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Issue 6 - Double identity

Whisky Magazine Issue 6
October 1999


This article is 18 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Double identity

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is riding high again with a trendy new bolt-hole in central London. Margaret Rand takes a closer look at this revival in fortunes

Visit 19 Greville Street, in the heart of Hatton Garden – London's diamond district, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you had come to the wrong place. If these are the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's new London rooms, where is the Victorian plush you might ask? Where are the leather armchairs? Where are the huge ceilings, and the roaring fires? And what are all these pale wood floors and contemporary pictures doing here?

In fact only the wall-to-wall malts behind the bar – and possibly the warmth of the welcome – will tell you that you haven't walked into a Conran restaurant. The SMWS may have gone contemporary for its first permanent presence in the South, but it knows exactly what it's doing. And you'll love it.

The new London members' rooms opened in July. They had been promised for a long time, but for various reasons never happened; and then in 1996 a member called Robert Wilson, who already ran The Bleeding Heart Restaurant in Holborn, where the Society had for some years been holding its London tastings, took over a building round the corner. “It had been used as diamond workshops,” says Anne Cooper, who manages the London rooms. “The floors all went downhill, and you bumped your head on the ceilings.”

Before any of the pale wood and contemporary pictures could go in the building had to be gutted, reroofed and renovated. It was, as Cooper says, “a huge step. We had to take the Edinburgh ethos to London.”

Hats off to Cooper for not choosing pastic...

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