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!

130 years later, Dickens’s novels prevail and so does Cockburns of Leith!

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!

Charlie Shentall

Private Client Sales

Charlie has been involved in wines for most of his life, his family owned Kinloch House Hotel in Perthshire for over 20 years and whose winelist extended to 16 house wines and over 300 other bins, he was  also the Managing Director of Irvine Robertson Wines before it was bought by Wine Importers. He has returned to develop our client relationships and build on the excellent work Tom Gilbey has achieved, bringing his considerable experience to help Cockburns of Leith clients find interesting and exciting, reasonably priced wines.

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.

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