Before I headed off to London, everyone told me I had to visit The Whisky Exchange (TWE) store - if you thought you'd hear the likes of "safe travels!", well, TWE clearly seems to take precedence.
And why wouldn't it?
Many folks including myself have happily relied on TWE to get us pretty much everything we could want, and more importantly, got our libations to us in Asia. The reality is if you're based in Asia, there's not that many online stores that cater to you as graciously as TWE - an incredibly extensive selection, and obviously fantastic shipping policies.
I myself went through the pretty classic story of being bored of the local selections and began tinkering with getting bottles sent over from TWE. And even within the handful of online retailers, TWE also stands out for having a good many of their own private bottlings and also often breaking bottles down to be purchased by the dram.
And so, a visit to TWE was an absolute must.
The Whisky Exchange got its start as a small wine and spirits merchant in Hanwell, west of central London, known back then as The Nest. The store, which was established in 1972, was later taken over by Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, whose parents had owned the store. By the late 1990's, with the Internet phenomenon well underway, the brothers decided to sell their parents' business and start the online site, The Whisky Exchange. This would be an online portal for whisky fans to buy, sell or swap bottles, and eventually expanded to rums, cognacs, tequila... you name it.
Now, you can read more about TWE's history on their site, but today, we're going to actually visit one of their retail stores. There's three in London - London Bridge, Covent Garden and Great Portland Street.
While I did end up visiting all three, we'll head inside the Covent Garden store.
Heading in, you're immediately taken into a candy store of drinks - stacked floor to ceiling you'll see shelf upon shelf of bottles of every category.
And by the way if you thought that was all, I was told by the staff that there's even more back in their warehouse.
Pro Tip: If you're from out of town, you can make your purchase via TWE's online shop and select in-store pick-up at the checkout page and head down to the selected TWE store of your choice to pick up your purchase, and that way you'll save on shipping and additional taxes.
So just taking a quick look around, you'll find an extensive selection of popular Bourbons, Rums, Cognacs, Mezcals and Tequilas, and also Liqueurs, all on the first floor. There's little sample packs that make nifty gifts as well.
Heck, there's even a little fridge for some choice Beers and Sakes.
Now we'll head down to the lower floor - this is only available at the Covent Garden and Great Portland Street stores I believe.
Heading down you'll find a whole floor that's predominantly dedicated to whiskies - Scotch to your heart's content, as well as Irish, Japanese and other World Whiskies, are also available.
You'll also find some selected independent bottlings such as Compass Box, Whisky Sponge, Thompson Bros and more.
One thing to note is that everything you could find in the store is available online - and as mentioned earlier, the webstore is ultimately the full extent of their catalogue of products, with many others held in TWE's warehouse, but again as mentioned, you can have them sent to the store for pick up.
Now of course, how could TWE possibly not have an incredibly enviable shelf of rare and vintage whiskies, after all, this was what got TWE its early success!
Quite an array of rare Macallan's, I spotted one going as far back as 1954. Then there's also such a massive collection of Brora's, and many others.
Then there's also the Roseback Roses series, which I'm still kicking myself for not managing to pick up when it was first released.
Also newer to the shelf is the MacBeth series that was just released in 2023.
And of course, who could forget that TWE was one of the early movers to getting legendary Japanese whiskies such as Karuizawa's and Chichibu's bottled!
You'll find many of TWE's selection of these rare Japanese whiskies sitting pretty in the glass displays as well.
And that's a quick tour around The Whisky Exchange's Covent Garden store!
Till next time!