1970-1998 In the beginning – The Nest
It all started back in 1971 when Narinder and Bhupinder Singh became the first Asians in the UK to be granted a license to sell alcohol. They opened an off-license called The Nest in Hanwell in west London, and it quickly became an important part of the local community. Living with their parents above the shop, Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh literally grew up in the trade, with The Nest not only their home, but also their playground and eventually their employer. A few years older than his brother, Sukhinder was the first to start helping in the shop, and was soon running up and down ladders to grab bottles from the top shelves for customers. Soon knowing what the regulars enjoyed, he began to learn about the bottles and how the shop worked.
The next generation
Sukhinder finished university in 1990 and as a chartered surveyor in the middle of a housing slump, helped around the shop while waiting for the job market to improve, planning to move on in a year. Eight years later he had become part of a worldwide network of whisky collectors, his brother had joined him on the shop floor, and The Nest had been expanded and remodelled into one of London's best drinks shops, with a string of awards as evidence of its success. However, all good things must come to an end, and with Narinder and Bhupinder retiring, the family sold the shop in late 1999. But they had plans for what would come next.
1999-2006 The Whisky Exchange begins
In the late 1990s, the potential of using the internet as a shop front was starting to become clear, and Sukhinder and Rajbir were keen to be at the forefront of bringing spirits to the public in this innovative way. Venturing into this uncharted territory was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and demanded significant investment in both time and money. The family's skills, history and expertise would prove invaluable. Rajbir had studied computing at university and knew a web developer who built a shop website for the brothers' new company – The Whisky Exchange. They found a small warehouse around the corner from The Nest and filled it with stock borrowed from their father to get them going. Finally, in 1999, after months of planning and building, the website went live and Sukhinder and Rajbir sat waiting for their first order – a few days later, it came in: it was from Germany. Sukhinder's network of whisky collectors from around the world knew about the brothers' project and quickly became regular customers. The company began to grow, with an international audience always at its heart.
New faces and new locations
The first employee outside of the founders and their families joined in 2000, and he was quickly joined by more as the warehouse started to fill with bottles and orders rolled in. In 2006, having run out of space in the original warehouse, the company moved to a larger location in Park Royal, north-west London. A new website soon followed, showcasing almost 3000 products. But by then, it wasn't only the website that was driving sales – The Whisky Exchange Shop had opened.
2006-2018 The Whisky Exchange Shop
Almost seven years after The Nest closed, its spiritual successor arose on the south bank of the Thames – The Whisky Exchange Shop at Vinopolis. Built into the centre of the Vinopolis Wine and Spirits Experience, it quickly became a destination for whisky and fine spirits lovers from around the world. With a range from every-day drinkers through to some of the world's rarest releases, it had something for everyone. In the end the award-winning shop was open for more than 10 years, closing in December 2015 when Vinopolis shut down. Fortunately, when the closure was announced a year beforehand, plans were already in place to open a second London shop, and The Whisky Exchange Covent Garden opened at 2 Bedford Street, just off The Strand, in October 2015 – a new flagship store. With an expanded range and central location, it quickly outgrew its predecessor.
We open our second shop in London
The plan was always to have a pair of London shops, and in 2018 the dream was realised with the opening of The Whisky Exchange Great Portland Street. Situated just north of Oxford Street in the heart of London's shopping district, it built on the ideas that have made the Covent Garden shop a success, with an expanded selection of Cognac, gin and wine as well as the trademark whisky range. Both shops are open seven days a week – pop by and check them out for yourself!
2019- The Whisky Exchange today
The Whisky Exchange continues to grow, with more great drinks on our virtual shelves every day. The company moved again in 2013, and now has a state of the art warehouse and office building, filled with more than 250 employees from across the Elixir House Group, all built around The Whisky Exchange's expertise and reputation.
On top of the website, The Whisky Exchange now hosts yearly drinks shows, with 2018 seeing Whisky Show celebrating its 10th anniversary, Whisky Show: Old & Rare returning to Glasgow for a third year, Champagne Show launching on London's South Bank and the inaugural Cognac Show picking up The Drinks Business's award for Drinks Event of the Year.
With more projects on the horizon, more shows to run, more shops to open and more whisky being released every day, there's something new around every corner. We'll continue to seek out the finest releases and help you find the perfect bottle, but there's still much more to come and we hope you will join us on the journey.