From a stunning part of the Aberdeenshire countryside, a small family run whisky shop and tasting room is quietly creating a stir across the world.
Starting out Still Spirit with no expectations, brothers Daniel and Craig Milne find it “unbelievable” that in the nine months since launching their business they now have customers from Beverly Hills and Asia, to New Zealand and South Africa.
It was in September last year when the pair first opened the doors of Still Spirit, located in a gorgeous spot with open countryside views across Pitmedden.
“It’s certainly something we started with no expectations, we’ve poured everything into it,” said Daniel.
“But we’ve ticked away here and we’ve developed something quite exciting.”
One of the UK’s leading whisky retailers
Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur or not, a visit to Still Spirit is a real treat.
From the welcoming staff and exquisitely designed interior to the vast selection of whiskies and a smaller collection of Scottish gin, vodka and rum, it’s an experience like no other.
“There’s a vast selection of single malt whiskies, rare, old, every day drinkers, there’s something for everybody,” said Daniel.
“And it’s not just Scottish Whisky we’ve got, there’s also a nice selection of Japanese, Irish and bourbon as well in the shop.”
Takeaway dram bar
One area of the shop that has proven very popular has been the takeaway dram bar.
“So we’ve got over 100 bottles open and again this is a variety of single malt, some bourbon, some Japanese and Irish, really high-end bottles” said Daniel.
“The whole idea of the dram bar is that we’re giving people the opportunity to buy a dram so they get to taste some of these quite exquisite and exciting whiskies, at a fraction of the cost than it would be to buy a whole bottle.”
Family run business
The brothers’ affinity with whisky began while growing up in Macduff.
“We were born and raised in Macduff, on the edge of the Speyside region, so we were born and bred surrounded by whisky and were never too far away from it,” said Daniel.
“It’s something that sparked our interest in whisky from a young age.”
Daniel, 32, who previously qualified as a chartered accountant and worked in corporate finance in the oil and gas industry and Craig, 42, who was as a deep sea trawler skipper, launched Still Spirit on the back of success of their online whisky auction business, Whisky Hammer.
Proud local business
Despite launching in the middle of a pandemic, Still Spirit has continued to grow.
“We voluntarily closed the shop for a few months at the start of the year as a measure to protect our staff against COVID-19,” said Daniel.
“Thankfully we’ve come through that relatively unscathed. The online business side of things continued to be strong.”
And unlike many other businesses, Craig and Daniel took staff on during lockdown.
“We’ve employed four new members of staff in our team since moving into our new premises last September” said Daniel.
“We made one of those hires right in the middle of lockdown last year. At a time when companies were getting rid of staff, we were employing which we are very proud of.”
The online side of the business has proven to be so strong, they now have customers all over the world.
“It’s quite fascinating to see some of the delivery addresses sometimes,” said Daniel.
“We regularly send shipments to the US to places like Beverly Hills as well as the far east, Asia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and of course within the UK and Europe as well.
“I’ve also sent orders to South Africa and even New Zealand as well, so it’s really quite a wide net.
“It just feels a bit unbelievable really that a small family run business in the countryside in Aberdeenshire is reaching these people. But that’s the power of the internet.”
Online dram bar
Together with the online shop, Still Spirit also has an online dram bar.
“You can buy drams by the measure and we can deliver them to your door,” said Daniel.
“There’s over 100 bottles in there as well.
“In and alongside the dram bar, we’ve designed the interior to house a tasting room.
“So we’re hoping to soon start our tasting events which will be ticket based tasting events, or for private corporate functions.
“We’re really wanting to wait until the restrictions are lifted so we can do it properly.”
Keeping it local
As a small and independent family run business, keeping everything as local as possible is important to Craig and Daniel.
“We’re big fans of the local independent bottlers such as Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin,” said Daniel.
“We do stock a lot of Gordon & MacPhail single casks, and they prove to be really popular.
“In fact we’ve actually got some of their really old vintage casks as well in stock.
“We stock the vast majority of distilleries in Scotland, at least one of their expressions.”
Looking to the future, Craig and Daniel have exciting plans.
“We’ve got loads of plans, nothing that I can share at this point,” said Daniel.
“But yes, we’ve got lots of exciting things lined up in the near future.”
To find out more about Still Spirit go to their website.
A round of questions with Daniel Milne
1: It’s the end of the day, what whisky do you pour yourself?
It always depends on the mood, almost impossible to pick a favourite whisky! In terms of distilleries, I am a big fan of Springbank, particularly older vintages, Longmorn and more recent expressions from GlenAllachie but my taste is constantly evolving and changing.
2: If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
Something poured in a tropical beach hut – maybe Long Island Iced Tea for a bit of kick!
3: Most unusual drink you’ve ever tried?
Grappa – just don’t get it.
4. What’s the most under-rated drink?
Blends are under-rated generally. I recently tried MacNair’s Lum Reek 12 Year Old (Peated) for the first time – a blended malt curated by the fantastic master distiller Billy Walker. The dram is a fantastic balance of Islay and Speyside peat – just the right level of smoke for my taste.
5. What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?
Too much arguably!
6. Best food and drink pairing?
Steak and red wine (followed by whisky ha!)