The Buyer
Spirits Guru: Thomas Aske, The Whistling Shop, offers his advice

Spirits Guru: Thomas Aske, The Whistling Shop, offers his advice

In the first of a series of articles from senior drinks buyers and on-trade operators, The Buyer asks Thomas Aske, leading bar entrepreneur behind venues such as the Worship Street Whistling Shop and the new Black Rock dedicated whisky bar, who also runs his own spirits and drinks consultancy, The Fluid Movement, to share his expertise by answering our questions on spirits trends. See below if you would like to ask a question of your own.

Richard Siddle
3rd May 2016by Richard Siddle
posted in Insight,Opinion,

We ask Thomas Aske, spirits consultant and bar entrepreneur, to share his experience with the trade

Q With so many spirits brands available what makes you interested in a new product? And what do they need to bring to your customers to convince you to stock them?

The first impression of the brand is the most important and this normally will come from the first
communication. Cold call emails will almost always be ignored in favour of a polite phone call for a
meeting. Its invaluable to meet the people representing the brand as they will give an indication of
its values.

This meeting also assists in determining the authenticity of the product in terms of
history, heritage and innovation.

The representative should be an extension of the brand itself and show passion for the product about which they are discussing. Many times I have sat to discuss a brand with a representative only to find out that their knowledge on both the product and category in which it falls is lacking, something which is inexcusable.

Knowledgable, passionate ambassadors will engage and understand the buyers needs perfectly and tailor their proposition to meet their requirements. They will have the buyers best interest equally balanced by their own and
form a partnership to assist with the growth of both brands.

Naturally all of this must sit with a great liquid, refined packaging and a point of difference to allow the staff to sell it confidently.

Essentially it is the staff that must have an appreciation for the brand to give it any chance of selling rather
than collecting dust and this comes from time invested in them from the brand itself.

Q What are the key factors that make a good supplier and what equally makes a bad supplier?

Relationships are key. Both supplier and client must have an in depth understanding of each others
business and conduct it in a way that is mutually beneficial. The flexibility of the supplier to stock
new products can be a way of gaining further business for them.

In most cases bars are purchasing products through a variety of suppliers which is time consuming and results in
additional paperwork. We have worked with suppliers who have been proactive in asking which
brands we believe they should stock to enable them to provide for us a one stop solution for all of
our beverage needs.

This understanding ensures that we have remained loyal to them them through all of our venues.

Reliability is also an invaluable asset. Nothing hits a bar more than not receiving a delivery when you have a busy weekend ahead and this scenario happens a lot.

Ensuring there is a clear communication on delivery times and dates enable you to avoid staff
wasting time waiting for deliveries that are destined never to show.

Hospitality staff can often work upwards of 60 hours a week and so getting in at 10am to collect a delivery is tough without disorganisation and miscommunication.

  • Thomas Aske and his team now run a number of bars in London including the Purl, which opened in 2010, Worship Street Whistling Shop in 2011, Dach & Sons in 2012, Surfside in 2014 and now Black Rock earlier in the year. He also separately runs his own drinks and bar consultancy business, The Fluid Movement.

* If you have a question for Thomas then please email to We are also looking for other key drinks buyers and operators to share their experiences. If you would like to step up and be a Buyer’s Spirits Guru then please email to the same address.