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Meet the 25-year-old owner of Faffless, Aberdeen’s least pretentious whisky bar

Craig Thom of Faffless, in Aberdeen.
Craig Thom of Faffless, in Aberdeen.

Here at Society, we love something that bit extra.

A bit of sass, a slither of all out glam – and of course that perfect Instagram shot.

But there is also a lot to be said for simplicity, a step a, a step away from all things faff.

Welcome the aptly named Faffless, in the heart of Aberdeen city.

Faffless will celebrate its 1 year anniversary this summer.

It’s difficult to sum up this venue, for owner Craig Thom has made sure it does a little bit of everything.

Comedy venue, open mic night, coffee shop, small plates, whisky and more.

It’s a delicious concoction, and of course completely faff free.

Craig has worked in hotels across the UK.

Found on Netherkirkgate, Faffless is a bold shimmy away from all things pretentious.

The coming together of alcohol, comedy and art has long been in the making, and is also a seriously impressive feat for Craig, given that he is 25 years old.

Not one to take life too seriously, Craig vears towards accepting people’s reaction as a compliment when they discover his age, bar the odd rude comment or two.

The venue opened last August, but the vision had long been in the making.

We caught up with Craig and found out why his accidental trip into hospitality worked out for the best.

A wealth of experience

“I was studying sports at university and got a job at a restaurant alongside that,” said Craig.

Find us a student who has not worked in hospitality one time or another, so far so normal.

But this is where Craig’s story takes a completely different turn from your average long summer working behind a bar.

The venue is home to comedy, open mic nights and everything in between.

“I was offered the job as restaurant manager at a private members club on Albyn Place,” said Craig.

“I didn’t see the point in coming out of university with a heap of debt, only to go on and take a similar job.

“So I said yes, I got on really well with the chef and got an interest in Michelin star level work.”

Craig’s knowledge and endless enthusiasm took him around the UK, where he managed numerous hotels including the famous Pennan Inn in Fraserburgh where he originally hails from.

He also headed to Skye, and then landed up working in London.

Faff free life

“I worked at one hotel in London for six months, and that’s when I realised that it wasn’t really for me because I couldn’t put my own stamp on the place,” said Craig.

“But when I had been in Skye, I ended up going to Edinburgh for a wine fare.

“I had just passed my Sommelier exams so it was a treat to myself. I tried some amazing wines, but I found the whole thing incredibly pretentious.

“That’s when the concept for Faffless came about.”

Rather than launch a business completely blind, Craig ran a pop-up event at the Trinity Centre.

Prior to this, he also ran festivals and tastings, including a whisky festival at The Tunnels, home to live music and club nights.

The team at Faffless will give you your very own cocktail concoction.

“It’s hard to sum up Faffless,” said Craig.

“It’s a massive space. We’re a whisky bar, a wine bar, a cocktail bar, a restaurant and cafe.

“I would describe the food we serve as halfway between lunch and a meal.

A light meal is the order of the day at Faffless.

“A light lunch would be one small plate, or three plates split between two people.

“It’s mostly salads, we have squid salad and one of staff members is from Kuwait so we serve this Arabic mussel salad, alongside an orange and halloumi salad.

“There’s a good mix.”

Doing things differently

Loathed to irritate his residential neighbours who live directly above, alongside a lack of extraction fans, means Craig and his team can’t rustle up cooked food.

But he hasn’t let that get in his way.

“I was approached by a company called The Tinned Fish Market,” said Craig.

“I grew up in Fraserburgh where tinned fish wasn’t a thing, but they sent us some samples anyway.

Tinned fish has proved a hit on the menu.

“The team sat down and tried it with bread, and it was actually really good.”

The drinks offering is perhaps Craig’s true forte, from his range of exclusive whiskies to rum hailing from the French Caribbean, Cuba and the Netherlands, alongside an extensive wine list.

And if you fancy a cocktail? Just let the team know and they’ll create your very own concoction.

Craig and his team specialise in delicious drinks.

“My memory is so bad, I would forget what’s in everything if we had a set list,” said Craig.

“People just speak to me or the team, I think the best cocktails are rum based so things like daiquiris.

“I really orange wines at the moment, as pretentious as that might make me sound.”

If you’re in for the traditional pint, well you won’t drink it in quite that form.

Craig prefers to do things a little differently.

“By the time you get to the bottom, it’s warm and flat. So we use schoonas, which is an old fashioned measurement. About two thirds of a pint,” said Craig.

“A few people have walked out because I don’t do pints. But I’m always thinking of how I would want something to be, how best to present a product.”

Overcoming obstacles

As the one year anniversary for Faffless approaches, 12 months in business has not come without its challenges.

From cancellations which blighted the hospitality industry towards the end of last year, to the drawbacks of not being in the west end, Craig has kept chipper.

Faffless stocks exclusive wines.

“All things considered, it has gone really well,” he said.

“We unapologetically faffless. I was determined to make this work, because it was something I always wanted.

“I want to open another couple of spaces, including one in Scotland and one in Japan.

“Thomas Glover, who was one of the founding members of Mitsubishi, went to the same primary school as me.

“He went on to settle in Japan and people just went mad for him.

There’s a little bit of everything at Faffless.

“I’ve organised a coffee festival in Japan where I’ll take a staff member out with me, and I’m hoping it will work out like a staff exchange.

“Eventually I want to split my time between Scotland and Japan.”

I want to open another couple of spaces, including one in Scotland and one in Japan.”

Craig also juggles consultancy work and distributes wholesale alcohol to other venues.

He is also called upon by fellow venues to help recruit staff.

“No one working at Faffless had worked in hospitality, but they care about this place nearly as much as I do,” said Craig.

The team at Faffless care about the place as much as owner, Craig Thom, does.

“I think I had 150 applicants in one day for a position. I did 50 interviews over three/four days and asked people if they had ever worked in high end hospitality.

“How they answered it showed me if they were right for the role. My newest member of staff is a first year university student, so she could potentially be with me for four years at least.

“I’m 25, and my age doesn’t come up with bar work. It does arise in consultancy and distribution though.

“The general reaction is ‘oh wow, you’re only 25’. I take it as a compliment.

“I guess I feel like I need to prove myself that bit more.”

To find out more, follow Faffless on Instagram, head to their Facebook page or visit the Faffless website.

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