You have to be sensible and balance passion with a business mind (Sukhinder Singh)

You have to be sensible and balance passion with a business mind (Sukhinder Singh)

Ian Wisniewski interviews the man behind The Whisky Exchange

People | 01 Jun 2007 | Issue 64 | By Ian Wisniewski

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Ian (IW): How do you acquire such an extensive range of stock?Sukhinder (SS): Every day we get phone calls and emails, and we have a lot of customers who decide to retire, and we ask if they’d consider selling something. It started off with auctions, I’ve been going since 1988.IW:Would you always buy something rare, even if you don’t have an existing customer for it?SS:Yes, there’s always somebody looking for something particular. It’s a huge financial outlay, we’re always re-investing.IW: What about counterfeit whiskies?SS:Yes, that’s a problem, and we talk to other dealers about what’s going on.IW: And if it’s counterfeit whisky it could also be harmful or lethal.SS: Exactly, so we have to be very, very careful where we buy from.IW: Malt and blended Scotch drinkers are often perceived as separate groups, do you think more people now appreciate both styles?SS: The new consumer has pretty much gone straight to malts. The old school probably started on blends, that’s pretty much what was available, they may have progressed to malts but they always have a respect for blends, and a lot of them are rediscovering blends. We’re selling more and more blends. Certain markets in the Far East are all about deluxe blends.IW: Where’s the most dedicated following for peated malts?SS: Scandinavia, Germany, Belgium, Italy, pretty much all of Europe, even some of the new Eastern European markets.

IW: Do you see continued growth of interest in peated malts?SS:Yes, I don’t think it’s a trend, if anything people who weren’t drinking Islay whiskies will start drinking Islay whiskies.IW:You also supply whisky bars, and the range of these bars is continually evolving.SS: I think there are enough whisky bars at the premium level, a few more are needed at beginner’s level, be it local pubs who increase their selection.IW: What about the growth of whisky clubs?SS: There are still not enough in the United Kingdom. There’s a huge following with clubs in every town in Germany, clubs in Scandinavia, it gives the members a chance to keep trying things.IW: How many collectors are big spenders?SS: There’s a lot up to the £100 a bottle level, and a lot over the £1,000 a bottle range, and at the top end we’re selling more than we’ve ever done before. I think a lot of people who were in that middle range have come down to the £100 range, and they’re buying to drink. It also varies from country to country, in Scandinavia the average spend is higher than in the UK, in some parts of Europe it’s higher, and in the Far East maybe a bit more, and in the USA there’s more disposable income.IW: What advice do you give to collectors?SS: Stick to some sort of profile, either collect a distillery or a region. The best way to start is, what do you like? So, even if you stop collecting you can start drinking it. I wouldn’t recommend anyone who doesn’t drink whisky to collect whisky, as unless you know what it tastes like you don’t really know what you’re buying.IW: What about collecting miniatures? Do these collectors usually graduate to the full-size?SS:Alot of collectors start with miniatures, the market for whisky miniatures was really big in the 80s and 90s, and during the past couple of years there’s been a huge resurgence. I started with miniatures and progressed to big bottles. Many collectors, like me, try to match big bottles with the miniatures.IW: Tell me about your own collection.SS: I collect outstanding whisky, I’ve got a key focus on certain distilleries, and I still collect miniatures.

IW: Do you drink anything from your collection?SS: I’ve got a separate collection for drinking.

IW: How do you balance being a collector and a dealer, is it hard to sell things you would rather keep?SS: It is, but if it fits into my collecting profile I’ll try to buy it for myself rather than putting it into the business. You have to be sensible, and balance passion with a business mind. I have my brother to keep me in control.
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