The Basics Of Running A Club (What do you actually do there?)
- Basic information trivia
- Rules and guidelines
- Repeat 4 & 5 until you’re out of whiskey to try
- Feed the people
Most people want to get through a tasting in a matter of 1 to 1.5 hours (just my observations, your friends may be different). Plan on hosting longer than that so that you have time for some chit-chat afterward, some time for the ones who miscalculated their tolerance to sober up, and time to feed everyone if you do that at your club. I plan 4 hours total.
Starting the meeting
I have some standard rules I set at this point. They are as follows:
- Have a plan to get home. If you’re driving, know your limits and stick to them. Download Lyft or Uber or whatever you need to as a backup before you start drinking.
- If the kids are within earshot, use Disney words only. If you can’t say it in a Disney movie, go outside where the kids can’t hear you.
- Go home at 5:00 pm. That’s 4 hours after the club begins, and I have to bathe, feed, and care for children.
Once you’ve shared your house rules, introduce any new members at the club. It might be awkward for them for a minute, but they’ll get through their first pour and probably feel like talking a bit more.
I like to print up some information about each whiskey and distillery to present before each pour. It’s fun to hear about the history of the distillery and sometimes the blurb they write about their whiskey. My one word of advice if you do this is DO NOT read anything that provides flavors or tasting notes before hand. If you want, share this info after everyone has given a review, but never before.
It’s a good idea to introduce everyone to the format at this point. I like to introduce my score card and explain how the rankings work here. For some definitions and descriptions of our scoring system, check out the section on our current scores page.
Pouring the drinks
A standard whiskey bottle has 16 shots in it. Serving someone 4 shots in an hour is irresponsible, especially if they’re driving. I do not recommend this.
I count out each pour to be a fraction of a shot so that at the end of an hour each guest has had about 1 standard shot. If you’re not sure how to do this, get a jigger and measure each pour or practice pouring from a bottle full of water.
Beyond that my guests are allowed to revisit drinks as they please since they paid for the whiskey.
Tasting the whiskey
Once everyone has a glass of whiskey in front of them, encourage them to taste the whiskey and make their notes. I warn newcomers that this isn’t a wine tasting, and if you’re not used to whiskey sticking your nose in the glass and taking a deep breath is a really bad idea.
This next point is extremely important. There is no wrong answer when you review a whiskey. It’s fine to laugh and tease a little, but in order for a tasting to work everyone needs to feel comfortable sharing an opinion.
Now, Ask your guests to take a sip, swish it around, and really concentrate on the flavors. Ask them to write down whatever comes to mind. Ask them to not say anything about the whiskey out loud. Ask them to think about the burn and the taste after the whiskey is gone and to write down their thoughts about this too.
Reviewing the whiskey
Make sure everyone is done making their notes before you begin this part. I like to choose different people to start with each time we review a new bottle. This tends to help keep everyone focused, something that gets harder to do toward the end of the meet. Everyone must give a review!
The reviewer should get everyone’s full attention. We usually start by giving our burn rating and overall score because those are the easiest to think about. We follow this by giving our thoughts about the whiskey and then passing to the next person for a review.
Once the last person is finished reviewing the whiskey, you can start pouring the next one. Never start pouring the next drink before reviews are done!
None of us had even been to a proper tasting before we started this club. We just bought some whiskey and made a day of it. After doing this for a couple years we’ve tasted more than 50 whiskeys and formed our own opinions about a lot of it.
These are just guidelines. Let your group evolve over time and develop its own identity. Have fun, be safe, and always have a plan!