When Crieff man Andrew Cuthbert took over his first grocers store in Crieff in the 1980’s for a year, so he could raise money to travel the world, little did he know it would turn into a haven of Scottish and International products from around the globe, and he would still be there selling them!
So how did a BMW Technician become a world-renowned whisky dealer and store owner?
Well firstly it’s in the blood! Andrew’s great great grandfather Thomas McComish owned the Hosh Mill (now Glenturret) distillery back in 1799 and another relative was the stillman, so as Andrew says “whisky is in my blood in more than one way!”
Throw in parents who owned a grocery store in Crieff in the 70’s and 80’s which Andrew bought back after they sold it, and you’ve got the back story!
Wanting to save up money to travel the world he took it on for a year and began crafting a place for Scottish produce. Soon afterwards he was offered the opportunity to take over another store just across the street, a real family grocery and delicatessen.
He never did travel the world, instead bringing the two stores together and taking his dad’s advice to ‘get into whisky’.
Over 20 years later and Andrew, his wife Evelyn and 79 year old Alan Forbes (an employee of the store before Andrew took over around 25 years ago), run J.L. Gill with over 100 whiskies, gins and plenty of very fine Scottish produce.
A firm favourite of the Crieff community, it is a fair guess that just about everyone either receives a Christmas gift or buys a Christmas gift from them each year and this year will be no different.
The huge selection on offer means that it’s perfect for hamper creating, and the team will be delighted to put one together for you. And what does Andrew want to open up under the Christmas tree this year? That one was easy. A 12 year old Caol Ila whisky. The first whisky he ever tried in a pub in Islay and still his go-to dram.
So what’s next for the wee shop in Crieff with the huge impact? Andrew is a great believer in seeing where life takes him and so after developing a friendship with a customer who was keen to get involved in the whisky business, J. L. Gill Hong Kong was born in early 2019 and is quickly securing its place as a high end whisky store and dealership. Andrew brings his expertise and the renowned Gill brand to the table and supplies the Hong Kong store.
Not content with selling other people’s whisky however, Andrew is also working with Mark Bush at Summer Harvest Oils to make Inchaffray, their own grain to glass single estate malt whisky.
The first bottle will be ready in four years and not surprisingly there is a waiting list already. When we asked him how he ends up with a store in Hong Kong and making a malt whisky from scratch, his answer of “I’m not sure how I get into these things, I just have conversations with people”, that really sums it all up.
We finished by talking about what matters to the family and it’s not all about the whisky! The Cuthbert family feel strongly about being zero waste too. Back in the seventies Andrew’s parents started in Crieff; probably one of the first zero waste shops in Scotland. Andrew recalls the smells and colours when going to shops and markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh where the spices were loose and fragrant and that’s recreated in the shop today.
Evelyn has introduced a great selection of products including Scottish brand Faith In Nature and Ecover products amongst many. They also have the best selection of loose ingredients in Strathearn from spices, to flour and dried fruit, all cooried in the back of the shop like a Scottish bazaar!