Words & Photography Kirk Truman
If there were to be a village in London, it would be Fitzrovia. An epicentre of Bohemia in the 1940s, Fitzrovia was once a warily kept secret in the West-End. In recent years, this once forgotten neighbourhood has leapt to life becoming perhaps the last piece of Central London to make itself known alongside its BT Tower. People would say; eh? What or where is Fitzrovia? The answer is this sort of no-mans-land between Euston Road to the north, and Oxford Street to the south. A thing of fiction in retrospect, when you consider that pieces of the neighbourhoods literary history and ingenuity are world renown. Little did we know that Fitzrovia could be such new blood, when its spirit is really so old. To the West of the neighbourhood, a vein runs through the edge of the neighbourhood between Fitzrovia and Marylebone, namely Great Portland Street. It is here you will find The Whisky Exchange.
The founding brothers Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh have a simple and effective founding philosophy for The Whisky Exchange; never rest on your laurels. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Singh brothers are the sons of the first Asians in the UK to be granted a liquor licence. Their parents thus subsequently established what went on to become an award-winning off-licence in north-west London. When their parents announced they would retire in the late 1990s, the brothers made the difficult decision to sell their family business, thus founding The Whisky Exchange. A passion for Whisky was driven by both of the brothers. At the time the two brothers founded the business, Sukhinder was already in possession of a large collection of whisky, having begun collecting a range of miniatures in the 1980s with his encyclopaedic knowledge of whisky having served him well. In the beginning, the brothers operated from a small trading estate in West London. At this point, the business was a portal whereby whisky fans could buy, sell and swap bottles listed online.
The Whisky Exchange has grown to become a leading global retailer of fine spirits and whiskies, composed of an award-winning online shop and two stores; Covent Garden and the newly opened Fitzrovia iteration. The brothers have built a family driven business which is now at the heart of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood and its innovative and bohemian spirit. As you make your way past the BBC’s Broadcasting House on neighbouring Langham Street, what greets you on entering at No. 90-92 is a rarity in this part of the city. What feels at first quite like a library, is perhaps W1’s and certainly Fitzrovia’s finest stockist of drinks with genuine heritage and quality.