How to Drink Whiskey: from Events to Clubs in Southern California

Southern California Whiskey Club – Fukano & Ohishi Japanese Whisky, April 2017

 

Recently I was talking to my uncle who has been getting into whisk(e)y about tasting events. He was curious about the ones I talked about; Whisky Live, Whisky Jewbilee and Whisky Extravaganza. I started thinking about how I got into it in the first place. In a lot of ways, I came to drink whiskey somewhat in a round about way.

Let’s go back about 10 years when Seven Grand opened in Los Angeles. I had always had some sort of blog but when I started The Minty, I was just a foodie who liked a good tawny port after dinner. Sure, I drank everything but it wasn’t until I started getting into craft cocktails and the romantic history of Prohibition (not actually romantic at the time) and (neo) speakeasies like Seven Grand did I delve into whiskey (I tend to use the E spelling until I speak about Scotch/Canadian/Asian whiskies).

I was very enthusiastic. I started a few different drinks related blogs. Only one remains; LA Cocktails which is the home of the Cocktail Weeks calendar.

Then I started getting invited to media events as well as (hospitality) industry events and industry-only clubs. I went to events for Sporting Life LA, LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and some USBG (United States Bartenders Guild). I occasionally went to the Seven Grand Whiskey Society events at their inner sanctum, Bar Jackalope at the invitation of liquor brands.

Media events are divided into product tasting and then also new cocktail lists for bars and restaurants. I also started going to the aforementioned cocktail weeks around the country and tasting events like Indie Spirits Expo. When you travel for Repeal Day parties and hashtag such travel #boozetravel, you’re in deep. This year marked my fifth year going to the WSWA (Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America) convention, a trade only convention. I have also been to NCB (Nightclub and Bar) convention in Las Vegas a few times.

I’ve mentioned the whisky shows; Live, Jewbilee, Extravaganza. There are many more including The Nth, Whiskyfest and a bunch around the world. 2018 goals.

Fukano and Ohishi SCWC Tasting, April 2017

Then this year I became aware of the importance of social clubs. It’s actually really fun for me to hang out with non-industry folks and see how they feel about the juice.

In Los Angeles and beyond to Southern California, there are a few notable clubs.

Southern California Whiskey Club – Private club with some public tastings. The tasting fee tends to be very reasonable, average of $35-45. Put in an application to join the club for more info. This year I was invited to check out one of their tasting nights. I tasted through Fukano and Ohishi Japanese whiskies. It was really cool to meet the 6th generation distiller of Ohishi. SCWC members were a mixed crowd with some enthusiastic questions.

LA Scotch Club (and affiliate Orange County and San Diego clubs) – Public club with public tastings. There’s a lifetime membership fee of $150-200. However, they only consider you for membership after you’ve gone to three meetings/ tastings. For the last couple of years, I’ve tried to make time to go to their big event around Labor Day weekend, the Peatin’ Meetin’ but it always falls around my birthday and LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade, the charity food festival I go to when I’m in town. Tasting fees vary depending on the type of event ranging anywhere from $10-$150.

LA Whisk(e)y Society  – Private club and membership is invitation only. When you talk to other whiskey aficionados, they talk about how secretive this club is. But when you talk to actual club members, the tastings sounds like a bunch of dudes sitting around drinking whisky. From what I understand, club members buy bottles with the idea they’ll share with fellow members. This is a reasonable way to learn more about whiskey as many of these bottles tend to be expensive. Which leads me to…

Women Who Whiskey /LA Chapter – A few years ago, I became aware of WWW as they were recruiting women to learn more about whiskey. I got the feeling WWW started to combat the idea of only men drink whiskey. I was already going to Women In Whiskey events organized by Tasting Panel Magazine and people always confused the two; WWW and WIW. WWW events have tasting fees while WIW events were for those in the industry. WWW events are public and sometimes men are invited to join. They are going on a cruise next year to Scotland and Ireland (tasting fees not included in the cruise price).

Malt Nuts – And the most secret of secret clubs! It sounds like membership is closed at the moment. Earlier this year, I was doing a cocktail tasting at a local bar when a couple started talking to me about their private club. They went to booze storage units and had super luxe events. They’d have wine that was “so old.” And of course there was whiskey. They told me everyone in their club was a dusties collector.  I always wondered if I was being made by Malt Nuts or perhaps LAWS. Or just a couple who wanted to have a whiskey threesome.. well, anyway… I never heard from them again. (** Malt Nuts also sounds like a bunch of friends who have friendly bottle shares, not likely they’re out at bars shadowing cocktail writers).

213 Spirit Societies

The 213 Hospitality bars have their own clubs. Each have varying membership fees and/or requirements. You may also attend tastings as a non-member. Members have a first crack at RSVPs. Non members also pay a slightly higher fee. Join the mailing list for info on Seven Grand’s Whiskey Society, Cana’s Rum Society and Las Perlas’ Mezcal Collective.

There’s also the Brandy Sipping Society at Bar Clacson which is super informal and at your own pace. Get to know brandy (and armagnac, grappa, eau di vie) at reasonable prices on Sundays

 

US 2018 Whiskey Festivals:

Whisky Jewbilee- Seattle, March 15

Whisky Fest- Chicago, March 23

The Nth (Ultimate Whisky Experience)– Las Vegas, April 5-7

Whisky Fest – Washington D.C., April 17

Whisky Fest – San Francisco, November 2

Whisky Fest – New York, December 4

 

Check sites for more info.

 

© The Minty  2017

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