A Black Bourbon Society event in Chicago / Photo by Coopernicus Photos
The benefits of tasting clubs are numerous, whether they’re hosted in person or online. They can provide an economical way to sample a wide range of bottles. They can also become educational forums, or ways to network and socialize with like-minded people.
“Clubs are a way to focus your interest,” says Julia Ritz Toffoli, founder of Women Who Whiskey. “It’s nice to have a community that understands the things that you like, and you can get together to do that thing with.”
Whether your preferred pour is wine, whiskey, rauchbier or rum, there’s probably a tasting club for it. And if there isn’t, here’s how to get one started, according to pros.
1. Join an Existing Club
A Women Who Whiskey Event / Photo by Daphne Youree for Whiskey Advocate
“When I got started, I was just seeing what other whiskey groups do and how they operate,” says Charles Grabitzky, founder of the Saratoga Whiskey Club in upstate New York. “Some are really big, some are only 10–12 people. There’s so much out there, and you can pick and choose what resonates with you.”
He suggests performing an online search for your city or town, combined with your preferred pour and “club.” Hashtags on Instagram (#naturalwineclub, #bourbonsociety) also can help point the way.
2. Connect with Others
A Black Bourbon Society tasting event / Photo courtesy of Black Bourbon Society and Maker’s Mark
For those who look to widen their social circle, there are plenty of ways to connect with people who share your interest.
“Social media has made it easier to find like people,” says Toffoli. For those who prefer to stay offline, she suggests to post a notice at a local bar that has a bulletin board.
In addition, a website or Facebook group can be a helpful communication tool, says Grabitzky. “It’s a place to share information like upcoming event dates, photos from past events, bottle scores, articles of interest or a note if a local store has something special.”
3. Select a Venue
A Saratoga Whiskey Club event / Photo by Shawn Lachapelle
Especially for small, informal groups, a bar or restaurant can be ideal to host a tasting. Schedule during off-peak hours if you’d like a bartender, sommelier or other expert to provide guidance.
“Tell a bar you want to bring in a group of four or five people, and maybe make it a regular event,” says Grabitzky.
Events hosted at home can feel more casual and approachable. It can also help keep costs down if guests chip in on bottles or bring their own.