Wednesday, 14 March 2012

My new spiritual home!

Having now been through most of the standard malts available in the local supermarkets I have started looking further afield.

I have bought some bottles on-line recently as most of the old off-licences seem to have disappeared, so I’m really pleased to have found Ampthill’s branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants who have an impressive array of whisky stacked on their shelves.

Cambridge Wine, Ampthill
Cambridge Wine Merchants in Ampthill
Ampthill is a busy Georgian Market town just South of Bedford and not that far away from me at all. The shop is over 300 years old and has a huge range of wines and champagnes, probably one of the best champagne selections outside of London, so I was informed. Recognising the recent demand for quality whisky they have started stocking a range of single malts that you won’t find in your supermarket.

They currently have something in the region of 90 different malts in stock and have plans to increase their range. The stock is always changing, but they probably have the best range of malts in Bedfordshire. In addition to stocking distillery bottlings they have a good selection of Signatory bottlings and even have their own bottling. When I visited the had just taken delivery of some new additions; Spring Bank CV and 10 Year Old as well as many Signatory editions - Fettercairn 1996, Highland Park 1991, Ben Nevis 1993, Auchentoshan 1997. There was also the full Glenmorangie range on display.

The wall of whisky in Ampthill
After chatting for a while I decided to take a bottle of their own ‘Sound of Islay’, a single cask picked from the Bunnahabhain distillary, yielding just 580 bottles.

The shop is owned by Chris Woodhall who has an expert team around him, who he enthusiastically introduced me to. They are all WSET qualified with loads of wine industry experience:

Jordan has more years in the wine industry than he cares to remember and started out in Oddbins in the good old days, when there were only a handful of shops. He went on to open many of their most successful shops including Milton Keynes and top London stores. Needless to say, his wine and spirits knowledge is second to none. Champagne is his favourite tipple and he’s been lucky enough to visit some of the top houses in France.  

Eze is the newest member of the team and originally from Argentina but now lives in Ampthill with his English wife, Vicky. All the staff here are WSET educated and Eze has passed his Advanced exam as well as having a degree in food technology. Before starting work at the shop Eze worked for the IWC (International Wine Challenge) and did some mystery shopping. Once he even ‘mystery shopped’ Cambridge Wine Merchants! 

Jane, who when she’s not working at the shop, project manages the local Vineyard at Old Warden with BRCC and Shuttleworth College. They produced their first vintage in 2010 and they regularly sell out in the shop. She loves wine and regularly holidays in the wine regions of France and has visited many vineyards there as well as touring around Scottish distilleries in an attempt to find her perfect Whisky.

Nick used to own the wine Merchants on Dunstable Street, Ampthill until he sold the business in 1993. He has maintained a keen interest in wine and is very knowledgeable indeed. Italy is his specialist subject and if he’s working in the shop expect to be pointed in that direction.

Chris, the owner, has always had an interest in wine and has visited many wine regions around the world in France, Australia, New Zealand and very recently South Africa. He approached Cambridge Wine Merchants in 2009 to ask if they'd be interested in opening a shop in Ampthill - the rest, as they say, is history. After many months planning and doing Wine & Spirits Trust exams to advanced level, they opened to immediate success. Chris says “I really enjoy working in the shop and meeting the people of Ampthill and the surrounding area. Nothing pleases me more than introducing someone to a new wine and seeing the excitement in their face when they discover they love it.”

They also offer a Wholesale service to pubs and restaurants as well as offering bulk discounts, free glass loan and a generous ‘sale or return’ policy for weddings, parties and other events. 

You can find them at 12 Church Street, Ampthill, Bedfordshire MK45 2EH,
Telephone:      01525 405929 / 0775 274 3513

I would like to point out that I have no connections with Cambridge Wine Merchants, other than being a paying customer. I have not asked for nor have received any payment for writing this blog post. I have written it because I support local businesses where justified, I love having this shop on my doorstep, and I want them to maintain a great whisky selection as I'm not a huge wine drinker!

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