Whisky Magazine Issue 8
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Young entrepreneur Keir Sword is going places with Scotch. Marcin Miller met up with him at his shop on Edinburgh's famous thoroughfare
Keir Sword – you can't forget a name like that in a hurry – thrives on change and the special buzz that only seizing a daring opportunity can bring.
Three years ago he took over Royal Mile Whiskies, situated on Edinburgh's legendary street. Set up in 1991 by Ken and Ian Taylor, Keir had previously worked in the shop while a catering and hotel management student at Napier University. His initial interest was in wines but he knew that there was little commercial scope in that sector in Scotland since the market was already well established. The multiple retailers had everything sewn up and competition was hard. But when Royal Mile Whiskies shop came on to the market, his entrepreneurial spirit could not be held back even though he was just 28 and, in retailing terms, a complete unknown.
But after talking to Keir for just a few minutes you realise how he made Royal Mile happen. A natural dynamism was further fuelled by a love of change and transformation – whatever the substances – grapes into wine, malted barley into whisky, tobacco plants into cigars. It was the process that inspired him and continues to inspire.
The shop now has over has over 300 bottlings, but Keir is keen to point out that he believes (like Richard Joynson of Loch Fyne Whiskies) that the size of range is no true indicator of the quality of the retailer. “Size-ists get bogged down in fruitless ‘mine's bigger than yours' arguments which go nowhere,” he explains.
Keir is more interested in ...