25 October, 2020

The Whisky King o’Blighty

On how the Sawhneys became big purveyors of fine spirits

Illustration by Sorit
The Whisky King o’Blighty

I went to school in St George’s, Mussoorie. Some years back, I was in London and a chap called Narinder Singh Sawhney rang me up. He turned out to be from my school, a product of the ’60s who had migrated to the UK soon after and settled in Hanwell, west London. They invited me to their home for dinner but on the way, we took a detour so that I could get a first-hand look at their business. We drove to a rambling industrial site where Sawhney, his young son Sukhinder and I entered a locked warehouse. What do I see—thousands and thousands of bottles of Scotch whisky, of every variety and quality, piled up on shelves up to the roof. Imagine showing such a treasure, and to a Sikh at that!

I had to hear their story. Sawhney told me of his struggles, how he had tried various ventures, and finally set up a liquor off-licence called The Nest. Apparently, it was the first independent off-licence. Today there are many, generally run by Asians.  The Sawhneys focused on rare spirits and special brands. The idea came to them...



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