New deli delights (Demijohn)

New deli delights (Demijohn)

Sally Toms visits Demijohn,a new breed of independent bottler and off-licence in the heart of Edinburgh

Production | 10 Nov 2006 | Issue 60 | By Sally Toms

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Scotland has long been a nation that looks towards Europe; take the auld alliance or café culture for instance.But now, thanks to husband and wife team Angus and Francis Ferguson, this continental influence is reaching the nation’s drinking habits.Angus’s appreciation for the continental way of life was gathered during his years spent working in Italy and travelling Europe as a member of the Blackwatch.Wine cooperatives and ‘fill your own’ offlicences are well established on the continent, but almost completely unheard of in the United Kingdom.In 1994 Angus and Frances opened Demijohn, Edinburgh’s first official European-style liquid deli, and began to change the way we buy wine and spirits in Britain.On entering the shop on Victoria Street, customers are met with shelf upon shelf of glass demijohns filled with deliciously grassy Italian olive oils, traditional and flavoured vinegars, high quality flavoured spirits, wines and liqueurs sourced from small producers around the country.There’s an exquisite 25 year old Balsamico di Modena at £300 for 100ml, and a rare vintage gin at 60% ABV from Blackwood which will drive gin lovers nuts. The damson gin is fabulous as are the flavoured vodkas – the raspberry is particularly good.But this isn’t Raspberry Vodka Magazine… our readers are sure to be more interested in the four 50 litre octave casks in the window, each containing a different whisky selected by Demijohn and bottled on the premises.During Whisky Magazine’s visit they contained Linkwood 13 year old, 56.1%, Clynelish 13 year old 61%, Caol Ila 12 year old 46% and a unique Demijohn blend created by Adelphi at 40%.Angus explains that it’s his and his staff’s personal passions for regions and types of whisky that are the main drivers behind selecting a cask.“Choosing casks of whisky is a wonderful job, but patience is definitely the key factor in it. It can take up to six months to find the right cask.“The first step is an informal tasting panel including our staff, friends and family; many of whom have either been involved in the whisky industry or are just extremely passionate about it. An impartial view is in our opinion the most reliable of all.“We do not profess to be experts at selection, so we do need a bit of help from the distillery, but our passion for the subject is second to none and therefore choosing the right cask is a wonderful voyage of discovery for us as well as our customers.” Once a cask has been selected it is moved into storage and used to refill the octaves in the shop. The novelty here is that since the whisky is always kept in wood, it continues to age.Demijohn buys a new cask about every six months, therefore the whiskies mentioned in this article are unlikely to still be available. But to the connoisseur, there in lies the appeal; imagine having an ever changing range of rare and completely unique casks in your local off-licence?Those new to whisky will find the try-beforeyou- buy ethos appealing, and Angus and his knowledgeable staff are on hand with samples to assist. What’s more, you can choose sized bottle between 100ml and a hefty two litres and bring them back for refills – only paying the cost of the spirit.In the world of increasingly heavily branded whisky, Demijohn has successfully stripped away the clutter and distraction of conventional packaging to deliberately concentrate on the taste, quality and provenance of its products. Your whisky is presented in a clear glass bottle with only its name and its flavour as advocate.Demijohn has opened a new, even bigger shop in Glasgow’s West End and business is good and Angus’s excitement is infectious.“We are planning a revision of our extremely popular online shop in the next few months,” beams Angus. “As we grow we’ll definitely be adding to our range of whiskies. I certainly don’t see myself getting bored in the near future!”Demijohn
32 Victortia Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JW
Tel: +44(0)131 225 3265
382 Byre's Road, Glasgow.
Opening hours are from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 12:30pm until 5pm on Sundays
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