Thirty years ago, a few good men got together and formed a whisky club. They liked whisky and decided to pool their resources, buy some bottles, find some cosy lounge area of a private social club, meet regularly, discuss and enjoy all things whisky. Over time the club grew. With many members, all paying fees, the club could buy expensive bottles, organize tours to Scotland, even organize a whisky festival and get a cut of the festival proceeds to fund the club.
A friend of mine, who was a former member, told me about the club and suggested that I should join. I thought sure. Where do I sign up? But, the website
offers no mailing address, no contact info (other than an email link), no explanation about how to join or anything else along those lines. It also appeared not to have been updated in about 7 years, many bad links, and a "members only
" login area. My friend suggested I speak to the gentleman in charge of the club.
I approached the stout, greyish gentleman in charge of this whisky club, and inquired about joining. This affable serjeant-at-arms type of fellow replied that membership was full and until someone left, I couldn't get in. I was cool with that.
I understood that membership attrition
at this whisky club was not at the same Wile E. Coyote
plunging-off-a-cliff rate as say the latest multi-level marketing "No Money Down - Get Rich Quick in Real Estate
" scam hatched by some slick Herb Tarlek
wannabe that was infecting late night TV and hotel ballrooms everywhere.
|Super Salesman Herb Tarlek of "WKRP in Cincinnati"|
About six months later, casually, in an off-handed kinda way, over lunch I inquired once more. "Nope
." I asked again after that and the answer was still 'no
.' And maybe I queried one final time, trying not to grovel, and the response was a bemused glance to the ceiling and a shake of the head.
To make matters worse, this past November I found myself seated at a whisky dinner that was attended by a member of this seemingly secret society. At my table is a young lady around I would say 25 years. I was relieved to see that women could be members. I ask her what are her favorite malts? She sputters a little and replies unconvincingly that she likes them all. A couple more questions and I surmise she has some
interest in whisky, kinda like I have some
interest in watching reruns of that whiny harpie, Sarah Jessica Parker,
on Sex and the City
in my spare time (I don't think so). What gives?
A couple of months later, another ex-member tells me he got out because his work schedule was too demanding, but also the organization had become increasingly formal and populated by a growing number of members who were not necessarily passionate whisky fans. As an example, he told me about the stockbroker member who was working the room like Bill Clinton at a gala event for Miss America contestants. Networking! Bleh!
: Weighing all these factors in mind, I quickly realized that my chances of gaining admission to this rarefied whisky club in my home town was about as likely as I getting through the front door of New York's elite private club: Century Association
(pictured left) or the Union Club of New York
(not pictured, but you can click on the link and imagine the scent of red leather wingback chairs in dark burnished wood panelled rooms).
: I decided to start our my own whisky club!
Let's Keep it Casual
Of paramount importance for 'this thing of ours
' (pronounce with Brooklyn accent), to borrow a phrase from another equally nefarious secret society,
is to have a casual social function where whisky enthusiasts, whether they be novices or connoisseurs, can, in a relaxed, non-snobby environment, enjoy a dram and marvel at what a magical blessing it is. Have some nice conversation, and basically a good time. No need to burn a photograph of a Christian Saint in the palm of an initiate's hand while he or she recites Robbie Burns
poetry or at the very least, reads aloud the distillery tasting note off the back label of a bottle of Glenfiddich 12
I do not want this club, I am putting together, to look like this:
|A black tie affair at "The Union Club of New York"|
Nor do I want the club to look like this:
|A black leather affair at the Sons of Anarchy club house|
I need a happy medium. Not a psychic medium. Just a happy medium. Shirley Maclaine
need not apply here.
Money collected in support of a whisky club has the ability to take a laid-back meeting of some hapless whisky fans sitting on a couch, and turn it into a behemoth of corporate governance around a bloody boardroom table. Don't believe me? That's ok. That's why I like you. You're a skeptic. Here, let me bend your ear for a moment.
I have called together seven guys (no ladies because none I know want to be caught dead with us) that will meet at my house in two weeks or so with $100 each to hand over to use as start-up capital. That means we have $700 to go out and buy: some whisky; Glencairn glassware; and maybe a couple of books on bourbon and scotch for the club. At each subsequent meeting, attendees have to hand over $10-$20, in order to keep regular cash flow coming in to buy more whisky, books, glassware, snacks, etc.
If membership expands beyond the founding members, you got some serious cash coming in. Who is going to collect and account for the funds? Should that person be the same one that buys the scotch, books, etc? Should the two functions be separated? What about financial statements? Do we need to review those at each meeting? Maybe we need a treasurer? Should the treasurer collect directly from new members or should an "admissions officer" handle that task?
Ok, you're starting to get the picture. And as my mother always says, you get to see a person's true character by observing how they handle money in relation to others. Is everyone gonna be on my wavelength?
What am I to do? Let it evolve baby! When I was a freshly minted 22 year old college, know-it-all graduate, I would tell you in exhaustive detail, a very linear solution. We'd have a governance structure that would look like it came right out of the pages of some consulting accounting firm. Well, I am not 22 years old. I'm much, much older. And as I get older, I am less structured and more intuitive. In fact, I abhor structure. It's all about gut instinct! How this club evolves and how I endeavour to keep it from becoming as exclusive as Augusta National Golf Club
cannot be explained, but it's gonna happen. Because if need be, I'll call in a couple of hoods, along the lines of TV's fictional Sons of Anarchy
motorcyclist enthusiast club 'Samcro',
in order to enhance my powers of persuasion, and if necessary: a little Stalinesque
Hey, a thought just ocurred to me. Am I becoming exclusive
like the other club that rejected me?
P.S. Sons of Anarchy
is one helluva an entertaining show! Watch it and you will be hooked by some great drama!
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for the following images: (1) The Century Association front entrance photograph - photographer is Ashley Mungo who holds all copyright; (2) Wile E. Coyote image - created by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" series; (3) WKRP in Cincinnati" screen shot taken from an optical disc - copyright holder is 20th Century Fox Television; (4) "The Dark Knight" full promotional image released by Warner Bros. Pictures who are copyright holders; (5) "Sons of Anarchy" promotional image made available by production company FX Productions via their website. (6) Photograph of black tie affair at The Union Club of New York - photographer unknown - source of photograph is website of world renowned Florentine portrait artist Maria Teresa Meloni. Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description alone.