Whisky clubs revealed

As some may know, I’m part of three whisky tasting groups in Mumbai. Each has its own format and approach…

I’m often asked how do we do it? What is the recipe for success?

We certainly do not have any ‘magic’ formula, however found a few key factors:

  • Core group of very dedicated people who value quality over quantity – drinkers would be bored silly & chaff with impatience at our slow process of sniffing, sipping and discussing small samples
  • Ability to source unique whiskies from outside India and go well beyond standard duty-free fare
  • Keep it small – too many people and it becomes a party vs an opportunity to share a focused discovery of a specific whisky
  • Typically needs at least one ‘ring leader‘ per group that rallies the ‘troops’ and keeps things on track in terms of participation, fairness in contributions, planning dates/places, etc
  • None are ‘commercial’… there are no membership fees, no one is trying to make money and instead we each contribute in kind and mind!

Want to know more? Here is a quick guide to what works for us with a warning… these are ALL closed groups.

That said, if you are part of a whisky tasting group, would love to learn more about how you go about it. Maybe there is something you do that we would love to try!

Whisky Ladies of Mumbai

  • Who – Core group of ladies supplemented by guests if ‘spots’ in a particular session available
  • Where – Rotate venues at different members homes, limiting ‘spots’ by number of ladies that can be comfortably accommodated in a single discussion space (typically around 8-10)
  • When – Monthly, mostly 3rd Tuesday but bounces around too
  • What – Different approaches… we try to source in such a way to achieve themes yet sometimes simply mix it up to have some fun
  • How – At times the contributor tells a little about the whisky before we sample, other times we just dive in… so far we have not sampled blind

Bombay Malt & Cigar Club

  • Who – Select set of guys and one gal (guess who that is!)
  • Where – Two venues (a/c for summer, outdoors for winter) where glasses and more stored, cigars acceptable plus always fabulous food… why mess with a good thing?
  • When – Sporadically with an aim of every month or so
  • What – Rotating whisky ‘curator’ who collects whiskies in advance to share plus another who takes the lead on ‘curating’ the cigars
  • How – Generally not blind however initial tasting of whiskies strictly without cigars then followed by discovery of another indulgence – cigars!

Original & Underground 

  • Who – Small group of fellow whisky adventurers who devote a serious evening to exploring whiskies, running since 2011
  • Where – Rotate at members homes with each hosting at least once a year
  • When – Monthly except monsoon or sometimes December, strictly 3rd Thursday and planned up to year in advance (I kid you not!)
  • What – Host curates completely! From selecting the whiskies to the dinner that follows… sometimes even special whisky food pairings
  • How – Blind tasting before the reveal

There are other whisky tasting groups around however one of the challenges we in India face vs other countries is limited access to quality, unique whiskies beyond duty-free fare. India may be one of the worlds largest consumer of whisky – however that is predominantly cheap blended whisky – the quantity over quality kinda stuff that doesn’t interest our groups.

So it requires dedication, commitment and creative planning to source whiskies. Hence our groups are all ‘private + closed’ as there is a careful balance between interest, aligned approach and ability to contribute. With our original group, it isn’t unheard of to start collecting for a theme years in advance.

Whereas groups like Winnipeg’s Cabinet or my aunt and uncles’ Fort Frances Whisky Club, have access to a reasonable range through their local Liquor Store, with friendly arrangements to import interesting bottles plus supplement acquisitions from member’s travels.

My uncle was treasurer for years with his group – membership comes with a price and entitles to attend so many sessions / year plus the chance to win the lucky ‘draw’ to take home the balance of a bottle at the end of the evening. It is all fair, square and again completely non-commercial in nature.

Personally I really enjoy tasting with others – I gain so much having different voices and reactions not just my solo impressions.

Would love to learn more about other whisky tasting groups both within India and outside!

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