A potted history

Justifiably famous for its range of Irish whiskies, the Pot Still in Gloucester is also a haven for lovers of single malts, unusual spirits, liqueurs and bottled beers. Richard Jones reports
By Richard Jones
When Chauncey Olcott and George Graff wrote the lyrics to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling in 1912 they left the world in little doubt that the ‘sweet lilting laughter’ of anyone of Emerald persuasion is a truly wondrous thing. But how is such merriment achieved?Success at the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival or a rugby victory against England at Twickenham followed by industrial quantities of Guinness seem to be the traditional options.But there’s a good chance that a visit to Gloucester would have a similar and far more predictable effect.The Pot Still began life as an internet only business ( around seven years ago during the height of the dot-com boom. It was founded by David Radcliffe and quickly established itself as an Irish whiskey specialist.“Although I was born in Manchester, my family are from County Clare and I grew up with Irish whiskies,” he explains. “I started to acquire Irish bottles and my collection originally formed the basis of my stock.” Pot Still as a high street presence came a later when David Radcliffe met Tim Errock.Tim had spent 20 years in the drinks trade variously at Oddbins, World of Whiskies at Heathrow Airport and Milroy’s of Soho, before moving to Gloucester in 2002.Although the company is still owned by David, Tim, as general manager, is today very much its public face.The shop is situated on College Court in the historic Westgate Quarter of the city.With Gloucester Cathedral at its heart, much of this area has been given over to small specialist retailers selling books, crafts, confectionary and quality clothing.The Pot Still is decidedly ‘new’ rather than ‘olde worlde’ in appearance. However what they lack in charm, the shelves manage to more than compensate with the quality of their contents.The eye is drawn, inevitably, to the Irish selection. Between 70 and 75 individual expressions at maximum capacity and so enticing that they even receive a regular internet order from a customer in Northern Island for Bushmills 10 year old.There are five other bottlings of Bushmills including a 1975 Millennium Edition at £139.99; six different whiskeys bearing the name ‘Jameson’; plus the likes of Clonmel, Clontarf and Connemara.At the rare, expensive and downright desirable end of the spectrum there is Knappogue Castle 1951 at £450; Bushmills 1985 German Artist Edition at £249.99; and the relative value of Rare 1967 Irish Whiskey at £149.99, an exclusive blend from the Old Middleton Distillery.However speaking to Tim Errock it is clear that Ireland is not the only country that sets his whisky passion ablaze.“I’m right across the board in terms of regions and styles,” Tim explains. “Given a choice I’d go for the peaty, heavier end of the spectrum, but it depends on the time of day as well as the mood and weather.” In Scotland he lists Ardbeg as a perennial favourite but he’s also a big fan of the sherried charms of Aberlour A[Bunadh.“I also regularly recommend Glen Moray Justifiably famous for its range of Irish whiskies, the Pot Still in Gloucester is also a haven for lovers of single malts, unusual spirits, liqueurs and bottled beers. Richard Jones reports 12 year old, Auld Reekie from Duncan Taylor and Glenmorangie Burgundy Wood depending on the style of whisky people are looking for.” Tim Errock also enjoys the charms of a high quality lowland malt such as Rosebank Flora and Fauna 12 year old at £36.99 which he describes simply but accurately as ‘a great drinking whisky’.If the weight of your wallet is becoming a concern, the Pot Still also stock a wide selection of more esoteric Scotch malts that can relieve you of the burden. In the Lowlands section, Duncan Taylor’s Rarest of the Rare Kinclaith 1969 at £549.99 stands out, as does the Talisker Isle of Eigg at £499.9. I also wouldn’t say no to a bottle of Longrow 1974 at just under £400 either.Where it was once an internet-only operation, the opening of the Pot Still shop in May 2004 has gradually transformed the nature of the business. Orders via the website are still significant, but according to Tim Errock the high street now accounts for the bulk of the trade.How many customers are of Irish extraction is unknown. But I suspect whisky lovers leave the Pot Still in Gloucester with eyes that ‘twinkle bright as can be’.The Pot Still, 5 College Court Gloucester, GL1 2NJ
0870 350 1608