I’m not a shopper, but I don’t half love shopping for food. Or drink. Or kitchenwares. This does mean two things – my nearest and dearest always expect some form of comestible as a presents, and I have a tendency to get a little over excited when purchasing.
My flatmate hit a ‘scary age’ last week, and therefore the purchase of alcohol was necessary on this occasion – luckily for her Edinburgh has some of the finest booze shops this side of the border.
One of my favourite shops in town is ‘Demijohn’. I discovered it while out shopping with my mum shortly after I moved to Edinburgh. We’d started at the bottom of the Grassmarket on Castle Terrace, where we’d got carried away at the Edinburgh Farmer’s market, and wound our way up the hill towards Victoria Street towards home. Victoria Street, despite its slightly random location, has some of the best independent shops in town. Demijohn is towards the top – past the knitting shop and the one with the exciting dresses, perched in a row along with Mellis’ Cheesemonger and Oink!, a shop I’m sorry to say I’ve never been in, but judging by the queues and amazing whole roasted pig in the window, I need to get my chops around one of their hog roast rolls.
The concept of Demijohn is simple, and I think that’s part of the reason why I love it so much. Even the name is pretty simple really. A demijohn is the vessel used to brew wine, mead or beer, but it’s also the name given to the vessels that liquids are stored in. It also describes pretty succinctly what the shop contains – shelves full colourful globes of delicious liqueurs, golden oils and dark vinegars, each with a small rubber tube and valve to allow the liquid to flow out and a hand written description.
There are two things that make this shop so wonderful – the produce (all British, championing small producers, specialist products and unusual ideas) and the staff. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and happy to advise. I once went in to buy a British version of Limoncello – they didn’t have any lemon liqueurs but they did have a lime vodka and a grapefruit gin, and I was provided with a slurp of each without even asking to help me decide. The same happened last week when I went in to buy my flatmate’s present. I’d had a gander on their website and was fairly sure that I was going to get her the chocolate orange crème liqueur, but they didn’t have any left on display. I was offered a taste of a caramel instead, while a member of staff went off to rummage and see if they had any remnants in the store room. He came back waving a container, saying rather apologetically there was only just enough left at the bottom for a 250ml serving “if that was ok”. Not just ok, but marvellous – there’s decent customer service for you.
The packaging of the gift was beautiful. I’d brought an old bottle, bought on a previous visit. They (reasonably enough) ask that you buy one of their containers, but when you have one you’re welcome to bring it back to be refilled whenever you want – all you pay then is for the contents. Nice way to encourage return visits and recycling. The contents of the bottle are written on the side using a white marker pen, stopped up with a cork and wrapped using white tissue and raffia. They look lovely– but nowhere near as good as they taste!
Demijohn, 32 Victoria Street, EH1
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