People

“I don't know if anyone else sells The Dalmore 50 by the glass”

Ian Wisniewskitalks to Giuseppe Ruo of The Library Bar at The Lanesborough Hotel in London
By Ian Wisniewski
IANWhen did your interest in Scotch whisky begin?GIUSEPPE When I was in Italy, but the problem in Italy was that the market for Scotch whisky was very small, this was in the 1980s and 1990s.When I moved to London in the year 2000 I had a great door open in front of me.I was like a sponge, I was watching many different programmes, reading books and magazines, going to tastings, travelling, and more than anything else I had curiosity.My first experience in London was to develop the whisky range at Windows on the World at the Hilton Hotel.IAN The Library Bar was already renowned for an amazing collection of cognac, but the range of Scotch whisky changed significantly after you arrived.GIUSEPPE Yes, whiskies are a real passion of mine. Whisky is very complex, a fascinating spirit, and we specialise in Scotch whisky.When I arrived there were probably 30 Scotch whiskies, and now there are probably 120-130. I started to build the collection, including The Macallan, Bowmore, Springbank, Highland Park, Glenfiddich, and also some of the closed distilleries as well.We cover all the different angles of Scotch whisky, including different cask finishes, and from unpeated malts up to the most heavily peated from Islay, and also different vintages.I don’t know if anyone else except us sells The Dalmore 50 Years Old by the glass.But the problem at the moment is not how many Scotch whiskies I can have, it’s how many I can’t get. Because they are going out so fast, it’s almost impossible.IANWith such a specialist selection, I’m assuming you spend a lot of time talking to your customers.GIUSEPPE Of course, I spend 75 per cent of my time at work with customers, and usually any time they are drinking something new I am always sitting with them, trying to get their perceptions.IAN Are your customers primarily experienced whisky drinkers, or are they a mix of novices and connoisseurs?GIUSEPPEWe cater for everyone, because a good beginner will be your best client in the future. Everything depends on how they start, if they start on the right foot it will be easier to develop their knowledge.IAN How often do customers come in and ask you,what’s new?GIUSEPPE Every night.And there isn’t a night when we don’t sell a vintage whisky.IANWhat’s the appeal of vintages,that they provide an opportunity to compare different years?GIUSEPPE The appeal of vintages is that people can say, I can drink the whisky that was distilled when I was born.And for sure they will also taste the year before, and the year after, to see the difference between them. And then there is no limit.IANYou have an international clientele at The Library Bar,do you see any particular preferences among different nationalities?GIUSEPPE People from the Far East are more into blended whisky, Russians and north Europeans drink heavily sherried whisky, Americans like blends more than single malt.The British are my favourite clients, because they are very knowledgeable. Italians have developed their knowledge of whisky very strongly in the last 10 years, what they like the most is single malt, and heavily sherried.IAN Cocktails are back in fashion,but apart from that do you think cocktails can be a good way of introducing somebody to Scotch whisky?GIUSEPPE Of course, that would be the first step for a person who has never drank whisky, to get into the category.IANWhat kind of whisky cocktails do you offer at The Library Bar?GIUSEPPEWe like to mix whisky within a classic cocktail, like the manhattan, old fashioned, Rob Roy.IAN Some people have a particular attitude to cocktails, and will ask a bartender, isn’t it a waste to put a Scotch whisky into a cocktail ?What’s your opinion of this?GIUSEPPE It depends how the cocktail is made. We call it a cocktail because it’s a mixing of flavours.IAN Exactly.And the latest trend is making cocktails that enhance rather than hide the flavour of the Scotch whisky.What other trends do you expect to see in the future?GIUSEPPE What I’m expecting is there will be more innovation, the whisky houses are experimenting.The variety of whiskies has no limit, and it’s going to be even better in the future.