WARNING: There are passionate, opinionated oenophiles on the premises! We may come from a diversity of backgrounds but one thing we all share in common is an unyielding interest and passion for wines , beer and spirits. So, let us introduce ourselves and share with you, our most memorable wine/whiskey experience (so far!).
After 13 years working for KWM, first as a delivery driver and then as the store’s resident Scotch and whisky expert I purchased the business April 1 2015. In my time here I helped put KWM on the international map as one of the World’s top whisky shops. In March of 2015 Whisky Magazine awarded us “Highly Commended” or 2nd place for “Whisky Retailer of the Year – Single Outlet”. I’ve also built a reputation as one of Canada's most trusted whisky experts. On April 11th, 2011 I was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich, the first Canadian retail expert to be so honored. I used to operate my own whisky tour company, www.fergusonwhiskytours.com, taking customers on whisky tours in Scotland, Japan and Kentucky. I am also the President of a Calgary whisky club, The Companions of the Quaich, Calgary Chapter. A native of Calgary, I studied Military History at the University of Calgary. I spend much of my free time outdoors, and I am especially fond of skiing, hockey, mountain biking and triathlon. In October 2010 & 2011, I qualified for and competed in the Xterra (off road triathlon) World Championships in Maui!
Best whisky experience: Sampling the White Bowmore 1964 ($4300) in the No.1 Vaults at the Bowmore Distillery on the Isle of Islay. The No. 1 Vaults are located below sea level along the shore of Loch Indaal, and are prone to flooding. More than 200 years of accumulated whisky fungus and salt stains give this earthen-floored warehouse the feel of catacombs, and when combined with the scent of maturing whisky casks, many over 40 years of age the atmosphere is spiritually intense. The No. 1 Vaults at Bowmore are possibly the most holy place in the world of whisky. And to have sampled the White Bowmore there was the experience of a lifetime!
Born and raised in Red Deer, I came to Calgary in 1987 and worked in ticketing for the 1988 Olympics. I remained in the event ticketing business for the next 19 years. Joining the Web Corporate and Gifting department at the Kensington Wine Market happened quite by chance and began as a temporary position for the Christmas season and the rest is history.
Best wine experience: Spain - definitely Spain .Having never been to a winery, there is nothing like being flown to one of the most historic places in the world and touring 9 wineries in 3 days in the Rioja region. A whirlwind, incredible 9-day trip travelling with Nancy, and hosted by 2 wonderful guides Miquel and Patrick from Coca i Fito. We were treated like queens, ate amazing food, drank amazing wines, stayed in amazing hotels and met the most wonderful people.I have traveled in my life, but this truly was a trip of a lifetime.
Around 2002, I realized how bored I was with what was always advertised as "premium" beer. Every adjunct lager tasted the same and I wasn't enjoying drinking them. A friend and I decided that twice a week we would each buy two interesting looking beers that we've never had before. Over time we grew to know the styles, develop preferences, pick out flavors that none of our friends could taste, and really I just grew to love these small scale, hand-crafted beers. Craft beer has been a large part of my life for 12 years now. My love for it has driven me to travel around, expand my palate with wine and spirits, explore the world of cooking, and even brew numerous batches of both beer and mead myself. My strong background in chemistry allows me to dive into the world of fermentation with an in depth understanding and appreciation. Seeing the immense creativity of the worlds best brewers fills me with inspiration for crafts and projects all of my own, and fuels me with an eagerness to share it all with anyone and everyone.
Best beer experience: Wandering around in the old part of Bamberg Germany in 2003, my companion and I happened upon an old brew pub. We asked for their house beer, and it turned out to be a smoked Urbock, and (unknown to us) they happened to be the brewery that pioneered that style. It was my first time even hearing of a smoked beer and it had a greasy, bacon-like taste. I could barely finish the pint, but it was a planted seed that grew into a major love for the style, and the admiration of lesser known regional styles.
I was first bitten by the Whisky bug at the ripe old age of 22. Years have passed since - now I am permanently 29 and my enjoyment of the spirit shows no signs of letting up. Back then I was a young wanna-be Bartender. I was introduced to Single Malt Scotch by the manager at my first restaurant job. At first sip I was hooked. My newly sparked interest lead me to read books, scour the internet for more information, and most importantly visit shops such as Kensington Wine Market to see what was available as well as go to tastings to learn more. I spent nearly a decade working at the great Calgary Petroleum Club and during my time there I also attended as many Scotch tastings as I could manage. Eventually, I ended up pouring Whisky for a variety of vendors at festivals and that soon lead me to where I am now. Even though I do make whisky my main port of call I still make excursions into wine and beer from time to time.
Most memorable Whisky experience: Touring Yamazaki Distillery. This was my first visit to a Whisky Distillery but I look forward to traveling to more in the future! Beyond that, I have to say that it is exciting to be in a position to meet some of the great personalities of the whisky world such as George Grant from Glenfarclas, Richard Urquhart from Gordan & MacPhail and the now retired Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich. Dealing with whisky day in and day out seems to make these people - as well a most of those I have been lucky enough to meet - a very personable bunch!
After spending many years doing IT work for an accounting software company, and before that doing academic research work, I have worked at KWM since December 2005. I have learned a lot about wine, scotch and beer in the course of selling great products to our customers. Since December 2011, I have been the "Beer Guy" for the market, so I now concentrate on improving our extensive beer selection. Alberta is an excellent marketplace for beer variety, and many new products arrive monthly. One of my main challenges is to decide how to fit as big a variety of products as possible into a small space. Of course, rigorous product testing is required to improve product knowledge. Working at KWM also provides me with inspirations for future vacations, with possibilities of tasting local beer, wine and whiskies influencing where I decide to go.
Best wine experience: One memorable recent experience came while doing a hiking trip in the Douro valley in Portugal. After a long day walking up and down the steep valleys and through vineyards, we ended the day at a beautiful manor house with little guesthouses around a pool. In our guesthouse was a carafe of rich ruby port to help wind down the day and relax before having dinner.
If you asked me ten years ago what I would I would be doing as a career today, I can easily tell you 'wine expert’ would been the last thing I would have said. I was a competitive swimmer with aspirations of attending the Olympics, training 40-50 hours a week, living in a chlorinated state. Unfortunately due to a recurring injury, that dream was soon to crumble down.
I had just finished my first year at the U of C, and was staying with my parents for the summer. As parents are, they weren't keen on me just 'hanging out’, and so I got myself a little part time job at the local wine store. Little did I know that would be a pivotal point in my life.
Returning to U of C in the autumn to study geography/geology, I couldn't stop thinking about how soil structure affected the way wine tastes, or how wine is it’s own version of geography, encompassing geology, history, art, culture, politics and economics all within the juice. I started to realize that I didn't want to spend my days studying geography, but rather studying wine. Soon after, I got myself a job at Model Milk, signed up for level 1,2,3 WSET courses and fully dove into the deep end of wine. Much like Model Milk's ideology, I started my wine career focusing in on natural, organic and minimal intervention wines. Since then, I still take a huge liking to the natural stuff, but I've been able to explore all other aspects, and slowly figured out that champagne is where my true heart lies.
To say I like wine would be an understatement; I live and breathe wine. If I'm not at work, I'm listening to wine-focused podcasts, or reading one of my many wine books. It's a world that sucks you in, it keeps you humble and it also keeps you on your toes. You will never fully know everything there is to know.