Kensington Wine Market is (Almost) the Best Whisky Retailer in the World
The number one whisky retailer is a British shop that began in 1698, which makes a second place finish for the Calgary store all the more impressive. We can thank Andrew Ferguson and Alberta liquor laws.
Just down the street and around the corner from Buckingham Palace, an old brick building has been the home to Berry Bros. & Rudd for more than 315 years. Selling some of the most exquisite wine and spirits on the market and finding loyal customers in royal family members, it is widely considered one of the best whisky merchants in the world.
This is the third year in a row the Kensington shop has been acknowledged by the U.K. publication, but the first year it ranked in the “highly commended” category.
Andrew Ferguson, KWM’s resident scotch expert and manager, has a few theories why.
“Compared to other western countries and regions, Calgary has got a very, very hot whisky culture. There’s a lot of whisky sold in this market.”
And Ferguson and his team know how to respond to that. They go out of their way (and occasionally out of the country) to bring the best whiskies in the world back to Calgary.
Because the liquor laws in Alberta are more flexible than in the rest of Canada, he’s able to import some of the rarest whiskies in the world. Ferguson’s diligence and keen interest in having what no one else has makes this spot the go-to for the hard-to-find brands.
“Because we’re small, I never looked at it as an inconvenience to bring in 12 bottles of something,” Ferguson says. “They could be the only 12 bottles that come into the country. We, at any given time, have between 60 and 80 whiskies in our store that nobody else in Canada has access to.”
Over the course of a year they see 600 to 700 different whiskies go through the store, with roughly 250 to 300 on the shelves at any given time.
The KWM has one of the most impressive selections of the increasingly popular Japanese whiskies in all of Canada. Ferguson gets calls from collectors around the world looking to get their hands on what only he’s able to.
And even though he can’t ship them, he says it’s good to know people are starting to recognize Alberta’s strong market for carrying coveted whiskies.
“Ten, 12 years ago, when I first started doing this, Alberta was a good whisky market, but for a long time, we weren’t big enough to pay attention to. I think a lot of that has changed, because this is the easiest market in the country to get the product in, and it’s usually got the best pricing.”
Recognition from one of the world’s top whisky publications shows they’re paying attention now.
On top of KWM’s impressive selection of whiskies from around the world, they have seven to eight casks of whisky bottled exclusively for the store each year. The small, knowledgeable staff, is willing to help customers understand exactly what they’re buying and hosts more than 50 tasting events during the year.
For those interested in taking their whisky knowledge to the next level, join Ferguson on a whisky tour in Scotland.