Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…
Our story starts in the early eighties with the birth of three young boys who would go on to become great friends. Despite following very different academic and career paths en route, they built Master of Malt together and became fellow travellers on a mission.
Two of these boys, Justin and Ben, were born on exactly the same day so were, literally, friends in the crib. The third, Tom, would cross their paths as a seven year old.
The years passed with scraped knees, hair-raising escapades, and all the usual trials of youth; until, as happens with all youngsters, their tastes and temptations became altogether more adult. We’re talking, of course, about the wonders of the grape and the grain. We’re talking about booze.
It wasn’t long before these blossoming adolescents shunned the world of commodity lager, and developed an interest in fine spirits – single malt whisky in particular. This journey of discovery was made so much easier by virtue of Justin’s family having a close relationship with a whisky shop based in nearby Tunbridge Wells – Master of Malt.
Master of Malt originally started trading in 1985 as an independent bottler, fulfilling orders for single malt whiskies from the world’s best distilleries (something we still do, to award-winning effect) via mail order (we don’t do this anymore, thanks to the advent of the interwebs).
From there, Master of Malt opened a physical store and expanded its range. The store had a small but loyal customer base, but was pretty parochial compared to modern day MoM. As the friends entered their twenties they followed different paths – academic pursuits, careers and relationships – but remained very close friends, and started to devise plans to build a business together.
In the early 2000s Justin Petszaft (now the MD of our parent group, Atom Group), was looking for an excuse to develop some web design skills while studying a masters in theoretical physics. He found that opportunity in Master of Malt and developed our first ever website. Over time he started running the day-to-day Master of Malt operations, and eventually acquired the business. The shop was closed and MoM (nickname of Master of Malt – geddit?) was taken entirely online. Trade remained relatively modest for a number of years but, thanks to a relentless focus on improving our technology and service, soon started to scale impressively.
These green shoots of potential were enough for Justin to make Master of Malt his mission, and so he set about rallying others to the cause.
“Come join me in my shed. We’ll create the future. I have kebabs…”
Fast forward to 2009 and Master of Malt saw investment in two significant ways: people and technology. Specifically, Justin coaxed two childhood friends, Tom McGuinness (current MD of Master of Malt) and Ben Ellefsen (currently a director of our parent, Atom Group) away from their blossoming careers to work in a tin shed, on a farm, in the middle of the Sussex countryside. (Names ring a bell? That’s because they are the very same friends from the start of the story).
12 months later there was a complete relaunch of our website – completely coded from scratch (we couldn’t find a platform with the flexibility to allow us to do exactly what we wanted to do).