Odd Firm of Sin Ltd), enabling us to return to publishing drinks titles (although in hindsight we probably should have stuck with St-Germain).
I originally launched CLASS magazine in August 1997 and I believe it paved the way for a new style of bartending magazines - perhaps the very first out-and-out bartending magazine. Although publishing it was not always a joyous experience, I took great pride in having given birth to CLASS and I hated my then board of directors for forcing me to sell it in the wake of the 2001 dot.com crash.
We re-acquired the right to publish CLASS magazine in 2009 and set about rebuilding our baby. However, neither the magazine format nor the name CLASS worked for us second time around, particularly in America where 'class' appears to have different connotations. So on 25th March 2014 I wrote "This is our last CLASS magazine, but what is something of an end of an era for us, and particularly me, heralds the launch of a new and exciting diffordsguide.com". You can read that page and more about CLASS magazine here. It was a page I signed off with "We hope you're going to like the new look diffordsguide.com. In the meantime, goodbye CLASS. This time for good."
But as Justin Smith, the new publisher of CLASS magazine says here, "It's hard to keep a good title down". He and a very capable team at Agile Media with Hamish Smith in the editor's seat are bringing our old title back. We wish them the very best, but to allay any misconceptions, neither Dan nor I have anything to do with it - we've this website, our cocktail books and our own new publication to work on.
I very much look forward to seeing the phoenix-like fourth incarnation of CLASS magazine, but in the meantime, if you're interested in the kind of stuff we covered when we published CLASS, we've archived 153 issues here under a brand name I've grown to like better than CLASS - thanks for the name Difford, Dad.