I’ve been in London for little over a week. By the time most of you will read this—Wordpress stats tells me that most of my readership is in the US—I will be in a plane flying back to Minnesota. Instead of putting up another London restaurant review—believe me, there’ll be quite a few more in the coming weeks—I thought I’d put up a gallery of images of and in some of London’s major whisky stores. If you’re like me before this trip you may have wondered what these stores whose names we know actually look like. If so, here’s a peek at Cadenhead’s, Milroy’s, Berry Bros. & Rudd, and Hedonism Wines.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “What about the Whisky Exchange?” Yes, I’m an idiot. I planned to go to their new Covent Garden shop on the Sunday that I visited Hedonism (my friends and I had planned lunch at Dishoom in Covent Garden) and, of course, I discovered on Saturday evening that they’re closed on Sunday. Personally, I blame Jebus. But I’ll be back in London in the spring and I promise you an extended photo-essay on the Whisky Exchange then.
The gallery is organized in chronological order of my visits but you’ll notice that quite by chance the sequence moves from one end of a stylistic continuum to another: the Cadenhead’s shop is small and quaint; Milroy’s is also small (and unexpectedly, for me, is a combination bar and store) but altogether more casual and cool; Berry Bros. & Rudd, which is bigger, exudes old world sophistication (in both decor and the staff’s attire); and Hedonism Wines is bigger still and much flashier (there’s nothing particularly English about it).
Approaches to customer service also differ but don’t map on to store aesthetic. The gent at Cadenhead’s was perfectly polite but I got the sense, perhaps unfairly, that it would have been all the same to him if no one had come in to the shop that afternoon. He was also not very forthcoming with details on the whiskies (perhaps he didn’t have them—I wanted to confirm that the Cadenhead’s Auchroisk I was purchasing was indeed as fruity as older Auchroisks can be and all he would venture was that it is “smooth”). At Milroy’s, on the other hand, the bartenders, who also double as the salesmen, are friendly, chatty, full of information and quick to pour samples. At Berry Bros. & Rudd there was greater formality but they also seemed helpful (I couldn’t gauge much of their whisky selection or guidance as their spirits section was closed on account of what later emerged was a water main problem). Hedonism, which is owned by a Russian oligarch on the run, was very flashy and the kind of store you’d expect in a neighbourhood with Bentley and Rolls Royce showrooms, but the staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and their selection ranged beyond bottles with vertiginous prices: indeed, I purchased the 2015 Lagavulin 12 CS there for about the same price that is being asked for it at less flashy stores in London (and for less than is being asked for it in the US). Both Hedonism and Cadenhead’s gave me the paperwork to submit at the airport to get a portion of the VAT refunded (as to whether I’ll have the patience or energy to actually follow up at the airport I’m not sure).
Descriptions of the shops are in the captions to the image gallery.
Are there other stores (besides the Whisky Exchange) that you feel I should visit on my next trip?