The Basics Of Running A Club (Equipment Checklist)
When you get started, you’ll need some basic gear for your guests to use. After all, it’s not very classy to share expensive whiskey straight from the bottle with 12 people. The first essential piece of gear you’ll need is glassware. There are a lot of kinds of glassware, and you really, really don’t need it all to begin your club. Stick to the basics and minimize your investment until you’re sure people are going to attend regularly.
The 2 options you’ll see if you do some searching are the glencairn and the highball. Obviously, there are others but these are the most common I’ve come across. Do yourself a favor and start with the highball.
This is a short glass that’s meant for drinking brown liquor from. It’s easy to drink from, cost-effective, and makes the new guy feel like he’s a cast member from Mad Men. Especially if you’re new to whiskey, this is all you need.
I have a set of square-shaped high ball glasses, and I really enjoy the feel of it in my hand. Some high-ball glasses have a heavy bottom with a bubble set in the glass, and a lot of people enjoy the weight of that style. It’s not for everyone so I would encourage you to shop around and see what you like before getting a set.
This is a small, tulip-shaped glass that is great for dipping your nose into before sipping your whiskey. If you’re new to whiskey, I highly advise you don’t dip your nose in and huff the fumes. You’ll regret it.
I will say that on occasion I do enjoy my tulip glasses. The idea behind them is that the design combines the perfect ratio of air to whiskey based on the size of the glass and the volume of a standard pour of whiskey. You’ll see reviewers on YouTube use them and you’ll see them in tasting rooms, all for a good reason. I’m not saying to never get a set. I am saying, if you’re hosting a tasting club for mostly people new to whiskey, a highball is a better way to get started.
It’s something you don’t really think about until it’s too late, so plan ahead with this. There are a ton of templates on Pintrest, but it works just as well to buy a stack of 3×5 note cards and a bag of pens. Even if you don’t plan on adding up and averaging scores like I do, this step adds a layer of authenticity that you really need to engage your guests.
My cards include this stuff:
- Whiskey Name
- Taster’s Name
- Estimated Value
For score, I go with a 1 to 10 scale. I tell everyone that a 5 isn’t a bad score. It’s just the average. Using 5 as your starting point helps make that whiskey that is a 10 really feel special.
For burn, I give a scale of 1 being water and 10 being a shot of fireball. Some of us remember how harsh that stuff was before they got banned and had to change their recipe…
Estimated value is what you think the bottle should be priced at on the shelf of your local liquor store. It’s not a competition to be the closest. This step helps people find a whiskey that may surprise them and has been one of our favorite parts of the club since we started doing it.
Notes are where we write about the flavors and sensations we experience with a given whiskey. I can’t overstate this – Do not be a pretentious jerk, and don’t let your guests be rude to each other. The goal can’t be to show everyone how much you know. If you make people feel bad or stupid they won’t come back. Make your goal to have help everyone have fun, and if they are open to it, learn something cool.
Yes, I’m giving this a whole section of this post. Have water ready for everyone. If you don’t hydrate your guests, you’re just begging for a problem. Here in Oregon a 24 pack of water costs less than $5 and it’s always worth it.
This sounds like a mere convenience, and it is. However, if you can find a cheap one at an antique store, a discount retail store, or just get one from a friend or grandparent who doesn’t use theirs, get one. It’s amazing how often I use this in our meetings.
Stuff You Don't Need
This stuff is cool, but you honestly don’t need it yet. I have ice sphere molds and stones and decanters and a bunch of other gadgets, but until you have a consistent meeting and feel like it adds a significant aspect to your club’s experience, hold off on it.
An ice sphere is amazing, especially if it fits your glass properly. You might hear some people try to sound knowledgeable by telling you not to use ice or put water in your whiskey because it will ruin the flavor. That’s just not the case, and if someone needs an ice cube they should be able to have one. If it makes the experience better then it’s not a bad thing.
However, if you end up with 10 people and taste 4 whiskeys, you’re going to end up needing 20 cubes to last everyone the whole event and that’s going to get expensive and kind of silly. Most people probably won’t use the stones, so don’t even mess around with them. If you feel like some people might like ice, get an ice tray and use filtered water in it.
A nice decanter can be a wonderful thing. By exposing whiskey to air, the liquor can open up and have a more bold and noticeable flavor profile. Most new drinkers aren’t going to notice the difference. Focus your budget on the part that matters for your first meetings; spend it on the whiskey.
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If you’re looking to buy some equipment the quick and easy way, try one of the links below. If you end up purchasing something after you click one of these, it helps support our habit. Thanks for helping out, and feel free to let me know what you think of the products.
I like a little weight to my glass, but not everyone does. And, I know I said don’t buy a bunch of glencairn glasses until you’re ready to really invest in your club. When you decide you’re ready, I ordered 2 sets of the glencairn glasses in the ad below for my club. I really like them.
Last, I have 4 of these ice sphere molds and I love them. However, you don’t need them for your club so don’t worry about buying a dozen. Buy a set for yourself though, and maybe one for a friend. Honestly, they’re great.