View Full Version : Ways to run a monthly tasting event?

01-13-2005, 17:04
Some local friends and I are considering starting a monthly whisk(e)y tasting night. We have no problem coming up with themes (bourbons, ryes, Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Japanese, bourbon vs. rye, bourbon vs. Scotch, etc etc).

This question is more about logistics. Say we wanted to have at least three bottles present at each monthly event. Assuming these were new bottles (not taken from anyone's personal supply), what is your feeling about an equitable way to distribute costs?

Some options:
1. One person (me, probably, at least to start) would buy everything. Attendees would pay a fraction of the total cost, depending on how many people attended. Problem: Who keeps what's left of these community bottles?
2. Attendees bring bottles. Some kind of lottery (?) is used to assign who brings what. Whomever brings the bottle keeps what's left. Problem: Some bottles are spendier than others.

I'm sure there are other ways of doing this that make sense. Has anyone done something like this before? What would your preference be if you were attending?

01-13-2005, 18:02
Set a min/max range and each take a turn at the ATM. The host suppling the hooch determines the evenings type (Bourbon/wheat, bourbon/rye, scotch, etc) and the host keeps what he bought. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/drink.gif

01-13-2005, 18:50
One rule that seems to be pretty customary in this sort of this is that the host keeps the partials. Most states have open container laws so it is prudent as well as courteous.

As for allocating the costs, one simple idea would be to establish a "club" with regular, fixed "dues," then purchase your supplies from that fund. The treasurer could also be the club's official purchasing agent, or the host could buy and be reimbursed by the treasurer.

The rationale for this is that it allows you to spend a fixed, predictible amount each month on this particular avocation, while permitting wide variability in the expense of each session. You just have to set your dues high enough so that your fund always remains in the black.

If you want to, you can rebate any surplus at the end of the year, or give it to charity, or buy everybody a nice bottle of something, or just roll it over. The advantage of this, especially if the club tends to live within its means, is that you may from time to time be able to justify an extravagance that you couldn't normally afford.

01-13-2005, 19:24
I have no experience, but might try to do some version of your # 1. If everyone chipped in equally, a post-tasting drawing to see who gets to choose in what order what to take home could be fun. Should work out fairly well over time, depending on numbers of tasters and bottles, assuming no one is going to worry too much about only getting one leftover bottle in a year, when Joe got 3, or how much $ each were.

I see Chuck mentioned open container laws, and I'd seen previous mention of that on the board. That prompted me to look up GA's statute, which forbids an oopened bottle in "the passenger area." That is, fortunately and wisely, defined to allow storage in the trunk, or even the "way back" in an SUV. Maybe your state's is similarly written.


01-14-2005, 14:55
If you are pulled over after a tasting event, an open container is probably the least of your worries.

01-15-2005, 21:26
I would think that you might set a "salary cap" of spending for the bottlings where every member who gets their turn at being host has the same outlay and the host pays for the bottles and keeps the leftovers. Say you put a 100 dollar cap and it's bourbon night, you could have a 50 dollar bottle a 30 dollar bottle and a 20 dollar bottle. On a rye night with the limited bottling you could have a bonus of four, a 40 dollar, a 20, a 15 and two 12s. And so on. For a night where you want a higher value, two could combine their turns and share the leftovers. That way you could have a 100 dollar bottle, a 60 and a 40 say.

Then again, you could have the everyone divvies up equally each time and the leftovers are considered community property and are used in future tastings against other types or for a special event gathering.

01-16-2005, 18:52
Clayton, every couple of months, my colleagues get together for a meeting at which we drink some single malt sc**** and then we BS and talk department politics. We have been doing this since 1987 or so (that's when I was first invited to the "meetings", if I remember rightly) and we have evolved to a fairly simple format: I serve as treasurer and buy whatever I feel will be novel, in that we have not tried it before, and interesting. People chip in whatever they please, and I record it in a spreadsheet (OK, anal retentive, I know). Then, when we meet, I bring the stash, both new bottles and leftovers, and we have at them for the compotation (this is what the word "symposium" used to mean). Any leftovers are stored for next meeting. Turns out that the folks with the highesst salaries do not always chip in the most http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/skep.gif, but we don't care: folks chip in what they want/can afford and we go on from there. At the next meeting, I will bring the first ever bourbon! I have some thoughts in mind, to head off a possible Makers Mark threat, but what would SB.COMers suggest? Cheers, Ed V.

01-16-2005, 19:03
Ed, I would bring Jim Beam Black Label. It is very well-balanced with a good, fruity-oriented flavour. In malt whiskey, Dalmore would be its analogue. I'd be interested in your colleagues' reaction. Of course, you will have to inform them of what to expect. Bourbon should be viewed on its own merits and has its own taste characteristics, but to people not fully aware of what it has to offer, I would compre it as I say to Dalmore, or maybe Bowmore Darkest, or Macallan, or Abelour.


01-16-2005, 19:20
Gary, at this point, we have had about 100 single malts, including Macallan 18, 1976 and 1978, Aberlour A'bunadh batch #6, and amazing Ardbegs: VOA, Ardbeggeddon, Ardbeg 1975, Lord of the Isles, etc. I brought a Van Winkle 13 rye and it was very well received (one colleague even ate the rye in the packet Julian attached to the bottle). I was thinking of a Hirsch 16 or Stagg 2003 (with a splash of branch), or maybe Elijah Craig 18. I want a "kill" shot on this: if my colleagues like it, then a whole new universe of tastes opens up, and I can go "hog wild" (what the hell does this mean, anyway) in picking new bottles to try. Cheers, Ed V.

01-16-2005, 19:41
How about ORVW/(Pappy?) 15 yr old? Or Blanton's? Those are the two I use to introduce non-bourbon drinkers to bourbon. The Blanton's works quite well with folks used to lighter (Canadian or Irish) whiskeys. The Pappy 15 works for people looking for more flavor.

I've never had Stagg, but that would probably work well also. Especially the '04 Stagg, since you will have the added ammunition of telling the Sc**** drinkers that it's Jim Murray's whiskey of the year.

01-16-2005, 22:44
Definitely if you have the availability to provide them with Stagg it will certainly open some eyes and a splash of water IMHO will really open up a lot of the big flavors that are masked by the intense heat of the straight pour for those with no great experience in drinking bourbons. Unfortunately, there could be drawbacks as Stagg is a hard act to follow and any pour that follows which does not measure up may drive them all back to S*****, and be reluctant to pursue bourbon any further at all. You might want to start them off with Staggs little brother and fine bourbon in its own right Buffalo Trace and follow up with Stagg next time.

01-17-2005, 05:03
Great idea, as a small group of us have been meeting for a few months now, sipping 20 or so different bourbons, the
VanWinkles seem to get the new bourbon drinkers attention...
anything from the W.L.Weller to the Pappy 20yo and all that is in between.....As does one of our group favorites, EC 18yo. and Rock Hill.... Enjoy, we have alot of fun, enjoying our little tastes of Kentucky, right here in upstate New York.... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

01-17-2005, 07:20
Hirsch 16 is fine especially if it is one of the earlier bottlings (ideally blue wax). It is as good as Scotland's best, to be sure. I suggested Jim Beam Black Label since it is very good and represents straight whiskey at what many feel is its best age of circa 8 years. A'bunadh (which represents only a proof difference, essentially, from the regular Aberlour) and the median-aged Macallans and other Speysiders and Highlanders I am sure you tried would find an analogue in that whiskey, I think. Ezra Brooks 12 years old, or of course Rock Hill Farms, or Elmer T. Lee, would be good choices too, i.e., something deep and tasty and rounded.

Since roundedness in bourbon is different from what it is in malt whisky I advise to try some of the bourbons on ice, at least for those not accustomed to bourbon's intensity. The one whisky type for which it may be hard to find many equivalent bourbons is Lord Of The Isles (25 year old Ardbeg in a soft, very mature interpretation). Ditto for very old Bowmores and that type of very aged single malt. Prolonged age in bourbon doesn't produce, generally, that kind of soft, cocoa-like taste. Well-aged bourbon and rye contain too much wood extract for that although 12-15 years is within the range to produce well-matured bourbon that isn't too astringent or woody. The Hirsch 16 year old is an apt comparison to the LOTI, even more so is Hirsch 20 year old. The best of the older Van Winkles, e.g., Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old, are in that league too and can be compared favorably to, say, Bowmore 25 year old. We all know bourbon matures faster than malt whisky and this kind of age relationship (approximately 15/25 U.S.-to-Britain) produces a practical equivalence of maturities. Thus will 8/12 years and so on both upwards and downwards.

You could approach this in "bands" but if you start at the top end, as Dane said it may be a hard act to follow. In part this is because there are many fewer bourbons of the Pappy 15 year old type than Scotch whiskies equivalent in quality.


01-17-2005, 19:24
I would second Gary's suggestion of JB Black, because it ought to be available immediately to any converts you make. I think I'd restrict it to something readily available, or combine a common one with an uncommon one (Stagg has been suggested already). Is Buffalo Trace easily found in Massachusetts? It's a fine bourbon and a great value.

01-18-2005, 10:05
If you go with JB Black (a good recommendation), I would hide the bottle if I were you (pour the bourbon into a decanter or flask).

Drinkers used to fancy Scotch could be put off by "common" nature and packaging of the JB, especially anybody who has previously been subjected to JB White. Then, when they're commenting on how good it is, you unveil the $18 JB Black bottle.

01-18-2005, 17:45
Thanks to all who made bourbon suggestions! Don't want to hijack this thread, but the suggestions are great. Some I have not tried yet (JB Black, Stagg 04, Ezra Brooks 12, Rock Hill Farmss, Elmer T. Lee, Pappy 15), others are more familiar. I'm thinking gr8erdane's right about Stagg (any year) being a tough act to follow. Right this minute, I have Buffalo Trace in my glass, and it definitely reminds me of Stagg's little brother, which I hadn't really picked up on. Great stuff! But the Pappy 15 is one I also really want to try soon, and I have open a bottle of ORVW 15/107 proof (Frankfort), so maybe that is the one to go with. It's $41, but the price/year of aging is less than 3, compared to most single malts now being above 4, sometimes WAY above 4. Buffalo Trace is not available here in western MA, but I got mine in RI for $19.99 + 7% sales tax, and wrbriggs says NH will be getting some in, and their state web site shows it will sell for $19.99. Another option is EWSB 1994, which is also $19.99 in NH (on sale, it goes for $16.99).
Ah, choices, choices. I will let you know when this happens and what the results were. I don't expect to make converts, but education is the name of the game, so maybe some eyes will be opened. Then at a later meeting, I'll spring the Stagg on them! Cheers, Ed V.