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The Gist:

Whitmore & White pride themselves on delivering quality, first and foremost, aspiring to provide the best of everything local, regional and international. Expect a range of tantalisingly fresh deli offerings, from fine cheeses, olives, and cured meats to chutneys, pasta sauces and gin garnishes – a perfect stop-off for taking your picnic to the next level, wowing guests at your wine evening and invigorating your palate. They stock a huge range of wine and spirits (an absolute must for any gin-fiend). Rush here if you’re looking to put an expertly considered gift hamper together, want to book onto one of the intimate tastings held in the cellar, or to hear more about their pop up events in Chester venues. It’s a cosy cove of unique and delectable finds, all carefully sourced, provoking the adult equivalent of feeling like a kid in a sweet shop.

At Their Best:

With their own gin, two preserves and coffee beans, W&W are working with local producers to make the most of their expertise and knowledge of what customers really want. Their gin is made by The Wirral Distillery – a six-month development process resulted in subtle notes of cubeb pepper, jasmine and pink grapefruit. This slightly citric gin can be drunk alone over ice or paired with your favourite tonic.

Their upcoming wine tasting event at Chester Cathedral (20th September) will hopefully be something to look forward to every autumn – an annual showcase from the majority of their wine suppliers. Sample around 150 wines and spirits from twenty suppliers in a truly atmospheric location with a live jazz band. Tickets are only £15 and can be purchased here. There will also be an opportunity to check out their customisable hampers – did someone say perfect Christmas gift idea?

Put together well, a bespoke hamper always goes down a treat. The team often get requests to dress up a bottle of gin as a gift (which they do so with savoury snacks intended to complement the good ol’ g&t, gin truffles, dried orange slices and gin glasses) but they’re on hand to put something sensational together for even the most discerning – and from their entire product range. Trust me, Tom, Manager of the Chester store, really knows his stuff, what with having the miserable job of researching and familiarising himself with the stock.

They’re happy to head out and host tastings in other venues and regularly run private tastings in their beautiful cellar (for 8+ ideally).

Trending:

Rather than second guessing what the next trend will be, W&W pay close attention to their customers. ‘In 48hrs you can get asked ten times about something no one’s ever asked for before – it comes out of nowhere. Then we discover, oh this one’s Nigella’s fault! We find it, and get it in. We can react to a need immediately.’

Earlier on in the year, it was all about pomegranate molasses and Mexican food, off the back of Rick Steins Mexican odyssey. Preserved lemons have been selling like hotcakes (and would probably go well with them) but sales are now trailing off. Aside from their core range of things like fine cheeses and crackers, the stock is always in flux. And when not inspired by a budding trend, W&W regularly shake things up anyway, keen to introduce new brands and flavours to the eclectic mix.

They’ve certainly answered the demand for vegan and gluten-free products. Their top organic, vegan wine is Bobal (‘…aromas of ripe red seasonal fruit: cherries, blackberries, blackcurrant, subtle hints of violets, rosemary and a touch of black pepper.’). Goupie chocolates are another hit, especially the date and walnut variety and the pies are a delicious marvel (the pastry is also dairy free, egg free and soy free) from The Gluten Free Pie Company.

Every week they sell out of crunchy carrot relish from Chilli Gourmet (based in Heswall) and they’re keen for customers to check out Jeffrey’s tonic, new in stock and Chester-based – ‘It’s great and it’s different. When we can do local and quality – we do.’

A Quick Slice:

Tom’s favourite products include Rabitos chocolates; Spanish, brandy truffles inside dried figs, enrobed in dark chocolate. He’s also recently published a blog about Reid and Reid gin – writing, ‘I’ve shown it at many gin tastings this year and it’s almost always the favourite of the evening.’

We also talk about amble writer Emma’s fanatical opinion of Garden Tiger gin (find a link to her gin tasting review here.) Tom tells me, ‘It ties into W&W – unique but undoubtedly quality, and not something you’ll get on a supermarket shelf. It’s a small production item distilled in the makers back garden, containing 34 different botanicals, most of which are foraged from around the Cotswolds. His idea was to distil a season of the Cotswolds. It’s proved hugely popular with our customers.’ And staff, by the sounds of it.

For Joe, it’s all about the Italian reds – especially Millefiori. ‘Full of fruit, rich and smooth but not dry – suits lots of different foods but has a unique character and the bottle is beautiful). Then there’s the have-to-experience green olive jam by La Chinata, and their range of extra virgin olive oil cosmetics, which receive rave reviews. W&W is one of only two groups that import La Chinata into the UK, so if you’re seeking unique (be it for your skin or dining table), seek no further.

The Story:

Since launching in 2014, Whitemore & White have gone on to open a branch a year and can now be found in Heswall, Frodsham, West Kirby, and, thank God, Chester.

Owners Joe and Jamie were very much taken with the delis they discovered during a  visit to Spain. Realising there was nothing similar and local to them back in Cheshire, they decided to seize the gap and recreate the experience of tasting and discovering great food and drink. A friend in the wine trade was inspired to join in, and the vision grew from there. Jamie still runs a construction company restoring old buildings, but Joe’s sidelined his career as an ecologist, to focus on providing customers with tasty treats from far, wide and talented, local makers.

Initially, the plan was just retail and tastings, but over time they’ve been able to add more – focusing on experiences and cultivating their own product line. All food provided at tasting events can be purchased in store, and they also serve drinks by the glass, opening late on a Friday and Saturday night for anyone looking for a chilled hideaway.

Chester felt like a natural, central point to it all after setting their sights on a city. Feeling like the competition was limited and the market strong (who doesn’t enjoy the occasional scrumptious platter), they moved into Godstall Lane. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive – with customers chuffed that a great need has been met.

Looking Forward:

Realising it can take a while to get the right mix, with different things selling well in different locations, W&W bring back products they’ve dismissed from other stores and see if they work well with a clean slate. They’ll let Chester decide what it finds tasty and wants to commit to.

They’re also excited to start working with local independents, collaborating and creating cross-over events such as wine dinners etc. ‘Everyone on the high street is finding it hard – we need to work together and promote each other. We also want to keep it fun and not put on stuffy wine tastings. Day-to-day retail isn’t enough anymore – you need to give people an experience and a personable service.’

To stay in the know about their tasting evenings keep an eye on their Twitter, Facebook and Website. Don’t worry, we’ll be shouting from the rooftops about them too (somewhat tipsily I imagine).

Getting There:

Godstall Lane (off Werburgh Street) is easily my favourite off the beaten track part of Chester and sees W&W settle amongst other top haunts, like Metronome and The Cheshire Sandwich Company. It’s especially magical at night, with the glowing lights strung overhead. Find W&W at 4 Godstall Lane, Chester, CH1 1LN and come hungry. Don’t be shy – request a quick peek at the cellar, a space worthy of an exclusive celebration.