PARTNER RETAILERS: CANADA

O Canada!

Whether you’re a tourist or a regular, you’ll find knowledge and passion at our SMWS partner retailers in western Canada – all of them united by sharing great whisky. We spoke to each to find out about what they offer and how they’re connecting both with SMWS members and whisky fans old and new

WORDS: MADELEINE SCHMOLL

LEGACY LIQUOR STORE, VANCOUVER, BC

After a flavour epiphany, brand manager Darryl Lamb moved from wine into spirits and from there to Legacy Liquor Store, which opened in 2010.

“The concept for our store was to revolutionise liquor retail in Canada,” Darryl says. “We embarked on a programme of education to build a better customer.”

Head to Legacy Liquor today and you’ll find 612 different whisky offerings from 10 different countries, along with around 60-70 SMWS bottlings at any one time. In addition to being innovative in their search for new and exciting spirits, they’ve also done their bit for the environment.

“Legacy is the world’s first LEED [Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design] platinum-certified liquor store,” says Darryl. “We have a beautiful living wall, Japanese teak shelving, stone tiles and a full kitchen.”

Sharing knowledge in this ‘library of libations’ is crucial to the customer experience. “We have small educational signs throughout the store to teach our clients a little bit every time they visit.”

There are an impressive 300 whiskies in stock at any given time at The Strath, with a mix of 20-30 Society bottles too

THE STRATH, VICTORIA, BC

Originally from Derbyshire, whisky curator Adam Bradshaw first discovered the SMWS in Melbourne. After a move to Canada, he decided to pursue a career in whisky at family-owned liquor store The Strath.

“Our store is pretty easy to miss from the outside, as we’re very narrow. But once you find it, you’ll discover that it’s actually bigger than it looks,” says Adam.

“Although we’re less than 20 years old as a store, our decor has a very classic wooden style – as the room has been part of the Strathcona Hotel since 1913.”

There are an impressive 300 whiskies in stock at any given time, with a mix of 20-30 Society bottles too. “The Outturn releases are consistently the highlight of the month for us,” says Adam.

“We proudly display the bottes in a cabinet at the front of the store, and they are very often conversation starters for new customers who are drawn to their mysterious uniformity.”

ABOVE: Adam Bradshaw

You’ll find over 400 single malts at Keg n Cork, with 40-50 SMWS bottlings at any one time – in addition to a whisky tasting bar

KEG N CORK, EDMONTON, ALBERTA

After 35 years in retail, Keg n Cork owner Lionel Usunier contemplated opening a sports bar. “In the end, I decided I would put a tasting bar in a boutique store instead,” he says. “That way I could connect with people over a shared interest in whisky…”

You’ll find over 400 single malts at Keg n Cork, with 40-50 SMWS bottlings at any one time – in addition to a whisky tasting bar. “I had grown tired of seeing stores that were cramped and filled with product in aisles and doorways – I wanted the exact opposite,” says Lionel.

“It was and always has been important to me that the look and feel of the store is boutique-style to set us apart.

“The passion that we have at Keg n Cork for our product line is evident the minute you walk into the store. The introduction of the SMWS to our store has most definitely set us apart from other retailers in Alberta.”

ABOVE: Lionel Usunier (right) at Keg n Cork

There are 800-900 whiskies at Kensington Wine Market with around 50-70 SMWS bottlings
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KENSINGTON WINE MARKET, CALGARY, ALBERTA

When Kensington Wine Market (KWM) opened in 1992, it had one focus: wine. After the privatisation of liquor sales, KWM became a full-service liquor store. Current owner Andrew Ferguson started working there in 2004 and has grown the KWM brand to worldwide acclaim, having twice been runner up in Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky ‘Single Outlet Retailer of the Year: Rest of World.’

Although the selection of spirits has evolved over time, the blueprint remains. “The original concept for the layout of our store was to have a European market feel,” Andrew says.

“It is a bright and open boutique-y shop with a mix of bins, shelves and floor stacks.” There are 800-900 whiskies at KWM with around 50-70 SMWS bottlings.

“SMWS whiskies have a cult following,” says Andrew.

“We love the fact that there is always something new, fun and different coming down the pipes, and our customers seem to embrace this too.” And best of all? You can try before you buy. “We keep a well-stocked library of open bottles, so if we are recommending something to you, nine times out of 10 you can try it first.”

ABOVE: Andrew Ferguson and Evan Eckersley at KWM

In pre-Covid times, all four of these stores hosted hugely popular tastings of monthly Outturns and are looking forward to resuming them as soon as it is safe to do so.

Due to Canadian liquor regulations, SMWS Canada cannot sell directly to members; bottles must be sold through retail liquor stores.