London’s oldest whisky shop now has a coppertop bar where you can try some of its 250 whiskies before you buy, and a speakeasy bar, called The Vault.
Milroy’s of Soho is something of a London institution. Founded by John ‘Jack’ Milroy in Swinging Sixties London, The Soho Wine Market (as it was then known) took advantage of the removal of price controls to sell high-quality alcohol at affordable prices.
Although it was initially known for selling fine wines and Champagne, with the introduction of Scottish single malts to the English market in the 60s and 70s, Milroy’s quickly became known for having the largest whisky selection in London…perhaps even the world.
Today, after a period of being owned by La Reserve under the stewardship of Mark Reynier (who later reopened the Bruichladdich distillery on the Scottish island of Islay), and then by a London wine merchant, Milroy’s is independent once more and its new owner, Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson, is determined to get London drinking whisky again.
Blink and you might miss this discreet bar at number 3 on Soho’s Greek Street, but its understated exterior belies the treats in store.
The newly instated coppertop whisky bar is the perfect place to try one of Milroy’s 250 whiskies. Alongside the Scottish varieties are Irish, American and Japanese whiskies and if you like what you try you can always take a bottle home or order one online (they do deliver overseas), or even keep your own bottle in one of the glass cabinets, if you plan on returning.
A specials board helps direct novices to some good whiskies to try, while the knowledgeable staff are more than happy to search out a particular distillery or malt for those who know what they’re after.
As if deliberately set up (we’re sure it wasn’t), while we were sat perusing the menu, a customer came in and sold a bottle of vintage whisky to the bar. The price was eye-watering to us mere mortals but we were assured it was worth every penny and the genuine excitement in the eyes of the bar tender proved that this is a place that cares about its whisky.
If you want to settle in for the evening then head downstairs to the speakeasy bar, The Vault, where bar tenders will knock you up delicious cocktails using home infused spirits in intimate surroundings where stripped back walls show the brickwork of the 18th-century building – for drinking, we’d recommend the Smoking Gun, a gorgeous blend of corn whisky, Earl Grey, brown sugar and sherry that comes in a smoking glass. Of course, being a speakeasy the entrance is hidden, but push on the bookcase at the back of the shop upstairs and you’ll find your way.
The idea of a whisky tasting bar in London is so good that we honestly can’t believe more people don’t do it – it’s a great way of learning the basics before venturing north to the distilleries of Scotland.
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