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@casualtorture
casualtorture started a discussion

So, when I move back to the US I want to find a whisky club to join. I've never been in one, only car owners clubs (mazda miata...great car). Anyway, I'm just wondering what exactly you do in a whisky club, besides drink of course. Are their usually fees, are their meetings with like minutes and all that? Or do people just bring whisky for everyone to try?

7 years ago

30 replies

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

I think you will find a lot of variability in how whisky clubs work. Some are formal and others more ad hoc.

My first whisky club started when a bunch of us from a a debating club got together to try some whiskies. We didn't take formal minutes but I've recorded every whisky and letter grades we gave them as well. We've met less often since the first year or so with people out of town and the criteria for being a member is essentially having come to a meeting at some point. No dues, I provide the core spirits and people bring what they want (and, in the case of a good portion of my Talisker 57 N, take what they want... disappointed ).

The Dram Initiative in Calgary has, I believe, a maximum number of members, and there are fees for membership and for specific events, that occur at regular intervals. They usually have themes and the stuff they pour looks awesome. You can read about it at All Things Whisky.

When I contacted Ralfy Mitchell about starting a club he recommended keeping it small and keeping it fun.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@casualtorture

@Nozinan cool thanks. depending on where in the US I choose to stay I may have to start one as well if there isn't one around.

7 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

If you're spooked by Trump come to Toronto. Lots of Connosrs and lots of good spirits.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@casualtorture

@Nozinan haha too cold for me. maybe i'll visit during the summer. plus as a white male i think i'll be ok back home. but my chinese wife might have need to worry with new immigration laws.

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@casualtorture , I think @Nozinan already gave you the best overall answer, but here's another example. The club I lead in Madison, WI works like this:

•Everyone pays annual dues (previously $50/year, but I'm bumping that to at least $60 for next year so we can increase our quality standards).

•We meet once a month at a member's house.

•Each month, we have one new whisky on the table, which I choose and pay for with our collected dues. This new whisky is a surprise to everyone but me.

•Also on the table are remnants from previous months' bottles. The most popular ones (recently, Lag 8 and G&M Mortlach 15) only last a meeting or two. The least popular ones kick around for over a year (the worst offender currently being High West Campfire).

•Usually, I also provide some "one night only" bonus bottles that somehow relate to whatever else we're drinking. Like when the Lag 8 debuted, I also brought out Lag 12 and 16 from my personal stash. In addition to just being fun to compare, the idea here is create a "miss the meeting, and you miss out!" element.

•Whoever hosts the meeting also spices things up, if they feel like it. Sometimes, all they really provide is a roof, but sometimes we get the full spread of snacks and even more "bonus bottles." Recently, because we had some port-matured whisky in the club war chest, our host also brought out some others of his own, plus a port matured in a whisky barrel, for good measure. All just fun!

•Beyond that, it's super informal. Basically, a few friends sitting around socializing and drinking good whisky.

7 years ago 3Who liked this?

@NNWhisky
NNWhisky replied

My local club charges an annual fee of £40. That gets you an annual members event, early entry to their annual festival and big discounts on tasting throughout the year and in certain bars throughout town.

The only thing holding me back from membership is that they don't do any of the stuff previously mentioned. A monthly meeting would be ace.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@NNWhisky : "Be the change you want to see in the world."

7 years ago 0

@NNWhisky
NNWhisky replied

@Ol_Jas Too true! If I weren't a full-time engineer, part-time student and trying to build a successful youtube channel I think I might try to set something up!

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@NNWhisky : It sounds like that other "club" you found is pretty corporate. You need something informal. You know who's going to start something informal? Probably a guy like you.

You know who would probably love to join you? Other guys like you.

If you're saying you only have some much time to devote to whisky extracurriculars, and you've decided that time is going to your online videos instead of a club with real live people, well OK then. But I know what choice I would make! :)

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

Purely by coincidence, I just ran across the following random page at the LA Whisky Society site that illustrates how various clubs work. Like @Nozinan said, they're all different.

lawhiskeysociety.com/whiskey/1145/…

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

I'd like everyone's opinion on the bottles I have lined up for my club over the next few months. The group has an appetite for peat, but beyond that we're really all just in it to try new things. Most people are in the "experienced, but no expert" category. To date, the club hasn't had much stuff over 12 years old.

Put another way: If you paid $50-60 a year to be in a whisky club, how would you feel about the following bottles making their way across the table? Any votes for other stuff you'd really love to see? (I already have some of these bottles bought, but I'm also daydreaming about ones to buy for the 2017-2018 season. So the field is wide open.)

And you'll see that some of my picks have little gimmicks and whatnot attached. Input on those is welcome too!

•April: Kilchoman Machir Bay.

•May: Old Grand Dad 114. We always do a bourbon (or at least an American whiskey) in May.

•June: Some mysterious-to-me New Zealand whisky that a member recently brought home from a trip.

•July: English Whisky Company peated single cask CS Binny's pick. Alongside for the night will be a bottle of the regular peated 46% for comparison. And I plan to figure out how much water it takes to dilute something like that down to 46%, and have a separate emptied bottled filled with that much water for demonstration's sake.

•August: Three entry-level Campbeltown single malts tasted blind and voted on to select which one becomes our club bottle. (Shhh... Don't tell anyone, but they'll be Springbank 10, Kilkerran 12, and the disco-cow Glen Scotia 12.)

•September: Talisker DE. Alongside I'll have a bottle of the same whisky I bought from Europe a while back for a lesson on "mit farbstoff."

•October: Bunnahabhain 10 CS IB Sherry Cask.

•November: Laphroaig 10 CS. My favorite whisky! And scheduled so as to have hopes of it lasting until February.

•December: Five Ardbegs! We usually do something a little special for Christmas. I hope to nab a Kelpie as the club bottle whenever (if ever) they hit the stores around me. Alongside, I'll have the Ten, Oogie, Corry, and Dark Cove CR as one-night-only bottles from my stash.

•January 2018: No new bottle. Instead, we have a big ridiculous Burns Night bash and try to finish off some old ones.

•February: Laphroaig 18. (I know of a local store that still has a few for $100.)

•March: Redbreast 12 CS. We always do an Irish in March. And sadly, peat season thus comes to an end.

•April: Springbank 12 CS for "Springbank Spring Break."

•May: Old Potrero.

•June: Longmorn 15 IB.

•July: Douglas Laing Rock Oyster.

•August: Highland Park 18.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

Great variety, nice quality...what's not to like?

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

Thanks, @Victor .

For what it's worth, here are a few of the more interesting ones I've doodled onto my "maybe" list, but which didn't make that cut you see above:

•Tomatin 12 Fino

•Caol Ila 7 CS first-fill bourbon IB

•Stronachie 18

•Old Pulteney 12 + 17 half-bottles

•Talisker 18

•Ledaig 6 IB

•Amrut Peated CS (if I could ever find one)

•Bushmills 21

•Black Art

•Octomore

•Cairdeas 2017

•CB Flaming Heart

•Benromach 10/100

•Bunnahabhain 18

•Glengoyne 21

•The oldest IB we could afford from the likes of Strathisla, Morlach, Clynelish, Glen Grant, or Caol Ila

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

More excellent variety. Some of those will get pricey, e.g. Black Art.

7 years ago 0

@Mancub
Mancub replied

@casualtorture I moved to a new city a couple years ago and on a whim came out to a friend's whisky club, I now try to attend every meeting that fits my schedule and have hosted a couple as well. Our group is similar to @Ol_Jas other than the annual fees. The Group has grown recently, but because most have families or a busy schedule a meeting could be as small as 5 people or as big as 17. We meet every month at the host's house, everyone takes turns hosting but there is never an order. Whoever hosts supplies 1 new bottle that hasn't been had at a meeting before, and whatever else they wish to share. Often hosts will open up their cabinet and share a few bottles, the new monthly bottle and whatever else they are so gracious to put out. You can also choose to share other spirits, we do rum, gin, tequila, or maybe something special someone brought back from a vacation. A member or two also brew their own beer so often some new beer experiments are shared. Another member likes to do infusions, so there have been some interesting offerings there too.

We've recently been introduced to some spirit reps who have offered to come for free and talk and share some products, most recently from Jack Daniels, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie and Glenrothes. There has even been a wine night where everyone brings a bottle of wine to share. The host supplies snacks, sometimes just chips and pretzels, but other times it's more involved (smoked bacon), it can be anything really. Most have been friends for years but everyone is open to new members and all are laid back and friendly. We talk about life and we talk about spirits. It's fun and informal.

One member keeps track of who hosts, what was shared, etc. but not for any other reason than to have a record. Some hosts share $30-50 bottles and others $100+ bottles, no one really keeps score. You share what you can and everyone is pretty cool with that. Some people co-host, so multiple people will chip in on an expensive bottle or sometimes 2 or 3 different people will each bring a bottle. It's no-holds barred, really.

Hope that wasn't too drawn out, it's just hard to envision without a few examples.

7 years ago 4Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

Just 'cause I have fun thinking about this stuff and suspect some of you might too, here's an update on the bottles I have planned for my club over the next ~year. Except for the Springbank, I've locked all these in with recent purchases.

•Surprise New Zealand whisky

•Rock Oyster

•Blind Campbeltown vote-off (Springbank 10, Kilkerran 12, Disco Cow 12)

•Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Edition

•Four Taliskers (10, DE, OMC 6, 57N), with the DE becoming the club bottle

•Bunnahabhain 10 single sherry cask IB

•Five Ardbegs (10, Oogie, Corry, Dark Cove CR, Kelpie 46), with the Kelpie becoming the club bottle

•English Whisky Co. peated CS "dual cask" picked by Binny's

•Redbreast 15

•Springbank 11 Local Barley

•Old Potrero 18th C. Rye

•Kilchoman 4 CS single cask red wine barrel picked by K&L

•Highland Park 18

•Longmorn 15 IB


Planning this is so fun!

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@ajjarrett
ajjarrett replied

Any updates on your search for a whisy club, assuming you are back in the US now?

6 years ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

I hope no one minds if I continue using this "clubs" thread to record bottle plans for my club. Here's what's now in the works for our 2017-2018 club year:

September: Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Edition. Gimmick for the month: The original age-disclosed recipe, and the later recipe that the SWA made them remove the age info from.

October: Bruichladdich Black Art 3.1. Gimmick for the month: Halloween ... spoooooooky!

November: Talisker DE. Gimmick for the month: A night of four Taliskers! Also, "mit farbstoff."

December: Ardbeg Kelpie. Gimmick for the month: A night of six Ardbegs!

January: Te Bheag. Gimmick for the month: Annual Burns Night Supper. The bottle pick is just a cheap blend to put on the table.

February: Indie sherry-cask Bunnahabhain. Gimmick for the month: If funds allow, a bottle of actual sherry to taste alongside it.

March: Redbreast 12 CS. Gimmick for the month: Trad jam, I hope!

April: Springbank 11 Local Barley. Gimmick for the month: New tradition of "Springbank Spring Break."

May: Old Potrero. Gimmick for the month: Newmake from that distillery set up on George Washington's old site—a night of 18th century recreations.

June: Glengoyne 15 or a Ledaig IB, chosen by club member. Gimmick for the month: None.

July: Highland Park 18. Gimmick for the month: Hopefully a little HP vertical to test the theory often espoused by one club member: "After you have the 18, the younger HPs taste like crap." :)

August: Longmorn 15 IB. Gimmick for the month: Tasting it alongside a 22-year-old Longmorn from my stash.

6 years ago 4Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie replied

@MadSingleMalt that looks enticing - nice line up and variety for the year. It's such a shame that I'm so far away from you. So, it looks like you guys all chip in a certain amount each month and meet once monthly?

6 years ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt

Thanks, @Hewie! Yeah, we all chip in ($65/year), then meet once a month to crack open a new bottle and put a dent in the ones hanging around from past months.

It's an option for members to buy a bottle instead of paying the dues, but most just pay—which I love, because then I get to pick the bottles for most months. (And in case it wasn't obvious from my posts above, I love picking the bottles! Super fun.)

No clubs around you? Ever think of starting one?

6 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Mancub
Mancub replied

@MadSingleMalt Out of curiosity, how many guys are in your club? $65/year for the bottles you're getting is great.

6 years ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@Mancub , be careful you don't draw me too far into the weeds here! Let me consult my spreadsheet ...filter filter, sort sort ... the club has 19 active, dues-paying members—maybe: A few have gone MIA lately, so I'm really only expecting dues from about 15 people this year. That's a total budget of $975, or about $80/month.

I try to go low and high. We have some cheaper stuff like Te Bheag ($25) or a $50 IB so we can afford the occasional expensive bottle (Black Art, $200). I think that's more interesting than a series of "equal" ~$80 bottles. Plus, the contrast between cheap and high-end helps us see what the extra moolah really gets you (or doesn't!).

But I gotta add that I consider myself a world-class bargain hound, which really helps stretch the club bucks. The Highland Park 18, for example, I found for just $70. And I had a couple extra bottles from the previous year that carried over "for free," which also frees up some bucks this year for the more expensive bottles.

I have so much fun with this. I can't believe now that I ever hesitated about taking over club-running duties from the guy who was in charge before me. (And I hope my posting about it all doesn't get too tiresome for everyone else. relaxed )


I think your club as described above sounds fun too. Aside from being the "bottle picker" like I am in my club, I think your arrangement sounds like the most attractive way to do it. What are some bottles you've all had recently?

6 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Mancub
Mancub replied

@MadSingleMalt I think I'm like you and would very much enjoy the task of finding bottles and organizing monthly meetings. It's a little less exciting in Ontario since we can only get spirits from the LCBO, it really takes the "hunting" out of finding bottles (or deals). On that budget our club would be a lot less exciting (Black Art is $350 and HP18 is $200). We also don't really see much for IB's, but there are always new options at varying price points, I'm sure we could manage it and still have fun. I like the idea of some cheaper nights to augment the more lavish ones, it's a good contrast for sure. Plus, I find when a group like this gets together it's not the whisky propelling the night forward, it's the group of people.

The last couple meetings our hosts were quite generous and let people dig into their stocks. Last months bottle was Bunnahabhain 18, and we also had Aberlour A'bunadh batch 58, Tullibardine 228 Burgundy, Glenmorangie Original, Oban 14yo, Monkey Shoulder.

The following month our host opened up his bar and this is what I tried, Jack Daniels Original / Honey / Fire / Gentleman Jack / Sinatra Select, Collingwood 21, Woodford Reserve Bitters / Master's Collection New Cask Rye / Aged Rye / Pinot Noir / Rye / Double Oaked, Cooper's Craft Bourbon, Old Forester Original / Signature, The Balvenie 14 Carribean Cask, BenRiach 10yo / 12yo Sherry Wood / 1998 Single Cask 27yo. I should note that he works for Brown-Forman, so we had a lot of their offerings.

In contrast the month before we had a bottle of HP Dark Origins and that was all.

6 years ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@Mancub , I know everyone's favorite compliant about your LCBO is the high pricing, but I can see how it'd also be a drag to be limited to what's available from the one and only official supplier. You're right: The "hunt" is definitely part of the fun!

I should say, though, that recent Black Arts are $350 in the States too. I just happened to score one for the old price of $200—or at least, I'm hoping to score it. I shouldn't count my malty chickens until they hatch out of the UPS box shipped from New Jersey.

And you're totally right about the enjoyment of it all coming more from the company than from the bottle. Depending on turnout, our group is a little flat sometimes. And on a good night, it's raucous & rocking. And sometimes, bad whisky is more fun! It's human nature to enjoy criticizing, and everyone loves ripping on a gross whisky.

Nice range of bottles from your recent shindigs, especially the Bunnahabhain & the Benriachs! Though, if I were there, I think I'd be feeling the lack of peat. Maybe that shifts with the seasons. relaxed

6 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@MadSingleMalt I hope you bought as many of those $70 HP 18s as you could get your hands on.

6 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@MadSingleMalt And ain't that Compass Box Flaming Heart a beauty. I've been nursing mine for about a year and a half now and it's down to the last quarter.

6 years ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@BlueNote , I did indeed buy as many of those $70 HP 18s as I could get my hands on: one. It was the last bottle that a local grocery store put on clearance.

As for the Flaming Heart: I only had the one glass with my club buddies the other night, but yeah, I liked it a lot. I think I said elsewhere that the mature peat softly drifted through my palate, rather than whacking me in the face. Beautiful. A year and a half is a pretty good run for a bottle that you're (presumably) tempted to pour from a lot. Nice restraint! I predict that our club bottle will tie the unofficial record (from my hazy memory) for fast kills and be gone by its third meeting.

6 years ago 0