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Gardener's world

David Gardener of Nickolls and Perks in Stourbridge has big plans for whisky. Richard Jones reports
By Richard Jones
There’s history and there’s history. Many retailers can boast of an illustrious past but when Nickolls and Perks first opened for business in 1797, the Bank of England had just issued its first one pound note, Horatio Nelson had lost an arm fighting the Spanish and John Adams was about to succeed George Washington as President of the United States.“We’ve always sold whisky since I’ve been involved,” begins David Gardener, who along with father David and brother Will currently own and manage the store. “But it’s only in the past three years that it’s really taken off.”Situated in the historic West Midlands town of Stourbridge, Nickolls and Perks is mainly known as a wine merchant, although for many years it operated as a public house.“The local community has become increasingly interested in whisky and spirits,” he continues. “And we’ve grown our range from around 50 to more than 400 bottlings to reflect this demand.” According to David Gardener, the retail business is founded on their regular whisky tastings, held the last week of every month. “We believe there’s no better way to encourage a passion for whisky than by tasting the product in the company of the people who make it,” David explains.“We actively seek out whiskies with character, balance and structure, and when customers sample them for themselves (in Nickolls and Perk’s own 17th Century vaulted cellars), they seem to like what we offer. Springbank 10 year old at £23.45 is our most popular whisky, partly on the strength of a number of tastings we’ve had.”Like many of his customers, David Gardener finds his own passion for whisky has been driven by the tastings.“Originally I knew relatively little about the subject, but it’s impossible not to fall in love with whisky once you begin to delve into the industry, the history, and, of course, the taste. I’m a big fan of whiskies from the Northern Highlands in particular, because they possess some of the qualities of an Islay malt but with a distinctly Highland feel. I really enjoy Old Pulteney, as well as both Clynelish and Brora.”The importance of whisky at Nickolls and Perks is illustrated by its prominent position, slap bang in your face as you enter the shop. David has selected a range of bottlings, ranging from the affordable through to the seriously fine and esoteric.Particular gems include Duncan Taylor’s 25 year old bottling of Longmorn at £77.99, Connemara Cask Strength 1991 at £37.50 and, if your wallet needs lightening a touch, Bruichladdich 40 year old at £857.75.Nickolls and Perks offers a number of particularly keen promotions across the year such as a 10 per cent discount on the whisky range in March and a recent discounted price of £13.50 on Isle of Jura 10 year old.At the moment David Gardener describes their whisky sales on their website as ‘steady’, however all this is set to change with a major upgrade due any time now.“On the wine side, the bulk of our business comes through mail order. Currently the majority of our whisky business is from the shop, so we’re hoping that the new-look website will help us to grow even further,” he observes.But a slick new website isn’t the only innovation that David has planned. “We’d like to take our tasting events one stage further,” he explains. “We’re considering applying for an on-trade licence and selling samples of up to 200 different whiskies in our cellars. This would allow enthusiasts to organise their own tastings depending on what they want to try.” And he’s not finished yet.“We’re also looking at releasing a private bottling, or possibly bringing a living cask into the store for customers to have bottled under their own label. And we’re also thinking about turning our whisky events into a more formal, perhaps a subscriptionbased club where we send people samples and a newsletter every month.”With ambitious plans like these in the pipeline, the future for David Gardener’s world looks very rosy indeed.Nickolls & Perks Ltd
37 High Street , Stourbridge, West Midlands, England, DY8 1TA
Phone: +44 (0)1384 394 518
Fax: +44 (0)1384 440 786
Email: sales@nickollsandperks.co.uk
Web: http://www.nickollsandperks.co.uk