Whiskey drinkers are fascinating, anthropologically speaking. They’ve evolved from casual shot-takers to acolytes of this distillery over that distillery, and entrenched themselves in rich subcultures around ryes or bourbons or Japanese blends. They’ve weathered the societal fluctuations, from obsessions with Canadian whiskey to heavily peated stuff out of Scotland to American single malts. They have developed a scientific method for tasting a sample in a way that yields its most subtle notes and hints. Yet, there’s always something new learn, because the whiskey world is ever-evolving, too. One way to stay atop of it is through a membership to a whiskey club. And while this might bring to mind eye-roll-inducing accouterments like smoking jackets, newsboy caps, and darkly lit lounges trimmed in brown leather, it’s really just an alcohol subscription to get whiskey in the mail (if it’s legal in your state), and then some.
If you would like to use your time to investigate what’s new (or very old) in whiskey these days, a club will guide you. And if you are hesitant to go to the liquor store, given the present international drinking situation, then a club will supply you. Here are five the best options, each offering interesting whiskey with a membership experience unique to it. You can’t choose wrong.
Flaviar is like the bartender you’ve always wanted to befriend—the one who sees you drinking Maker’s Mark straight every time you come in, and wants to push you into new territory by letting you sample shots of what’s hidden on shelves behind the bar (he won’t charge you extra). With Flaviar, you’ll be prompted to choose your whiskey preferences: bourbon and rye, or scotch and whisky, or both. It’ll ask you which “big” brands you’ve drunk before. You know, like Johnnie Walker or Jack Daniels or Jameson. Then, the fun part: Which of these “big” brands would you take with you to a desert island, if you had to choose one? That’s all Flaviar needs to decide which intriguing, small batch whiskeys to ship you—a Tasting Box of samples tailored to your preferences, plus a full bottle, quarterly.
Mash and Grape hawks its whiskey club as a gift, which it is, to you. With this one, you’ll have to trust that Mash and Grape’s access to rare or unsung bottles will keep you interested, because beyond selecting whether you want the bourbon, single malt scotch, or whiskey-in-general club, you don’t have much say in what gets shipped. For a preview of the kind of bottle you might receive every month, though, Mash and Grape operates an online liquor store where you can browse for bottles à la carte and get a feel for the whiskeys the brand stocks. It stocks a lot. And should you be totally unfamiliar with what it sends, there are accompanying tasting notes and background reading for each bottle.
Taster’s Club is another one that offers itself as curator, educator, and delivery service. Every month you’ll get a surprise 750 ml. bottle of whiskey—depending on which club you pre-select, either bourbon, scotch, or a selection from the world whiskey grab bag—to nurse until the next bottle arrives. For extra credit, you’ll also be enrolled in digital 101 courses to really understand what you’re drinking. With the bourbon club, the emphasis is put on undiscovered craft outfits. With the scotch club, an ultra hard-to-find expression might turn up on your stoop. With the general whiskey club, Taster’s Club might secure you access to an exclusive release. Instead of hunting the liquor store shelves, outsource the hunting.
Craft Whisky Club
By now, you know the deal: a club that sources exceptional bottles from exceptional distillers, with exclusive benefits for its members. But two things set the Craft Whisky Club apart: One, it focuses its efforts on newer operations in Scotland and the rest of the world, so you can consider yourself part of a vanguard ushering in the next generation of capital-G Good whisky. Two, it sends you snacks along with your bi-monthly bottle. And we are not above a bribe.
The Whisky Exchange
For those of you who don’t like surprises or otherwise would rather not put their fate into the hands of a stranger—albeit a stranger who really knows their shit—keep tabs on the Whisky Exchange’s Malt of the Month series. Each month, it highlights a new world whisky that we doubt you’d get to try otherwise (for instance, the winner for April 2020 is Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve from Suntory in Japan). Simple as that. And because it’s not a subscription, you can choose whether or not you want to spend the money on that month’s bottle. So really, all you’re doing is contracting out the discovery legwork to an expert, in exchange for having to check back in periodically to purchase a bottle.
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