WORDS BY STEPHANIE AIKINS
More than any other spirit, whisky holds a special place in the hearts of Australians. In the 1800s, we lapped it up as a reminder of home, one of few ties we held to the land of moors and castles oceans away that many of us had left behind. Nowadays, this obsession with the amber spirit has transformed into another beast entirely, with our country producing quite a few exceptional whisky examples of our own. It is this ability of the category to grow and change that has allowed the liquid to hold on to the position of most popular spirit in Australia every year since those early days of settlement. Indeed today, whisky maintains a dominant 45 per cent of the total spirits consumed Down Under.*
It is one of the few drinks that attracts a strong cult following, enticing both new fans and connoisseurs alike, as its constant evolution means there is always something knew to learn or taste. As with everything on this planet, however, the main barrier to this exploration is money. It’s a reasonable risk to go out on a limb and purchase a relatively expensive 700ml bottle of whisky out of sheer curiosity; a risk that, understandably, few of us average folk are willing to take.
This is where the benefit of a whisky club comes in. No, I’m not talking about a group of grey-haired gentleman, sitting around on leather couches in a smoke shrouded room with the same old dram in hand. Thanks to the advent of the Internet, modern whisky clubs unite diverse ages and demographics across the globe and are focused on spirits education rather than outdated displays of elitism.
Most are subscription services, offering the unique opportunity to try small samplings and bottlings from a range of craft and premium distilleries, all delivered right to your door. The best are run by experts in the category – industry professionals who, through their connections, are able to source new, special and rare releases at great value for money.
The better the reputation of a club, the more advantageous it is for brands to showcase their spirit to the members. As a result, the clubs with strong industry connections often have access to exclusive imports or are the chosen channel for a brand to first launch their premium new release into market. This means that whisky clubs are, really, the only avenue through which whisky lovers can experience non-mainstream, rare or special releases not found anywhere else in the country.
The other benefit of joining an expert led whisky club is that the guesswork is taken out for you. It doesn’t matter how rare or unique a whisky is, in the end the whiskies showcased in the club will be picked first and foremost on taste. Well-organised clubs will then guide members through a tasting of the expression, via tasting notes provided by the experts themselves. Some will also include further information, such as a history of the distillery or a breakdown of the special techniques used in the creation of the whisky. This level of education means that there is truly something for everyone to take away, from the aficionado to the simply curious.
For those looking to delve deeper in the world of whisky, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more economical or educational way to do so. So what are you waiting for? Come on and join the club!
*Chris Middleton, explore WHISKY 2018