Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Club Rules

One of the major issues with starting to drink whisky or any other "premium" liquor is the cost. I think it's safe to say that the majority of us will think twice before dropping fifty dollars on a bottle of something that you may not be that familiar with. The problem is, in order to get familiar with a malt, you're going to need to drink a few drams. Gotta love those Catch 22s! Drinking at whisky bars can get pretty expensive as well, since you can easily pay $10 for a dram of something that sells for roughly $60 a bottle in the store (Talisker 10 y-o). It's a drink worthy of the $10 price tag, but - ouch!

One solution to this problem is to start a whisky tasting club. I started one of these in Montreal with a few friends and we jokingly referred to ourselves as the "Men of Tain" after the revered whiskymen who are referred to on bottles of Glenmorangie.

Once you have three or four people involved (that's a club in my book), you can decide how to proceed:

1) Everyone chip in $15 dollars and purchase a different bottle each meeting

2) Every individual purchases their own bottle and these are brought to the meetings - new bottles can then be purchased as older stocks are depleted.

Both of these options serve the same purpose: They allow you to try different whiskies repeatedly without buying them all yourself. This means you can have multiple drams of the same malt in the same sitting (and at subsequent sittings), which will really give you a feel for that particular whisky.

My best friend and I worked through a bottle of Mortlach 16 y-o (distillery bottling-Flora and Fauna range) over a couple of days on a trip to Scotland 4 years ago and the nose is still immediately recognizable to me. This is a highly recommended dram - in case you're taking notes!

It may be easier to recruit club members for option #1, due to the low admission price. Almost everyone I talk to about this is interested in trying a tasting once, but the difficulty is in finding and retaining serious tasters. Those who are genuinely interested and are willing to invest in further whisky purchases will begin to stand out from the pack. That being said, journeymen tasters who don't always show up for every club meeting but chip in financially every once in a while have their value, too. Club exclusivity can result in some lonely meetings!

Our "Men of Tain" club doesn't meet anymore, as we have spread out over Canada and beyond. We still share great friendships, a love of whisky and a lot of fond memories - a success by any measure!