A big win for the independents

24 October, 2019 by Deborah Jackson

The Oak Barrel in Sydney has been voted as the Liquor Store of the Year for the third time at the 2019 Australian Liquor Industry Awards (ALIA).

The Oak Barrel has been nominated for the award for the last four years and has taken it home three times.

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For Scott Fitzsimons, the Whisky & Spirits Educator at the Oak Barrel, as well as being both humbled and delighted by the win, he said that he is mostly just happy to see so many independent liquor stores recognised in the category.

The other finalists in 2019 were:

  • Bayswater Fine Wines, Rushcutters Bay, NSW
  • Booze Brothers, The Mile End, SA
  • Carwyn Cellars, Thornbury, Vic
  • Cutty Cellars, Crows Nest, NSW
  • Elizabeth Bay Cellars, NSW
  • Liquor Barons, Ellenbrook, WA
  • Plonk, Fyshwick ACT
  • Sense of Taste Portside, Hamilton, QLD
  • The Dutch Trading Co, Perth
  • The Oak Barrel, Sydney, NSW
  • Vine Wine, Redfern NSW
  • Warners at the Bay, NSW

Plonk in Fyshwick and Bayswater Fine Wines in Rushcutters Bay tied as runner-up.

“We love them all. There’s so many great independent bottle stores and we don’t understand why we’ve been so lucky to win this award three times out of four nominations,” Fitzsimons said.

“What I love is that there were so many independent bottle stores on that list. I grew up at Vine Wine before I came over to the Oak Barrel. It’s great to see so many independent bottle stores that are punching above their weight.

“We won’t win this forever. We’re in a bit of a golden patch for whatever reason, but this is going to be excellent moving forward if there’s so many indies in the finalist list, that’s a very strong thing for booze retail in this country.”

The Oak Barrel’s Owner, Paul Downie, was able to attend ALIA and accept the award for the first time this year and he was understandably very overwhelmed and delighted.

When we asked him what he thinks it is that sets the Oak Barrel apart in this category, he simply puts it down to the passion of his staff.

“I just want to thank the staff and thank the whole industry,” he said.

“It’s simply their passion. The passion of the people, and the passion of the products that are going to drive new people to discover the best things on offer.

“Our staff are hand picked and they do an exceptional job. They put in more effort than you would believe and more effort than they are paid for, so I thank them very much.”

That passion is clearly evident in Fitzsimons, who said: “When we won this a few years ago we were very humbled to win considering how many great independent liquor stores are all around the country, as well as the chains.

“To win it three times out of the last four we’re taking the piss a little bit so we do apologise but there is one thing I want to say… we get the privilege of working for the Oak Barrel, we have the greatest job in the world.”

Paul Downie, Scott Fitzsimons and Joe Perry receive the Liquor Store of the Year Award presented by Asahi.