WhiskyBrother reigns supreme as ‘Global Multiple Outlet Retailer of the Year’

Founder and Co-Owner of Whisky Brother, Marc Pendlebury spoke to 'The Citizen' about the inspiration behind his visionary idea that has won them yet another award.

WhiskyBrother took the crown as the Global Multiple Outlet Retailer of the Year, claiming the prestigious title at the 2023 Icons of Whisky in London.

Competing against top retailers from Scotland, America, Ireland, Japan and Europe, they emerged victorious in this celebrated showdown, as recognised by Whisky Magazine.

WhiskyBrother has achieved yet another international accolade, marking their second award after being crowned Global Single Retail Outlet by the same competition in 2021.

The first award ceremony took place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Whisky Brother bar
The WhiskyBrother bar. Picture: Supplied

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Birth of WhiskyBrother

WhiskyBrother commenced its journey in 2012, establishing its first retail store in Hyde Park. Since then, it has expanded its presence, owning two more stores in Bryanston and Bedfordview.

Setting new benchmarks, WhiskyBrother introduced Johannesburg’s inaugural whisky bar in Sandton, featuring a remarkable collection of over 1 500 exclusive whiskies available for tasting.

In addition, they operate an online store that provides nationwide delivery, offering an extensive selection of premium whiskies for purchase.

This includes a wide range of limited editions and exclusive releases that are frequently updated, making it the go-to destination for whisky enthusiasts.

Inspiration behind the business

Speaking to The Citizen, the founder and co-owner of WhiskyBrother, Marc Pendlebury, shared insights into the inspiration behind his visionary idea that led to the establishment and subsequent success of the business.

Pendlebury said WhiskyBrother started in 2009, as a way for him to connect online personally with other whisky enthusiasts, to learn, and to share what he was learning.

“After a few months, I then started a whisky blog that used the same name WhiskyBrother. And through that blog and through being online, it became evident that there was plenty of people out there like myself, who were whisky enthusiasts.

“Since then, we have fortunately found an interested audience and community. And with our success, we’ve then grown over the years to offer more services, offer more outlets and so on.

What sets WhiskyBrother apart from other Whisky retailers?

In a highly competitive industry, standing out from the crowd is crucial, and Marc’s story is no exception.

“The primary factor that sets WhiskyBrother apart is the fact that we are truly passionate about the products and the people that we deal with.

“That passion leads to always wanting to offer a really good environment for shopping, with really good customer service and a friendly environment, and knowledgeable individuals to assist. 

“What also drives us is we try to have as much product as possible and a real variety and assortment of different products that commercially wouldn’t be available in more general bottle stores.

“Some of our products are, but they’re very limited, they’re quite niche,” further elaborated Marc.

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How WhiskyBrother adapted to the challenges of doing business in South Africa

In the world of business, challenges and obstacles are inevitable. However, Marc possessed the skill of effectively managing and overcoming these hurdles.

“Like any business in South Africa, we have been forced to adapt to the challenges of the country and this has presented both drawbacks as well as opportunities over the years.

“Situations like Covid-19, fires and floods have been to the costs of the business and at the end of the day, they either take increased time to get product or to either get product into the stores or to get product into the hands of the customer. 

“We may be successful, but we are not particularly profitable because that money has to continuously go back into the business to grow the business and to just account for the additional cost of doing business in South Africa. 

An inside view of The Whiskey Brother bar. Picture: Supplied
An inside view of The Whiskey Brother bar. Picture: Supplied

Advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in the South African market

Pendlebury has some valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the South African business market.

“This is a very tough market. For many ideas, finance is a real barrier to most individuals realising their business dreams. What I would recommend is the idea of a side hustle

“Passion and skill will only get you so far. I really believe you need a combination of both. You need to be passionate about what you’re doing and about the product and the service, but you also need to be able to run the business, grow the business, and have an understanding of the basic skills of how to do that. 

“That does not mean you need tertiary education and it does not mean you need to have an MBA. That’s not the case at all.

“The truth is there are plenty of sources online, and if you want to take the journey and try to create a business, it’s just about having both sets of skills, and thankfully the internet is a great source for that, and guidance,” said Marc.

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