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Building a selection for an independent hotel

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@dougwatts
dougwatts started a discussion

Interested in hearing the views of some of the more experienced whisky drinkers here. I've been asked to come up with a provisional whisky list for a friend who has just bought a hotel and is giving it a revamp. The aim is to go for something quite interesting and premium. They want to spend about £1500 on the 'shelf (ie, excluding back stocks - not sure if this is the right terminology) with just a couple of 'household names', a couple of very premium drams ('very premium' is subjective, but I'm talking bottles that retail in the region of £300) and the majority of the collection comprising interesting little seen whiskies that would appeal to whisky drinkers and the curious minded hotel guest, probably mainly in the £60-100 per bottle bracket.

To give you a bit of background, it’s a hotel in the Lake District, UK. There needs to be some representation of traditional Scotch staples but not overly so. I am thinking of including some of the Dutch and Swedish whiskies coming out, maybe something from the Far East. Maybe some older single cask bottlings. It should be a relatively balanced offering in terms of whisky regions and styles. My question to you fine folks, is what would you make you pleasantly surprised to see on the shelf at the bar of a nice fairly upmarket Lakeland hotel?

Apologies for the essay and thanks for reading this far. It’s probably a difficult question to answer but I am interested in hearing what thoughts people have. Even if I get one or two nuggets to help me then that would be great.

12 years ago

19 replies

@WhiskyNotes
WhiskyNotes replied

Dutch and Swedish: NO! If you want to offer clients something odd and unknown, at least choose something that will impress them. Japan and India: much better.

It might be an idea to look for The Whisky Agency bottlings. Not well known in the UK (probably an advantage), all bottlings are very high quality, some of them really old and premium, and their range covers all kinds of regions and styles. Otherwise I would concentrate on official single cask releases, that way people will recognize the labels / brands but they will still have something unique.

12 years ago 0

@jeanluc
jeanluc replied

@dougwatts a Brora 30 year old official release would always get my attention and comes in nicely within the £300 for the premium drams.

I'll second @WhiskyNotes on Whisky Agency bottlings, they also have attractively themed labels which will look nice behind the bar.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@dougwatts
dougwatts replied

Thanks both, helpful comments. JL - that brora sounds like a good shout. Whiskynotes - I didn't think it wad impossible to be impressed by these European whiskies. I've heard great things particularly about the Swedish Mackmyra....sadly not yet tried myself. Anyone else got views on these Euro whiskies?

12 years ago 0

@WhiskyNotes
WhiskyNotes replied

Let me add that it IS possible to be impressed, but imho in the same way you can be impressed by a 5 year-old kid playing 'Für Elise' on the piano. Great potential but you don't them playing the piano in your hotel lobby just yet. It's not a European thing by the way, I feel the same way about Kilchoman or Kilkerran for example.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@WhiskyNotes
WhiskyNotes replied

Brora 30 (or 32) is a great idea by the way! It'll be extinct soon.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@two_bitcowboy

@dougwatts give us more details about your assignment. How many bottles do you want on the backbar? If you budget is £1500 and some are to be in the £300 region, you don't have a lot of flexibility in building the depth of your "collection."

12 years ago 0

@dougwatts
dougwatts replied

Quite right @two-bit cowboy - depth will be an issue. I thought to maybe spend £500-£600 on a couple of bottles and the remainder on £60-100 bottles, so probably only around 12-15 bottles.

12 years ago 0

@Donough
Donough replied

@dougwatts Re depth and at 12-15 bottles, you probably only have space for one or two internationals. Good choices aside from those already listed are Australia and Ireland. Some good and possibly rare whiskys there. Ralfystuff from youtube has just done a review of a few international whiskys. In the case of Ireland, I would look for the limited bottlings from Connemara. They generally are good im my opinion; this year is called turf mor. Mackmyra from Sweeden is a young whisky and is interesting. However it is a tad unusual so I would try that first before considering.

12 years ago 0

@jeanluc
jeanluc replied

Yes Turf Mor is an interesting dram on any shelf. Young, vibrant and peaty with a real earthy or mossy/grassy edge.

12 years ago 0

@two_bitcowboy

I'm afraid I have more questions than answers, but I offer them in hopes of stimulating more discussion.

Does it work in a restaurant in your friend's location to have a canyon-sized gap between the majority of your offerings and your "top shelf" malts?

What kind of food will your friend's restaurant offer? Will it (quality, price, location, etc.) support having several £300 malts on the backbar?

Are there other restaurants nearby that offer some stunning whiskies? How many do they offer, and what are their price ranges?

Will there be other spirits, wines, beers available in the bar? If so, in what price ranges?

Not trying to rain on the parade here, but there are lots more considerations than simply offering up a few great malts to put on the shelf. Hope the questions help in some way.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@two_bitcowboy

I got onto the food side of things in that last post and forgot the hotel part.

What will be your friend's room rates? You don't need to answer that, but it's a consideration for what his bar/pub/tavern will charge for its malts. I'm not sure there's a formula for calculating the ratio between a hotel room and a pour in the hotel's bar, but maybe!?

12 years ago 0

@dougwatts
dougwatts replied

@two-bit cowboy thanks for the interest and I agree I am giving you half (or less) a story here. The truth is this is still very much a plan in development so I don’t have all the answers by any means. The owners of the new place are still considering what to do with it but I think they’re leaning towards having a small and fairly exclusive (or at least interesting) collection of whiskies. The guy is mainly into his wine so that will be the main focus, and I am pretty sure there will be no Carling on tap at the bar. I don’t know prices for rooms / food but it won’t be budget oriented – 4/5 star for people with money wanting a break in the Lakes. You’re right checking the offering at other hotels in the area would be sensible....but for the time being I was thinking a bit less commercially, more about what would be appealing to people into whisky at an upmarket Lakeland hotel. I know this isn’t much to go on but I appreciate the suggestions – the idea of a single range – be it SMWS, Whisky Agency or any other, is worth exploring.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@two_bitcowboy

@dougwatts Well, thanks for giving this group a chance to ask and share ideas. By you asking and forcing me to conjure up some questions you've helped me. Some of my questions are issues I wish we would have considered five years ago as we were developing our business plan. Never too late to make a change for the better!

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Wodha
Wodha replied

I'd get some Scotch blends, some Bourbons, some international and a couple of "special" Single Malts. My suggested shopping list: Ballantine's, Teacher's, Laphroaig Single Cask, The Macallan 18, Buffalo Trace, Jack Daniel's, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Aberfeldy 12, Old Pulteney 12 (or 17, 21) Ardbeg 10, Talisker 10, Dalwhinnie 15, Lagavulin 16, Clynelish, McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt, Amrut, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, George T Stagg, Brora 30 seems like a decent shelf.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Andrew
Andrew replied

Just my 2 cents but I think adding a couple of "super premium" bottles may prove to be problematic. I have two local places that have tried that and the same bottles are still sitting on the shelves 1/2 full for multiple years now. I wont order them and I advise those I'm with not to, I know whisky changes over time when sitting on a shelf.

If you wnat to have a couple Super Premium whiskies they would either need to be priced in such a way as to ensure that they sold out in 6 to 9 months OR should be something that is not really peated or heavilly sherried.. maybe an older Glenmornagie or Glenfarclas?

The Idea of a 30y/o Brora sitting half empty for years makes me sad.. don't ruin something that can't be replaced.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@jeanluc
jeanluc replied

@Andrew interesting theory there. If it comes down to a matter of cost (enough paying customers to get through an expensive bottle in adequate time) then I guess that will depend on the clientele.

12 years ago 0

@Andrea
Andrea replied

Port Ellen Rare malt 20yo 1978 for Islay, Springbank Cambeltown 12yo old bottle for Campbeltown, Macallan 18yo 1984 and Macallan 15yo 1984 for Speyside, Old Pulteney 21y for Highlands and Bladnoch Pure malt Bot.1980's for Lowlands........ and than ,,,, and than......

12 years ago 0

@dougwatts
dougwatts replied

@Andrew, useful input indeed. Having that Brora slowly deteriorating isn't a nice thought. As Jean-Luc says, depends a lot on whether or not they can get enough malt heads through the doors. Without being positioned as a specialist whisky place that might be difficult. Food for some serious thought. As it hAppens an old glenfarclas is under consideration, though it would likely be a sherry monster....unless I could get hold of @Andrea's collection :)

12 years ago 0

@Kutter
Kutter replied

@dougwatts... Brora and Port Ellen are super premiums that "connosrs" are looking for. I agree that it is sad to see those sit on a shelf. Aberlour A'Bunadh, Highland Park 18, Talisker 18 (if you find it!), Ardbeg Uigeadail, Lagavulin 16 for the classical side of it !, Amrut Fusion (India), a couple of Japanese like Yamazaki 18 (fantastic) or a Nikka. I would get a great Bourbon also. The Booker's is good, but it is for men (130 proof). As long as you have water in your hotel, it is fine.
Others may involve classical speysiders to fit everyone's taste. Get a Kilchoman that was finished in Sherry. The last spring release looks great although I didn't have the chance to taste it. Avoid the ones only matured in bourbon they seem too young. The sherry-finished Kilchomans are great whiskies that look lot older than their actual age and people are often afraid of buying the bottle of this teenage whisky but could be very interested in trying a dram at a hotel.

12 years ago 0

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@Pudge72@jeanluc