Back in 2012 I wrote an article on price comparisons of online to supermarket to specialist retailer (you can read that article here) so I thought it was about time I revisited it a little and explained some more of the reasons I think spending time with your specialist retailer is a very good move.
So what exactly am I saying here? Am I suggesting you pop into Royal Mile Whiskies and ask mark out on a mate-date? No that’s not what I mean, but I do think you should pop in say hello, get to know the staff and let them get to know you. But Why?
One of the first, and best, reasons to get to know the staff in your local whisky specialist, is that they will let slip little nuggets of information as they get it, so when they find out that the latest Douglas Laing bottling is arriving in their Tuesday delivery, you know to be there to be able to pick it up.
But they’re also some of the first to be able to give out alerts on bottles coming in the next month, or quarter, of hints to what you might want to look out for or to save up for. Getting in early is always going to be a benefit, with the amount of people buying and flipping (selling straight away for a profit) a number of limited edition bottlings, the more prepared you are, the better chance of actually getting that bottle and drinking it are. On a similar note, it’s also more likely you can arrange to order in that bottle you want, and if you want, maybe others do so it’s a win-win for the shop.
Bottles on Hold
As part of the above point they may even be willing to stick a bottle aside for you until you can pop in and purchase it, making you not have to stand in the rain for 3 hours for that annual Ardbeg, or they may simply be willing to stick the last bottle of their own single cask away until pay off the credit card bill on payday.
Having someone willing to put a bottle out of sight for a few days is quite a big thing for us whisky drinkers, especially for the rarer bottles, or when the significant other doesn’t know how much you have spent on the credit card.
Many retailers get tasting stock, sometimes in advance of product launches, and can use that to help you decide to buy the bottle, but having it there is great for us whisky regulars, who (as long as you don’t try to overuse this) most whisky specialists will let try a couple of drams to help you decide. A regular face who buys is 10x as likely to be offered a sample than someone the staff don’t know and is just looking to try before heading off to find the cheapest price on the internet.
It’s also about the stock you might get to try, instead of only being offered a small dram of the Balvenie 12, you may be offered some of the Balvenie 21 etc. If you spend money regularly in here, the staff will remember you and look after you, and if there’s a special bottle hiding on the tasting shelf you are in with a much better chance of seeing it appear in front of you.
How many times have you bought something only for it to go on special offer the next day and you be furious that you could have saved yourself £10 etc? Well if you know the staff and are a regular, they’re more likely to give you the “wait ‘til Friday to get that” quiet chat. Retailers also get offered some Gift With Purchase items or other special offers by the producers, so if there’s a free glass or hip flask etc available, you can bet if you buy that bottle you’re likely to be offered it, instead of some being told “none left” or it just not being mentioned at all.
Events and Tastings
If you become a “weel kent face” in your whisky specialist then they will let you know of tastings and events happening in the shop, or even ones they know about elsewhere, the staff who work in these shops are regularly the same guys and gals you will find at unusual and small tastings as they have insider info, so get to know them and get knowledge of these events and tastings.
It’s never a bad thing to know the person in your local shop, whether that’s the local butcher, baker, newsagent or whisky specialist, being a regular will always being you some benefits.
To the nay-sayers who think store staff should be doing this for all customers, it’s that attitude that makes them not do it; those who expect benefits rather than appreciate them are less likely to get any.
Be good to your local specialist’s staff and you will reap the rewards.
** Just a point of note here, I still wholeheartedly recommend online retailers and supermarkets also, but only as part of a balanced whisky purchase plan