Crowdfund a Fancy Drinking Club
I have to give full credit to the founder (Lachlan) of a local scotch organization in which I participate (Knights of the Cask). It started as a few guys who wanted to try some expensive scotch, and evolved into a pretty well-established group of good friends who meet each month and drink really nice scotch together.
But the concept is simple, and applies to pretty much any premium booze you'd love to try but don't want to shell out the cash for (bourbon, scotch, tequila, rare whalez of beer, etc.)
Using our group as a model, here is what we do (use only as guidelines, because this can easily be modified to fit the needs of a group).
- Size of Group: Get a group of 5+ friends to start (scale as needed, but we have a group of somewhere between 14-18 which is probably the most we'd want)
- Cadence of Meetings: Schedule a monthly date that works for everyone to meet (i.e. first Tuesday of the month), and have a location where you can store all of the group's bottles like one trustworthy member's house / basement.
- Commitment Bottle and Fees: At the start, and every six months, each member "commits" to the next 6 months by bringing a bottle and $90. Set a price for this bottle (e.g. around a $50 bottle of scotch or a $25 bottle of bourbon or have 2 people go in on a bottle)
- The Pours: Then each member gets up to 5 equal pours at each meet (we use a specific place on a Glencairn to pour to, but you might use some other way of keeping people honest). We used to limit to 1 pour from any bottles that were extra fancy (higher price point), so that those bottles lasted longer and people tried more variety.
- Replacing Empties: When any bottle(s) are emptied at a meet, you dip into the treasury and vote in new bottles with the crowdfunded money you have. Group dynamics will determine if you spend on 3 $150 bottles, or 9 $50 bottles until the next commitment meet, but it's a democracy, so do what you want.
Now that will give you a baseline to get started. I recommend you keep it simple at the start. You can add more layers to this to get some good data, provide a little ceremony, add some haughty elements to your group, etc. as we do in a few examples below:
- We have been going for a few years, so the treasury has gotten big enough to have special events, blind tastings w/ rewards like a ticket to Whiskey in the Winter, nosing kits, competitions for identifying ordered, etc. We did this along with a combo of commitment fees and having two people combine resources to find a ~$90 bottle every 6 months from a specific region/style (Highland/Lowland/Islay/Speyside)
- When any bottle empties, we honor it at the next meet by writing and sending a letter to the distillery on official letterhead to includes something along the lines of a poem. And we light a candle in any previously emptied bottle to retire them
- We keep a spreadsheet of all bottles ever purchased for the club, marking the price and location acquired. This helps when we want to get another bottle, to compare price history and see trends in our club member tastes (we tend to order more Islay / Highlands)
- (nerd alert) We do have an official coat of arms, a pin, club jackets, a kilt or two, etc.
Quick math (this is where the justification comes):
6 months x 5 pours =
Average bar price of bottles in our current inventory =
$16 (e.g. $480 for 30 pours)
Value of commitment bottle + dues =
Essentially, the club started simple and evolved every 6 months through members bringing ideas to the table, and having the rest of the group vote on those ideas. This same process would really be the best way to make something your own. And I encourage ideas and voting to happen after 3 or 4 drinks to make things interesting.
And hell, if you start something like this, let me know, and I'd be glad to join as a guest and help. My meager consultation fees come in the form of a few shared drinks.
Cheers / Slàinte mhath!