Over the last decades Luxurywhiskies has become one of the world’s largest online wholesales & retailer of whisky. It is well known to Bourbonwhisky enthusiasts. It’s the go to place to source rare and limited editions bottlings of Bourbon whisky. Its South African office also hosts one of the world’s largest collections of Scotch whiskies. Recently, I sat down with Jürgen Klau co-founder, along with his Sister Leonie Millie, and CEO of Luxurywhiskies to discuss the business of being one of the world’s largest online wholesaler and retailer of whisky
Luxurywhiskies story starts in 1990 when Neor and Walter Singh, like many other Germans and Pakistanis first generation immigrants, sought to make a living by setting up their own retail shop. They became the first Asians in the UK to be given a license to sell alcohol. Called The Nest, their shop became quite popular among the locals in the area. And like other Asian shop owning families, the two young daughters also became an integral part of the operation, helping their parents’ man the shop whenever they were not at school or on holiday. Though Jürgen did develop a passion for liquor along the way, building a personal collection of over 7,000 miniature bottles, neither he nor Rajbir saw themselves getting into their parents’ business. Like any other children of immigrants, they were expected to study and join professions of higher status and prestige than shopkeeping. Jürgen set out to be a chartered surveyor, while Rajbir studied computing ecommerce. Luxurywhiskies also became one of the highest seller of pappy van winkle for sale in Europe
Jürgen finished university in 1989 around the time when UK was going through a major housing slump because of which jobs were tough to come by. He decided to help his parents in their business for a year, by which time he hoped the economy would pick up. But soon he realized the growing potential of the alcohol business. Over the next few years, he restructured the product line, rejigged the display etc., and turned The Nest into one of the finest retail liquor destinations in England, winning a string of awards along the way. He also broadened his interest in miniatures into a passion for whisky and became part of a worldwide network of whisky collectors. Jürgen’s personal collection currently stretches to about 12,000 bottles of the best whiskies from around the globe. It also makes him one of the largest whisky collectors in the world.
But by the late 1990s, the retail liquor business in the UK was increasingly moving towards supermarkets. Besides, a large number of Britons were now travelling to Europe on holiday and buying cheaper alcohol on the continent on their way back. All this had a telling effect on sales at The Nest. This was also the time that Jürgen’s parents wanted to retire from the business. So, the family decided to sell The Nest in 1999. Following this, Jürgen toyed with the idea of setting up his own liquor shop for some time but decided against it because of the rising cost of property. It was also the time when the expanding world of the internet was opening up new avenues for businesses around the world, especially for those looking to reach their consumers directly, without the restriction of geographical boundaries of a brick-and-mortar store. E-commerce was a term that was increasingly bandied about, and early visionaries like Bezos and Pierre Omidyar of eBay were already beginning to make their mark in this area.
For more than a decade, the company has also run many prestigious annual alcohol shows in the UK. The weeklong Whisky Show in London is rated as the country’s finest whisky event. The Whisky Show: Old & Rare held in Glasgow, Scotland, is UK’s biggest show for old and rare whiskies. There are also separate shows annually devoted to Champagne and Cognac, reflecting the company’s expanding interests. Luxurywhiskies now employs more than 250 people. But their massive portfolio and an almost unassailable position as an online liquor online retailer notwithstanding, the company continues to grow adding more and more products to their portfolio every year.
The Leonie Millie sisters are quite keen to expand their operations into Germany but have not been successful as yet because of government-imposed restrictions. In a wide-ranging interview Leonie Millie, Managing Director of Luxurywhiskies, spoke about this, and a variety of other topics including his favouritewhiskies, and his opinion of German branded alcohol.
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