A story 270 years in the making
Giacomo Justerini, the son of a Bolognian distiller, is drawn to London by Margherita Bellino, an Italian soprano. He meets George Johnson—a willing investor — and the two form ‘Johnson & Justerini: purveyors of liquors, wines and spirits,’ running their offices from No. 2 Pall Mall, where we remained until 1954.
Giacomo, after a short spell in London, sells Johnson & Justerini to George Johnson before retiring back to Italy. George then makes his grandson, Augustus, a partner at the company. Johnson & Justerini continues to build relationships with growers and suppliers throughout Europe including Bordeaux, Cadiz, Mayence, Reims, Genoa, Dijon, and Palermo.
Augustus delivers the wines for both King George III’s Coronation and the Royal Wedding. He is given the title of the new Monarch’s wine merchant. Justerini & Brooks has been granted the Royal Warrant ever since.
Johnson & Justerini is an early champion of German wines. In 1775 the first official ‘Spätlese’ or late-gathering harvest takes place. This sets a style for German wines that remains, to this day, one of its finest trademarks.
George Johnson dies suddenly after his sedan chair is overturned by a runaway horse in Piccadilly just 36 years after founding Johnson & Justerini.
The Opera House on Pall Mall burns to the ground leaving our offices with significant fire damage. Despite this, Augustus’ son—Augustus II—is made partner thanks to his heroic efforts tackling the flames.
Following the discovery of secondary fermentation and advances in glass technology, Champagne (in its sparkling form) is successfully imported to England for the first time.
King George III dies succeeded by his son George IV. Augustus Johnson II carries on stocking the King’s cellars, delivering up to seven wagonloads of liquor at any one time.
Augustus sells Johnson & Justerinis to Alfred Brooks. Brooks takes control of the company and changes the name from Johnson & Justerini, to Justerini & Brooks.
The 1855 Classification ranks the most revered Chateaux of the Medoc – a system that has remained relevant to this day. Lafite, Margaux, Latour and Haut-Brion became the most prestigious ‘First Growths’.
Queen Victoria is proclaimed Empress of India and the whole subcontinent is brought within the sphere of British commerce. Justerini & Brooks is quick to spot the commercial opportunity, securing the custom of many of the reigning Princes.
For the first time, Scots are allowed to bottle their own whisky for shipment to England and other markets.
The first evidence of the Phylloxera bug is witnessed in the Rhône. This pesky little fly would ravish European vineyards in the last quarter of the 19th century and would change viticultural practices forevermore.
Justerini & Brooks establishes an office in New York and begins trading.
For the second time, the adjoining Opera House burns down. Justerini & Brooks' offices at No. 2 are flooded with water from the fire hoses and everything in it is covered with soot and ash. Despite this, we continue to conduct business from the premises.
Alfred Brooks hands over the company to his son-in-law William Cole, in 1876. This is the last great pre-phylloxera vintage from Bordeaux. The UK’s love affair with Claret blossoms. Cole finances the laying-down of great stocks of young wines, which he views as essential to the success of any wine merchant’s business.
Justerini & Brooks is among the first of the London merchants to acquire old bonded stocks of whisky in Scotland. They establish their own blend and, for half a century, their ‘Club’ Scotch does not alter.
William Cole sells Justerini & Brooks to Anderson & Newbiggin, just before his death in 1889. Alfred, William’s son, inherits his father’s flair for finance and takes the role as director of the Bank of England, later becoming Governor.
Justerini & Brooks’ specially curated vintage Champagne, ‘Sarcey,’ is dispatched to King Edward VII.
With space at a premium in London, Justerini & Brooks begins offering a cellarage service to customers, laying down wines and storing them free of charge.
Justerini & Brooks director Eddie Tatham travels to Prohibition America. He spots the enormous opportunity for blended Scotch, and J&B Rare is created specifically with this market in mind.
J&B Rare whisky is blended and offered for sale for the first time.
Justerini & Brooks employs Colonel Ronnie Lambert of the Grenadier Guards, who, having tasted most vintages of all the important Chateaux dating back to the 1860s, provides unrivalled insight into the development of new vintages.
The first delivery of J&B Rare is sent to Paddington for distribution to America.
Pre-war wines begin to fetch up to 20 times their original value at public auction, but goodwill means more to Justerini & Brooks than immediate profits, and every bottle stored goes to its customers at 1939 prices.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (and the creation of Coronation Chicken).
After 205 years at No. 2 Pall Mall (The Colonnade), we move offices to Bond Street. An office at No. 31 Holborn Viaduct is also acquired, proving to be a great location for customers who work in the City and want to collect wine on their return from work.
Justerini & Brooks ships one million cases of whisky for export, thanks to the mastermind (and Chairman of The Royal Bank of Scotland) Sir Kenneth Murray. The 1961 Bordeaux vintage is born. It will go on to represent a benchmark of quality that won’t be surpassed for the rest of the millennium.
On May 14th, Justerini & Brooks amalgamate with the world-famous firm of W & A Gilbey, taking the name of International Distillers and Vintners (IDV). This brings to the group an important interest in a number of world-renowned brands, the leader being Justerini & Brooks’ own J&B Rare Scotch whisky.
Justerini & Brooks’ first Edinburgh office is set up under the directorship of Ian de Sales la Terriere and is highly successful, expanding the business through Scottish private customers, restaurants, and hotels.
The introduction of VAT, duty increases, and inflation lead to an almost unprecedented wine slump. On the upside, 1966 sees an extremely good vintage in Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as a ‘vintage’ declaration from leading shippers of port. Geoffrey Jameson, Managing Director, is appointed Clerk of the Royal Cellars—an honorary advisory post.
Justerini & Brooks makes its biggest annual shipment of whisky – two million cases. The wine side of the business relocates to St James’s Street, while the whisky side moves to York Gate, Regents Park. Dick Bridgeman is appointed as Buying Director.
1970 sees a rare Bordeaux vintage that combines quality and quantity. Justerini & Brooks writes of its ‘great confidence in the wines,’ (Leoville-Barton did not seem overpriced at £3.48 per bottle, despite talk of the fine wine market becoming ‘overheated’).
Mouton Rothschild is promoted to the ranks of the ‘First Growths’ and Pablo Picasso adorns the label. Alas, the vintage doesn’t live up to the historic milestone.
Inflation and interest rates prevent the financing of stocks. In hindsight, this was perhaps no bad thing – there weren’t many memorable vintages in the 70s. Hew Blair joins Justerini & Brooks and remembers his first two years with the company as being so quiet that the telephone hardly rang.
The Managing Director of Justerini & Brooks, Geoffrey Jameson, opens up Hong Kong as a sales market with a series of large dinners and events for private customers, hosted at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.
John Kelly, the Cellar-man at Justerini & Brooks, is responsible for selecting the port that guests drink at lunch. The rules for the Port Game are as follows: At the end of the meal a decanter of Vintage Port is produced and guests are asked to put down £2 in a pool as an ‘entrance fee’. They are then asked to judge the Port and name a vintage and a shipper. If they get the vintage right, they take the money; if the shipper, they receive a bottle of the port. If nobody gets the vintage, the money goes to charity.
The ‘Robert Parker Influence’ takes hold of the market. His new marking system gains rapid popularity, and, along with the 1982 vintage, heralds a new era for buying and selling in Bordeaux.
Geoffrey Jameson retires as Managing Director and is succeeded by Geoffrey Gibbon.
Hew Blair pioneers the Justerini & Brooks Burgundy En Primeur tasting in London. We are the first British merchant to bring over and display barrel samples to private customers, starting with the Burgundy 1990 vintage.
Justerini & Brooks launches a new programme ‘J&B Care for the Rare’, a worldwide initiative to save rare and endangered species from extinction. One of the first projects saw the reintroduction of a breeding pair of black rhinos into Malawi, one named ‘Justerini’ and the other ‘Brooks’.
Justerini & Brooks establishes a broking department, allowing customers to sell wines stored in their Cellars. Meanwhile, the Queen Mother visits us for lunch.
Justerini & Brooks receives the Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1997 as Wine & Spirits Merchants.
The Queen Mother celebrates her 100th birthday. She attends a lunch in our private dining room held in her honour.
Justerini & Brooks is appointed as exclusive agents for the UK and Singapore for Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair.
Queen Elizabeth II marks her Golden Jubilee of 50 years of rule. The Queen Mother dies aged 101.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever reigning British monarch
Hew Blair is appointed chairman of Justerini & Brooks.
This incredible Bordeaux vintage marks our largest primeur campaign to date. Robert Parker later awards the vintage 20 perfect 100-point wines.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Bordeaux’s 2010 crop trumps that of 2009.
Hew Blair is appointed President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, whilst also sitting on the Buckingham Palace Wine Committee.
Chadwick Delaney becomes Managing Director of Justerini & Brooks, having been Sales Director since 2003. Justerini & Brooks began to be increasingly known among the estates as focussed on servicing the top collectors around the world. Giles Burke - Gaffney is appointed as Buying Director.
In 2013 Justerini & Brooks reinitiated its sponsorships within the world of polo.
Justerini & Brooks is proud to be appointed UK distributors for both Chateau Lafleur and Petrus on the same day. And later also appointed as official distributors of Chateau Lafleur for Singapore.
A Luxury whisky team was created within Justerini & Brooks, selling single casks of Scotch whisky to private collectors. Justerini & Brooks reignite their links to conservation by partnering with Tusk Trust for its 25th anniversary.
Justerini & Brooks celebrates 25 years of Burgundy En Primeur tastings. 2016 also marks the 40th anniversary of Geoffrey Jameson’s inaugural series of Hong Kong dinners held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and Justerini & Brooks’ 150th anniversary since setting up office in New York.
Justerini & Brooks celebrate their 270th Anniversary year
A cask of Brora 1972 was sold for a record breaking £2.4m.
In October 2021 Chadwick Delaney stepped down from Justerini & Brooks and was succeeded by Caoimhe McCabe.
In July 2022 Hew Blair stepped down from Justerini & Brooks as Honorary Chairman.
Justerini & Brooks’ Buyers continue to maintain and develop relationships with suppliers around the globe. We are proud to represent some of the leading winemakers and Chateaux, including Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Petrus, Lafleur, Bruno Clair, Didier Dagueneau, J L Chave, J. J. Prum, Domaine Weinbach, Elio Altare, and Harlan Estate. Investing time, getting to know our growers, understanding their philosophies, their vineyards and how they unlock potential in the terroir they farm is essential to our buying process. It’s a process built on 270 years of service. Here’s to many more years to come.