EVERYTHING ABOUT BERRY BROS. & RUDD’S showroom in St James’s Street, London, suggests tradition. The walls are panelled in dark oak. Leather-bound volumes record “the weights of customers of this establishment” from 1765 onwards, sitting alongside a set of weights from a time when the shop sold coffee rather than alcohol. Simon Berry represents the 7th generation of Berrys to run the company, and he looks the part. Sitting in a small office with a roaring fire (gas, alas) and an old-fashioned rotary-dial phone, he talks about the company’s Cutty Sark brand of whisky being blended on the table in front of him.

But Mr Berry is not just resting on the company’s laurels. He is working hard to expand his family patrimony, particularly in China</strong>, where wine-drinking is booming, but also in America. He has a state-of-the-art cellar for 2m bottles in Basingstoke, near London, and another 6.3m bottles at other sites. The neatly dressed shop assistants tap away on computers kept discreetly out of sight. They have all been sent on acting courses to polish their customer service. His father, Mr Berry recalls, liked to say, “it’s only money.” Today family firms come with a harder edge.