The Telegraph
Sunday , June 29 , 2014
 
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A CITY LIQUOR STORE SETS A TREND

A glimpse of Stanley Wine Store

Stanley is no more a dabba. The spirits store on AJC Bose Road (near St. James’ Church) has taken a forward leap by replacing grille with glass. Walk into the renovated 800sq ft Stanley Wine Shop, with fancy wooden flooring, bright lights and glass counters, and take your pick from the bottles on display. A far cry from standing behind bobbing heads and a rusty old grille, demanding your pint of pleasure!

“We wanted to set a trend. Other than Spencer’s, which showcases brands that are at your disposal, there is probably no liquor shop in Calcutta without a grille or one that ladies can walk into without feeling uncomfortable,” said Sarbjit Singh Johal, MD, Johal Group, who along with brother Maninder, owns five retail liquor stores in Calcutta in addition to wholesale and bottling units. “This store is a test run and depending on how well it’s received, we will renovate all our existing stores,” added Johal.

The inventory list is also on a high. “We’ve stocked brands that are not easily available in one’s neighbourhood store. The message we want to send out is, ‘If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere else in Calcutta’,” said Cyrus Madan, who has been with the company for the last four years and in the trade for 30.

Look around and spot single malts to Breezers, tequilas to rum, from Don Julio and Ciroc to Grey Goose and Ron Zacapa... and more. In Scotch, you’ll find 100 Pipers and VAT 69 to the most expensive brand on the shelves — Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which costs a cool Rs 24,500. The most pocket-friendly is a nip of McDowell’s Celebration Rum for Rs 70. Beers have a shelf life of six months but you’ll still find imported brands like Hoegaarden.

Bottles on display

Being a “principal distributor” of Diageo and United Spirits Limited, you’ll find all liquors in their bouquet. “The fastest moving bottle in the store over the years is Officer’s Choice, and in Scotch —Teacher’s and Black Dog,” revealed Madan.

The eight-decade-old store that is creating history has a lot of history behind it too! “We took over the store in 1994 but it’s been around for close to 85-88 years. It’s always been here. Yes, at first we were sceptical to do away with the safety grille but I think we’ve been around long enough. The other day, a guy opened his shoes before entering the store and I’ve never seen that happen before! Of course, we told him it’s not a place of worship so he could keep them on,” recalls Johal, with a smile.

Dionysus can rejoice too as wines have been kept on a bar, er, par. “The sale of wines has improved but not as much as we’d like it to be,” said Madan. For those who cannot do without their glass of grapes, there’s Longchamps and Cotes du Rhone (French), AG Forty Seven (from Argentina), Sensi (Italian) and Lindemans (Australian). Indian wines include Four Seasons, Fratelli and Golconda; Sula and Grover are “on the way”.

Here’s to more happy hours at happy places!