About us

1796, The Port of Leith was thriving, taking advantage of the strong links with Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Douro to develop and expand the import of wine into the now, United Kingdom. Elsewhere, the first US President George Washington gives his farewell speech, Robbie Burns has sadly died and Napoleon is making a thorough nuisance of himself with the Austrians.

Robert Cockburn felt the time was right to start his own wine business and 200 odd years later, it appears he made the right decision. Cockburns of Leith is now the oldest wine merchant in Scotland.

Cockburns has had many famous customers over the years, among them Sir Walter Scott, a friend of Robert Cockburn, who ordered 350 dozen bottles of wine and 36 dozen of spirits. In 1822 the company was awarded a Royal Warrant after supplying wines to King George IV for a state banquet.

In 1886 Charles Dickens bought a cask of whisky from us to celebrate New Year. It cost him the grand sum of only £35 and 8 shillings! Next year brings a multitude of international events to mark the 200th birthday of this celebrated writer and we look forward to releasing a very special wine for the occasion.

Billy Birse-Stewart

Managing Director

Billy Bell Birse-Stewart is one of the best known wine expert in the Scottish trade today. He entered the wine trade in the seventies through Scottish Brewers where he passed most of his wine exams. However it was while working with Sichel of London that he managed to gain a pass in the practical side of the Master of Wine, a first for a Scot based in Scotland. Billy’s experience and knowledge is far reaching having visited most wine regions of the world, normally with his kilt and bagpipes in tow. One Australian winemaker told us a year after Billy had been invited to play a good luck tune for his new vineyard, that along with luck he had also unfortunately a fine crop of ’ thistles’ which he also put down to the pipes!

Tom Gilbey

Fine Wine Expert

Tom Gilbey’s family have been involved in the Wine & Spirit industry for many years and he has spent the past 25 years working in the Scottish trade selling to Hotels, Restaurants and Private Customers. He has visited and worked in many of the world’s wine producing regions and has a particular interest in Bordeaux where his family once owned Chateau Loudenne in the Medoc. With Cockburn’s of Leith, Scotland’s oldest wine merchant, he is delighted to bring this experience to bear so that its great range of wines backed up by both good advice and service ensures that a first class glass of wine reaches our customers table.

Ian Macphail

Business Development Manager

Ian’s involvement in the wine industry goes back some 32 years. His first job was working for Cockburns of Leith as a cellar boy, where he learned the great traditions of Cockburns and the historical nature of the business. It was always drummed into him from those very early days that service was the key to building lasting relationships with customers, a belief that he still holds to this day. Ian moved on to work with JE Hogg in Cumberland Street where he learned the industry, inside out, from Jim. He returned to Cockburns of Leith in the year 2000 where he became Sales Director and shortly rose to Managing Director and owner. In 2010 he was responsible for steering the business into the Wine Importers umbrella of companies to ensure that the traditions of personal service and excellent wine selection were continued.

Daniel Thain

Customer Services Manager

As Customer Services Manager now for Cockburns of Leith, Daniel’s role involves providing a quality service to the customer and he ensures that orders go out correctly and in a timely fashion. Please feel free to call him with any question, issue or concerns about an order. He has spent most of his life in Edinburgh, attending Fettes College and University in Edinburgh, where he obtained a BA (Hons) in Business & Marketing Management. Before working with Cockburns of Leith, Daniel spent some time as Beverage Manager & Head Sommelier for the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai. He also worked in the role of Marketing & Events Manager for a Wine Company in Bahrain.

In his spare time he enjoys Cricket and Rugby or Eton Fives.