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How a chance meeting led this local lad to a £50k investment in Inverness whisky bar


By Emma Harrison

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Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson
Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson

When Matt Macpherson graduated with a degree in accountancy and finance in 2014, he could have never predicted that he would own his own whisky bar just a few years down the line. On a trip to visit his sister Karen in a hospital in London in 2016, Matt ended up with more than he could ever imagine – an offer on the table for a £50,000 investment to support his dream of owning and running a whisky bar in the capital of the Highlands. Bringing visitors to the area as well as local whisky enthusiasts, this cosy, nectar-filled bar has been an asset to our city and its offerings. Matt raises a glass (or dram) to support local distilleries in the area as well as Scotland-wide, but where and when did The Malt Room story begin? Here, Matt tells us in his own words…

Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson
Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson

In 2016, my sister Karen sadly suffered a back injury. She was living in London at the time, and I flew down to visit her in hospital. She was going to be in for some time, and I needed a place to stay to give me space from my parents, who were also visiting. I applied for a ‘long stay’ in a local Airbnb but my request was sadly denied. After a long email explaining my situation, the owners kindly agreed to meet me. Naturally, I headed over with a couple of beers and they agreed to let me stay for a short time. I started to get to know the couple, Alex and Pri some more. We got on really well which was a huge relief as I wanted to support my sister, as well as give myself some time to decide what to do next with my career.

On night three, over a few drinks, Alex asked me what I wanted to do. Sharing my dream, I explained how I’d love to open a whisky bar in Inverness. To my surprise, Alex asked if I’d like to see his whisky collection. I couldn’t believe it – he had hundreds of whiskies stored. I remember him commenting that “there must be hundreds of whisky bars in Inverness” and with a smile on my face I replied: “There are none.” Pri was pregnant at the time and it was late, so we decided to call it a night and pick up the conversation another time.

Pri and Alex.
Pri and Alex.

I walked through to the kitchen in the morning, sheepishly. To my surprise, the couple had started to look at places to rent in Inverness and offered to assist me in opening up a bar in Inverness. I was shocked, surprised and overwhelmed all at the same time. If this were to go ahead there was a lot of work to be done. As I’d just finished my finance degree, I had experience in working out the funding needed for a start-up like this. I was about to put four years of hard work to the test, all at the same time as pursuing my dream, bingo! With building works, licensing, and everything that goes with it, we projected the start-up would be close to £50,000. Alex and Pri nodded their heads, and The Malt Rooms dream had begun.

Two strangers had put trust and faith in me, what an opportunity.

Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson
Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson

I’m happy to say this story ended well. Karen left hospital after a few months and was energised and eager to help me with my new venture as a whisky bar owner. Karen is a 3D designer and worked on the design for The Malt Room bar area. To be honest, it's all been a bit of a family affair! My mum comes to clean the tea towels for us, my gran regularly cuts and arranges the flowers for the tables, and dad is our odd job guy and can usually be found polishing the brass on the doors.

Since opening the Malt Room, Alex and Pri also decided to support another local business, Perk Coffee + Doughnuts and I decided to investment in it too. As a friend, Nicole, who runs Perk, was desperate to open an artisan food outlet in the city, and I wanted to assist in continuing to make Church Street a great place to visit. We often work with Perk to offer cocktail and doughnut nights which have been really well attended. This is something for locals as well as tourists. The door is always open for everyone.

Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson
Matt Macpherson. Picture: Grant Anderson

We have also opened Moonshine in the newly refurbished Victorian Market, offering beers, cocktails and wines to takeaway or drink-in. I wanted to support the local food providers and drink producers to make the space sociable. The exciting news is that we are opening Inverness Whisky, a specialist whisky shop, this July selling independent bottles, as well as offering wholesale whisky menus for neighbouring businesses. We are really excited about this project and would love locals to pop down and see what it’s all about.

Life has never been the same since meeting Alex and Pri and I will be forever grateful. I’m really proud to have this bar on offer for everyone in Inverness and I’m delighted with how this story has panned out so far.


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