Kismet: where you’re meant to be
WORDS: RICHARD GOSLAN
Nick Widley planned to spend a year travelling in New Zealand before returning to the UK. Some 10 years later he’s still there and is now owner and manager with his wife Kymberly of the SMWS partner bar Kismet in the town of Nelson
A background in food, cooking and then cocktail making all stood Nick Widley in good stead when he decided to take some time out to travel, where he found himself on the other side of the world in New Zealand.
That’s where he ended up managing a restaurant before being persuaded that the town of Nelson was ready for a venue which championed spirits. “We were called mad for wanting to stock more than two dozen gins,” says Nick. “Now we have the largest gin bar collection in New Zealand and a cult following of customers wanting to learn about it.
“But my love for whisky was growing all the time, and I slowed our growing collection of gin with the ever-increasing cost of boutique and craft bottlings. I couldn’t help but compare the time it took to produce a gin to the time it cost to produce and mature a whisky. The figures didn’t seem to stack up!”
BELOW: Nick and Kymberly
“We offer a whisky selection that stands alone in the top of the South Island, with more than 250 whiskies to drink as you please straight up or in one of our classic or contemporary cocktails”
When Nick’s best friend bought [fellow SMWS partner bar] The Last Word in Christchurch, after working with the team at Whisky Galore for several years, it provided the perfect opportunity to further his whisky education.
“I kept going to see him and just became a sponge to his knowledge and also from the team at Whisky Galore,” says Nick. “I read books more than ever, the history of whisky, the variety, the fact that the whisky industry is still growing with more and more releases coming out all the time.
“Then I entered a whisky cocktail competition and after winning that, the idea of a cocktail and whisky lounge was confirmed. Two years ago, we opened Kismet, 100 meters away from our flagship gin bar.”
Nick describes Kismet an intimate cocktail bar that has all the attributes of a great bar in a big city, while offering intuitive and knowledgeable service from world class bartenders.
“In the past two years, Kismet has developed a personality of its own,” says Nick. “We offer a whisky selection that stands alone in the top of the South Island, with more than 250 whiskies to drink as you please straight up or in one of our classic or contemporary cocktails. Kismet is also a place where warmth, friendship and continuity of service abounds.”
The bar now stocks around 40 SMWS bottlings, presented in a standalone menu and printed with space for making notes under each dram.
“Being a partner bar with SMWS is a perfect match for our ethos. It’s creating experiences through great service and sharing knowledge”
“Once a patron has bought their first dram from that menu, it’s theirs to keep,” says Nick. “We keep them behind the bar ready for the next time they visit, to scribble more notes down. That helps our guests to capture their thoughts and feelings about whisky and creates more appreciation for the differences along the way.
“Being a partner bar with SMWS is a perfect match for our ethos. It’s creating experiences through great service and sharing knowledge. It’s explaining to someone that we’re interested in what’s in the bottle, not in buying a brand name. Being able to take the time, sit down with a guest and a bottle in hand and explaining everything from the code, to what the Outturn number means, to where the name for that bottling came from – it’s not something you find in many bars, let alone a bar from a small town in the middle of a country on the end of the world.”