London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

St James’s secret life

I’m rather late posting this but it was an unusual evening so wanted to share it.

Last year or maybe the year before I bought 2 tickets for a whisky tasting and then couldn’t find a friend who liked whisky enough to come with me so I went by myself. The last event was in a trendy bar in Bermondsey (The Hide Bar). I do like that bar and it was a good evening.

The Whisky Lounge are based up north so over a year passed before they returned to London and I could use my second ticket.

This year’s tasting was in one of the poshest areas of London (St James’s) and with a completely different clientele. The actual tasting format was very similar but because of the location and the guests the evening was unrecognisable from the Bermondsey one.

There were only 9 of us including Eddie, the organiser. The tasting took place in the Red Lion in Crown Passage one of those fantastic tucked away London pubs.

At first I felt a little out of my depth as not only was I the only female but I got the impression from some of the other guests that they knew a lot more about whisky than I did and were (on first impression) high up in their jobs and rather scary!

However after a couple of glasses I relaxed and started to enjoy the experience.

At one head of the table was Eddie and at the far end was Doug, the Spirits Manager for Berry Brothers & Rudd no less. Berry Brothers had been a stop on my St James’s walk in the Christmas Holidays. They are Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant and have been trading from the same shop in St James’s Street for over 300 years. They also produce Cutty Sark Whisky. Doug had some very interesting stories to tell and I felt privileged to meet someone who worked there although he was partial to telling some rather terrible jokes.

It got better. To my left was David who was a very jovial Scottish man and was determined to guess all the Scottish whiskies correctly. The theme was Japan v. Scotland and it was very hard. He said he lived in St James’s so I was really impressed with that fact. It turned out that he worked for a member of the Royal Family.

After the tasting we went down to the ground floor bar which had on my previous visit after my St James’s walk been filled with Freemasons and drunk Monopoly pub crawl participants. This time, on a Monday evening, everyone (apart from me) was a local. They were all very friendly and welcoming especially David’s wife.

By meeting these people I feel that I have entered into the world of St James’s which I would have thought would never be accessible to me. I had never even considered that a pub like the Red Lion would have locals or regulars. I will definitely return.

And interestingly after at least 6 glasses of whisky I had no hangover the next morning.