“The wrong dram could put [a new whisky drinker] off for life. Whisky is my passion and I want other people to love it too.” – Mandy Silver.
Mandy Silver is the owner of the Curly Coo Bar in Stirling, Scotland.
The bar has twice been voted the World’s Best, the first time when it was in its previous location in Crieff, and the second time in 2014, shortly after Mandy relocated it to Stirling.
In this Whisky Women interview, Mandy tells of how she came to love whisky, what drams she’d have on a desert island, and what are the challenges of being a bar owner.
How did you first get into whisky?
I lived in the Highlands for a number of years, and was introduced to the world of malt Whiskies. Most bars up there have a fairly decent selection of drams and I thought it would be rude not to try them!
What was one of the first whiskies you fell in love with?
Mmmm that is quite difficult. I’ve enjoyed many but my first love was Ardbeg Corryvreckan. That was the start of my adventure with smokey peaty whiskies.
How did you go on to start your own bar?
I’d been in the trade for many years being licensee and managing bars for other people, and I decided it was time to work for myself. I needed a USP, and chose whisky. I opened the Coo with six bottles of malt and called it a Whisky Bar! I can remember when I got my first drinks delivery, it was nerve-wracking having spent so much of my own money!
Your bar was voted best whisky bar in the world when you were in Crieff. How did you feel?
I was so excited and proud! My poor customers, I drove everybody mad – asking them if they had voted. I didn’t think I had much chance – ‘a Wee Whisky Bar in Crieff’ against global whisky bars. But I was proven wrong, and very grateful to all those who voted for me. I went onto winning again in 2014 with my Stirling bar. I was amazed and very grateful to supporters in Stirling as I had only been open four months.
You’ve relocated from Crieff to Stirling. Tell me about that…
That was a heart wrenching experience. Sadly the building was put up for sale and I had to leave. I looked for six months before I was able to find anything. Ideally I wanted to return to the Highlands, but it wasn’t to be! I’m very lucky with the new Coo. It’s a traditional bar with lovely features and is really cosy. It took about six months to build up new Coo regulars but word of mouth has been fantastic here and I now have lovely people supporting the bar.
When I came to Stirling, I hadn’t given the University much thought! I love being in a Uni town and have had so much support from students and workers alike. I also didn’t realise I would be Stirling’s only whisky bar.
What is the most challenging part of being a bar owner?
I run a very tight ship, but refusing entry or cutting off a person’s drink can be unpleasant. Thankfully this is not something I have to deal with often.
Do you think more women could or should be in whisky?
I don’t think anybody should work in an industry because of their gender! If woman want to work in the whisky world, yes go ahead. It’s a great industry.
You meet someone who has never had whisky: how do you get them to fall in love with it?
I really get excited when somebody comes into the Coo for their first dram. I always have a chat with them first, checking if they are expecting something smooth or smoky, and so on. The wrong dram could put them off for life. Whisky is my passion and I want other people to love it too.
Desert Island Drams: what three would you take with you and why?
So hard to choose,I like so many. (Really, I don’t have a drink problem!!)
24 Fettercairn would have to be with me – ‘silk in a glass’
Ardbeg Corryvreckan – my first love of smoky Whiskies
Bruichladdich Octomore Comus 4.2/167ppm – sublime
What’s one of your favourite memories involving whisky?
Holding my first ‘Wee Whisky Fest’ at the Coo in Crieff in 2011.