It’s not everyday you can walk into a bar and also learn something.
But a little bit of Scotland will soon be found in Launceston, with the opening of the city’s first whisky bar and dedicated bagpipe museum.
The Grumpy Piper, as it will be known, is expected to open at the end of February, and is the “dream project” of Norwood couple Kent Fisher and Natalie Bell.
The son of a Scotsman, Mr Fisher has tartan heritage running through his veins – and probably a bit of whisky as well.
A member of the City of Launceston Pipes and Drums Band, Mr Fisher has been collecting bagpipes for years and owns more than 40 Great Highland Bagpipes from Scotland, North America and even Argentina.
With the dream of opening his own bar becoming a reality, he said it made perfect sense to combine his two biggest loves – whisky and piping.
“I don’t know anybody who has spent as much money on bagpipes as we have,” he said.
“We have this incredible collection and we want to be able to share it with people.
“When it all comes together, it will be really special.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time.
“We own a scaffolding business in Melbourne, but we want to get out of that and move into tourism.
“I enjoy collecting things and I enjoy drinking whisky, I love Launceston – so put all those things together and I am a happy man.”
Located on Paterson Street, the couple have spent the past six months pouring their “hearts and souls” into transforming the space, which previously housed a financial planning business.
The bar will be based on the building’s first floor and the second floor will house Mr Fisher’s extensive bagpipe collection.
The museum will also include a dedicated “learning room” for exclusive whisky tastings, as well as bagpipe lessons.
With the majority of furniture sourced from local auctions, Ms Bell said it was very important that the aesthetics of the bar lived up to their passion for all things Scotland.
“We wanted to create a bar that would stand out, with a real Scottish vibe,” she said.
“Plus we didn’t want to be a whisky bar you just walk into and there are only a few things to try.
“We have sampled a lot of whiskies overseas and we know that tastes can be subjective.
“So we really want to give people as many options to try so they can find the right whisky that is for them.
“We want this to be the sort of bar you come to before or after dinner, to sit down with some friends for a drink and a chat.
“But it is not about drinking to get drunk.
“It’s about the total experience.
“Hopefully the antique furniture, the characters on the wall – everything will help build that real feeling.
“We want people to walk through the door and feel like they are in Scotland.”
As well as a variety of whiskies, when Mr Kent’s bagpipe collection is complete, it will be the first of its kind on display anywhere in Australia.
His most recent addition includes a set of pipes from the famous McKenzie family, dating back to the mid-19th century.
While not in Australia yet, he said the pipes’ addition will add a new level of “history and character” to the already extensive collection.
“The bagpipes are thought to be made by Donald MacDonald, one of the greatest of the early makers,” he explained.
“These bagpipes were gifted by a MacKenzie family member to a not-for-profit organisation in the UK, to be sold to raise funds.
“Initially the organisation did not wish for the pipes to leave Scotland, but eventually agreed to a sale when I told them about the free bagpipe museum we are setting up in Launceston.
“They are a genuine piece of Scottish piping history.”
The set is currently with Mr Kent’s family in Scotland and will be sent to Launceston as soon as possible to become the centrepiece of the museum.
Mr Kent said he hoped the collection would inspire a new generation of up-and-coming bagpipe enthusiasts, and maybe score the Launceston City and Pipes Band some new members.
“Not everyone is probably as enthusiastic about the bagpipes as I am, but hopefully this exhibit gauges their interest,” he said.
“I started playing when I was 16, but it is not necessarily an instrument a lot of kids pick up, especially these days.
“If we want endeavors like the Launceston City and Pipes Band to continue into the future, then it is really important that we gauge a new generation of pipers. Along with the bar, I really hope The Grumpy Piper can assist the band with achieving this.”
The Launceston City and Pipes Band have upcoming performances planned at Sunday’s Music in the Park and February’s Commonwealth Games torch relay event.
With the final touches currently being completed, Ms Bell said they couldn’t wait to finally open the doors of The Grumpy Piper and to make their dream a reality.
As for the bar’s name, Ms Bell said it shouldn’t put people off from having a good time.
“Kent can be a bit of a grumpy piper on the odd occasion but that shouldn’t deter people from visiting,” she joked.
“We want to enjoy the business and hopefully people will enjoy it in return.”