St Albans shop beats off competition to win top award at ‘Oscars of the drink industry’

Tomoka recieving the IWSC award. Picture: Thomas Alexander

Tomoka recieving the IWSC award. Picture: Thomas Alexander - Credit: Archant

A shop in St Albans has been named the best independent spirits business at the “Oscars of the drink industry”.

Tomoka Spirits Boutique took home the Independent Spirits Retailer of the Year award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2018 on November 14.

The Christopher Place store was praised by judges for having an “excellent selection of unique products you can’t buy elsewhere”.

Co-owner of Tomoka, Jass Patel, said: “The thing is we had a range of competition, there were other people who were much more well known than us so it was a shock, we weren’t expecting it at all.

“It is so good, this is the Oscars of the drink industry.

“At the dinner there were producers from as far as South Africa and New Zealand because it is international. For a little shop in St Albans to win, that is crazy.”

Runners up for the category were Ireland’s Celtic Whiskey Shop, Soho’s Gerry’s Wines and Spirits, and Greater Manchester’s Riddles Emporium.

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Tomoka were presented with the award at a London Guildhall ceremony by Facundo Bacardi, chairman of the largest private family-owned spirits company in the world.

Jass added: “He was really nice - even though he sails around the world in yachts.”

In the International Wine and Spirit Competition winners magazine, Tomoka is described as employing an “enthusiastic and knowledgeable team [who] personally taste test the regularly updated stock list for quality before putting it on the shelves”.

The shop, which opened in 2012, specialises in an eclectic range of spirits including fine whiskeys, rum, vodkas and Champagnes.

It is named after the ship of a 1920s rum runner called William “Bill” McCoy, who sold unusually high-quality products in an age of prohibition bathtub gin.

He inspired a well-known modern idiom, ‘the real McCoy’.

To celebrate the award, Tomoka are hosting a Spirits of Christmas Fair on December 2. It will take place outside the shop, but timings are yet to be confirmed.

There will be products to sample, distillers to meet, festive music, and mulled wine. Jass said it will be a chance to get ideas for Christmas presents in the run up to December.