30 March 2012

Whisky Insiders Interview - Sukhinder Singh

The Whisky Exchange / Speciality Drinks



How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
Very actively since I was 18. I grew up in the business, as my parents had shops and I helped out there from when I was a kid. I started collecting when I was 18, while still doing my degree and when I finished I started helping out in the family business and ended up taking it over.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
It's too difficult to pinpoint one thing, it's just being good at what we do. We are pioneers of online whisky, one of the oldest e-commerce whisky sites, which we are proud of. We started out from a tiny warehouse and just added a person every 6 months or so. We did everything ourselves, taking orders, picking, packing, taking things to the post office. We now keep learning, improving what we do and keep having fun.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
Yeah, a Springbank 21 year old dumpy, a nice way to start. A friend gave me a sample and after I tried it I had to open a bottle. Before then I'd just been a collector, I knew what was good from looking, listening and learning but after I got a chance to try the 21, I had to open a bottle. After tasting it I realised I had to learn more and little by little I started opening bottles to try them.

What does whisky mean to you?
I would say it's still a passion, which is nice. If I lose the passion for whisky then I'll stop and do something different, but at the moment, no. I'm fortunate that I started when I did in the late 1980s. At the time there were only 30 or 40 different products on the market and that was it. There was also only one whisky shop, Milroy’s. I was very friendly with them and John Milroy was my hero and I used to go in to talk to them and learned a lot from their shop. After I tried the Springbank 21, I fell in love and realised it wasn't a phase I was going through and that there was something special about whisky. I've maintained a good balance between collecting and the business, which makes what we do work.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Just really being the best at what we do. The business is doing well and we have high ambitions, with our key objectives being providing the best service and best products at the best prices. I want to work on doing things that are new. A shop is great as you can talk to people, but online is very different and we want to make that work better. We need to keep working, improving and maybe in five years I'll stop working weekends.

What was your last dram?
I've just come back from a trip to Japan and our last night was pretty special. My last drams were part of a vertical tasting of Ardbeg’s, including a pair of Douglas Laing Platinum bottlings from 1972 and 1974, followed by an Ardbeg OB 1976 sherry butt. It was a lovely end to the evening and trip.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
For me, to do whisky and food pairings it needs to be simple. Unfortunately I'm busy and don't get time to do things that are complicated. One thing I really find works well is dried fruit and nuts. Good quality almonds, cashews, raisins, dried apricots, dried peaches, dried plums. That kind of thing works really well.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
It doesn't matter, as long as it's with good company.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Firstly grain whisky. The other thing I feel will be easy drinking whisky. I think people will wake up to blends a little bit more. There are some blends that are absolutely perfect for that time that you don't want something too big or extreme, although there are some that are really complex. Grain fits in there but I also see Irish whiskey getting bigger and bigger. It really hits the spot for being easy drinking and is full of flavour.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
It's a very difficult question and I usually don't like answering questions like this, but I think there's one whisky which seems to hit the spot. I don't drink it that often but when I do ‘it's amazing' and it’s Lagavulin 16.

Many thanks to Sukhinder Singh. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!