Harley ridin’, tattoo sportin’, whisky bar ownin’ Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson might appear to be a chap who ignores tradition, but that’s until you get to know him. The commitment he and his team have put into reclaiming the heyday of Milroy’s of Soho (London’s oldest whisky specialist) – recreating the gentle approachable charm of the original Milroy brothers – is nothing short of dedication to the past. That’s not to say it’s stuck there, far from it, just that it’s the right amount of traditional elegance mixed with approachability that makes a new drinker or old feel very welcome.
Simo didn’t always aspire to own a whisky bar. In fact, it was his owning of a restaurant on nearby Wardour Street that brought him to Milroy's in the first place. At that time it was a shadow of its former self, but a very special dram of Bunnahabhain turned him not only into a big whisky fan, but also set him on a path to whisky devotion. He soon found himself selling the restaurant and becoming a whisky shop owner.
Now, five years later, Milroy’s of Soho is firmly back in the spotlight, both as a select whisky shop and bar and a discrete cocktail joint.
Recently the old met the new, with the launch of Milroy’s of Spitalfields. Gone is the shop but in come four levels of whisky extravaganza, including drams, cocktails and cigars, plus a range of paired food items.
Despite all of this success, Simo is forever the approachable jeans and t-shirt guy, with his now Instagram-famous dog Chester nearly always by his side.
We wanted to find out just what you drink when you have more than 1,000 bottles to hand…
1965, 27 Years Old (Bottled by Milroy brothers)
Single cask sherried and possibly one of the best Springbanks I have ever tried. It was given to me by a friend to celebrate the launch of the new site; we ended up drinking nearly the whole bottle between me, him and Colin Dunn. It was worth the hangover.
1989 (Bottled 2014 by Carn Mor)
This is the bottling that got me to buy Milroy's of Soho. I used to get drunk in the office at the back and this was one of my first big introductions to indie bottlings. It was left field and didn’t taste like Bunnahabhain. It opened my eyes to the uniqueness of the single cask whisky offerings.
Single cask 2008, 8 Years Old
One of the first bottlings I did and I fell in love with this cask. My tasting note for the whisky was bacon Frazzles, not the real ones, the Tesco’s own brand you used to get when you were a kid. It’s BBQ on a beach and what better whisky to have when stuck on an island.
Probably my favourite non-age statement Scotch out there. Consistently great and amazing value. Kilchoman really impressed us. They didn’t rush, they just concentrate on making great liquid. Still today I love tasting their new-make spirit and seeing how it evolves into the Machir Bay. It’s my go-to everyday whisky.
1975, 25 Years Old
Where most whisky aficionados rave of the 1974 vintage, one of the first ‘rare’ bottles we opened for Milroys was the Ardbeg 1975 25 Years Old. This one will always be one of my favourites. Myself and one of my staff opened it at 10am on a Friday after a stressful week. I wish that bottle was never finished…
A brief final luxury
It would be my dog Chester or aptly named #chesterofsoho.
I bought him off a homeless person at 4am in Soho when he was just five weeks old. He’s my best mate and comes with me everywhere. He’s 10 now and lives his life as the mascot of Milroy's and chilling with me.