Whisky enthusiasts young and old can now spoil themselves on their favourite tipple as the UK’s largest whisky specialist has set up shop in the heart of Manchester.
Following the success of their flagship store in London last year, The Whisky Shop has now opened its 22 store in Manchester’s busy retail area on Exchange Street – just a stone’s throw away from Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
Beautifully presented, with countless whiskies displayed in glass cabinets around the store, the shop boasts everything from traditional single malt Scotch, American bourbon and rye to Japanese brews such as Hibiki and Yamazaki.
Colin Dunn, a whisky ambassador for the alcohol giant Diageo and one of The Whisky Shop’s suppliers, spent a portion of his career working for Suntory, the maker of Yamazaki.
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He said: “When I was working in Japan at Yamazaki, west of Kyoto, I said to the distillery manager, ‘How do you take your whisky?’ Thinking I might get some kind of Zen moment that I could take back to London, and impress my friends.
“The Japanese guy said, as he handed me a glass of Yamazaki 12-year-old: ‘I give up one second of my life, for every year that it has been in the cask,’ and then proceeded to tell me that if it is 12-years-old then I should hold it in my mouth for 12 seconds. He then took the 12-year-old away, and handed me a 25.”
The Whisky Store gives off an air of class from the minute you walk through the door, but minus any unwanted pretentiousness. Prices range from £20-£17,000, so there really is something for every whisky enthusiast.
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Despite some of their more expensive additions, The Whisky Shop’s UK General Manager Darren Leitch says that the firm has seen good business despite turbulent economic times.
“When the recession kicked in, people were a bit more wise regarding how they spent their money. At that point people were a lot more careful with what they were spending,” Darren told MM.
“That really benefited us because we could tell people this is the reason why you should be spending £100 on a bottle or £50 on a bottle, because it’s this quality, or it’s rare or it’s an 18-year-old expression of what you already enjoy. That really played into our hands.”
Darren says The Whisky Shop aims to be more than just a retailer, aiming for a deeper experience than what you would get elsewhere.
“What we’re all about is educating our customers. Hopefully people will come along to us after having picked up a bottle of whisky in the supermarket, and maybe they want to expand on that,” he said.
“You don’t get that level of service or level of knowledge from the staff at these places. People want to know that they are buying the right thing, whether it’s for a gift, or for themselves.”
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Whisky is traditionally appreciated by older generations, and it is this pigeonholing which the company wish to challenge. Colin Dunn believes whisky is finally starting to free itself from its old fashioned beginnings.
“Working for Diageo and Suntori, when I started at the tail-end of last century, whisky was mainly drunk by people my age in their 60’s, and it was mainly drunk neat. In some of my early tastings, I was told very forcefully that I couldn’t add anything to it, it had to be drunk neat,” he said.
“If you fast forward to now, you can drink whisky in a plethora of ways. You can drink it in a high ball glass, topped up with soda. You can drink it drizzled over oysters. You can drink it with hebridean smoked scallops. You can have it with blue cheese and you can have it with dark chocolate.
“Ultimately it comes down to taste. It’s your taste, not everybody else’s. Don’t believe everything you’re told. Don’t believe everything you read. Trust your five senses.”