Exploring whiskey carries great barriers to entry, as each bottle, especially the least commercially available, can be expensive. Buying a bottle also carries a significant level of commitment, as there is a risk of buyer remorse.
One way to curb this is by visiting clandestine bars or whiskey bars to try various alternatives in dramas, which refers to a single serving of whiskey containing ⅛ ounces or 30 ml. Each glass acts as a sample of a spirit, so you don’t have to shell out the full bottle, which will allow you to try it before you buy.
This is how Aaron, Alicia and Jin, who were formerly whiskey novices, came to broaden their senses to the complexity of the flavors presented in refined whiskeys. Eager to share their passion for whiskey exploration with other Malaysians, they launched Whiskey notes, a monthly subscription service that offers selected themed whiskey flights.
Take the bar home
Klang Valley has no shortage of clandestine and whiskey bars serving less conventional bottles with names such as The Whiskey Bar and KL i 61 Monarchy and PJ. While these bars continue to open, they often limit the number of customers who eat and require prior reservation.
Thus, probably whiskey notes came into play at an opportune time in the midst of the pandemic. Launched in July 2021, the subscription service offered whiskey lovers the opportunity to discover new whiskeys from home, while learning about each digitally.
From 150 RM per month, the cost of the subscription plan decreases as you commit to a longer plan. Subscribing for 3 months would cost you 145 RM, while 6 months is 140 RM.
The monthly sets contain 3 bottles of 30 ml tasters with discreet labels on each bottle, designed to eliminate any brand bias that customers may have. When they receive each themed box, customers are advised to taste the drinks blindly before scanning the QR code provided to reveal information about the flavors and fun facts of whiskeys.
“We find that this experience democratizes whiskey by blindly discovering all the flavors that whiskey offers,” Alicia noted.
As an example of the types of themes that The Whiskey Notes has offered, one of its recent themes called “Spring Fling” contained whiskeys that had floral flavor profiles.
“We presented specially selected whiskeys that transport you to the spring days. Imagine playing in a flower field or entering an orchard that is ready to bear fruit. All this while enjoying sweet honey and delicious spices, ”Alicia described in Vulcan Post.
“At this police station, we presented a 12-year-old Aultmore, a 12-year-old Glengoyne and a small batch of Teeling.”
Although the team did not disclose where their liquors come from, they said the whiskeys are only obtained from authorized wholesalers and importers.
Also looking at the gift market
Aside from the subscription service, The Whiskey Notes also offers tasting sets with a price range between RM135 and RM389 aimed at the gift market.
It may also be more suitable for those who already have an idea of the range of flavors they prefer. This is because the tasting sets list what’s inside the box, unlike the subscription boxes where you won’t know which whiskeys you’ll receive.
The team has even collaborated with 61 Monarchy to prepare a tasting set that includes rare and limited independent bottled whiskeys. The 30 ml dragons in this set include:
- Eiling Lim Bowmore 2002 14th release in 15 years
- Wemyss Malt Bowmore 1989 ‘Samurai Cask’ 29 years old
- The Whiskey Agency X Three Rivers Tokyo Island Single Malt 2002 15 years (Orkney)
Did you know: An independent bottler is a company that buys whiskey barrels from different distilleries, most often ripe whiskeys that are already of a suitable age, and bottles them with their own designed bottles and labels.
Build a community
The subscription service and gift boxes offered by The Whiskey Notes essentially reduce the barriers to entry involved in exploring whiskey.
Also, because the team’s main mission is to provide education on whiskey and make liquor more accessible, they plan to launch a community called Nosy Club. It is where whiskey drinkers with related ideas can get together and share their experiences with whiskey, and also get some benefits from The Whiskey Notes services.
To ensure that participation generates education, they will also host events that include guided whiskey tastings, vertical whiskey tastings (in-flight whiskey tasting from a distillery) and food or confectionery pairings.
For example, The Whiskey Notes collaborated with a dessert shop to pair a whiskey tasting set with the latter’s snow-moon moon cakes made with Niko Neko’s matcha.
“This allowed our brand to be introduced to a whole new audience while educating our customers about the versatility of whiskey. It reached a whole new target audience, from lovers of moon cakes looking to pair it with a drink to whiskey lovers with a taste of moon cakes to combine, ”the team explained.
So far, The Whiskey Notes has already organized virtual and physical tastings for groups of between 25 and 100 people. These events were organized by international whiskey brand ambassadors and independent whiskey connoisseurs to share at these events.
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Although we have a wine subscription service at KL by By decisions, The Whiskey Notes is probably the first Malaysian brand to offer a subscription service for whiskeys.
It is an attractive service for people who enjoy the experience of discovering whiskeys without the social element or bar atmosphere that can sometimes be overwhelming.
In addition, the reopening of bars and crowds that host them can be a short-lived behavior on the part of customers who have been closed for many months.
Those who prefer to drink long-term and more often would normally do so at home, which is a gap that The Whiskey Notes can fill without sacrificing the element of exploration.
- You can find more information about The Whiskey Notes here.
- You can read more Malaysian startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Aaron, Alicia and Jin, co-founders of The Whiskey Notes