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Our History

Our History

A story 270 years in the making

Founded in 1749, and awarded the Royal Warrant by every consecutive British monarch since King George III in 1761, Justerini & Brooks is Britain's oldest continuous fine wine & spirits merchant. Aside from our Royal patrons, we can also count Charles Dickens as one of our former customers.

Plotting the full history of a 270-year-old merchant would make for a very long read indeed! So instead, here is the abridged version: a timeline of the major events that have shaped our company and made us who we are today:

A Timeline: The History of Justerini & Brooks

Located in London’s West End for more than 270 years, and awarded the Royal Warrant by every consecutive British monarch since King George III (1761); Justerinis boasts a rich history. Aside from our Royal patrons, we can also count Charles Dickens as one of our former customers.

Plotting the unabridged history of a 270 year old merchant is unfeasible, but we have charted a timeline of some of the major events that have shaped our company and the Wine Trade in general.

1749

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.

1760

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.

1761

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.

1775

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.

1785

George Johnson dies suddenly after his sedan chair is overturned by a runaway horse in Piccadilly just 36 years after founding Johnson & Justerini.

1790

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.

1802

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.

1820

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.

1831

Augustus sells Johnson & Justerinis to Alfred Brooks. Brooks takes control of the company and changes the name from Johnson & Justerini, to Justerini & Brooks.

1855

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’.

1858

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.

1860

For the first time, Scots are allowed to bottle their own whisky for shipment to England and other markets.

1863

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.

1866

Justerini & Brooks establishes an office in New York and begins trading.

1867

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.

1870

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.

1884

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.

1889

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.

1908

Justerini & Brooks’ specially curated vintage Champagne, ‘Sarcey,’ is dispatched to King Edward VII.

1914

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.

1930

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.

1932

J&B Rare whisky is blended and offered for sale for the first time.

1934

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.

1936

The first delivery of J&B Rare is sent to Paddington for distribution to America.

1944

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.

1953

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (and the creation of Coronation Chicken).

1954

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.

1961

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.

1962

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.

1963

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.

1966

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.

1969

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

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’).

1973

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.

1974

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.

1976

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.

1980

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.

1984

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.

1985

Geoffrey Jameson retires as Managing Director and is succeeded by Geoffrey Gibbon.

1990

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.

1992

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’.

1995

Justerini & Brooks establishes a broking department, allowing customers to sell wines stored in their Cellars. Meanwhile, the Queen Mother visits us for lunch.

1997

Justerini & Brooks receives the Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1997 as Wine & Spirits Merchants.

2000

The Queen Mother celebrates her 100th birthday. She attends a lunch in our private dining room held in her honour.

2001

Justerini & Brooks is appointed as exclusive agents for the UK and Singapore for Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair.

2002

Queen Elizabeth II marks her Golden Jubilee of 50 years of rule. The Queen Mother dies aged 101.

2007

Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever reigning British monarch

2008

Hew Blair is appointed chairman of Justerini & Brooks.

2009

This incredible Bordeaux vintage marks our largest primeur campaign to date. Robert Parker later awards the vintage 20 perfect 100-point wines.

2010

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Bordeaux’s 2010 crop trumps that of 2009.

2011

Hew Blair is appointed President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, whilst also sitting on the Buckingham Palace Wine Committee.

2012

Chadwick Delaney becomes Managing Director of Justerini & Brooks, having been Sales Director since 2003. Giles Burke-Gaffney is appointed as Buying Director.

2014

Justerini & Brooks is proud to be appointed UK distributors for Chateau Lafleur and Petrus.

2015

We reignite our links to conservation by partnering with Tusk Trust for its 25th anniversary.

2016

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.

2019

We celebrate our 270th anniversary year.

Today

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.