In February of 2015, 3 of us were out eating tacos and we somehow ended up starting a scotch club. A month later 12 of us were gathered around a kitchen table at our inaugural tasting. We knew next to nothing about scotch but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to have an excuse to get the guys together every couple of months in the middle of our busy lives. Our club grew quickly and one of the first ideas we discussed was hosting some sort of tasting where we raised money for a local charity.
In May of 2016 we did just that. We held our first #Drams4Fams charity tasting for the Edmonton Food Bank. 40 people paid $80 each to attend and we ended up raising $5,000. $4,000 went to the Edmonton Food Bank and $1,000 went to the Mental Rescue Society.
The tasting was a huge success but we immediately started talking about how we could make it bigger and better.
Well, I think we can say we succeeded in doing just that. On May 27th, 2017, 80 people attended our “#Drams4Fams Charity Whisky Tasting” at the Edmonton Freemasons Hall.
In total we raised a whopping $16,225!!!!
$15,225 was donated to the Edmonton Food Bank and $1,000 to the True North Search and Rescue.
I will post a list of all the companies and individuals that donated, later, but for now I will just say thank you so much to everyone that took time out of their busy schedules to come out, spend a lot of money, and drink whisky for a good cause.
Thank you to the reps, stores, companies, and individuals that stepped up in a BIG, BIG way to help make this event a huge success. We could not do this without you.
Last but not least, thank you SO MUCH to Andrew Walls with Victoria Caledonian Distillery, Dave Gardner with Yukon Spirits, Jay Wheelock with Fountana Beverage Corp, Kelly Carpenter with Scotch Malt Whisky Society Canada, and Dave Scott with Keg n Cork Liquor for taking time out of their extremely busy schedules to be in attendance to present the whiskies to everyone. You all did a fantastic job! Thank you!!
The event started at 7pm and people started pouring in early to get their seats. Luckily, Andrew Walls was pouring some of Victoria Caledonian’s ‘Guest Whiskies’ before the actual tasting began.
The tasting started at 7:30pm. Sandra Neis, a board member with the Edmonton Food Bank, started the night with a quick spiel about all the food bank does for our community. I will summarize by saying this…they do A LOT!! They make every dollar go a long way. The Edmonton Food Bank helps feed 20,000 people that collect hampers each month and provides food for over 500,000 meals and snacks each month through the 230 agencies they deal with.
The $15,225 that we donated will help make over 40,000 meals for local families. 40% of the people that receive this food are children under 18 years of age.
Next, we began our not-so-formal evening agenda. We started with ‘Special Announcements’ which included several of our members having babies, getting pregnant, or getting married.
We then introduced our ‘Board of Directors’:
- Vice President-Ben Anders
- Director of Memberships/Vice President- Ben Cabush
- Director of Guests & Guest Experiences: Tim Ritsema
- Director of Music and Ambiance- Tom Reike
- Director of Linguistics and Archaeology- Trevor Goertzen
- Director of Bottle Procurement- Glen Tong
- Director of Shirts Above or Below the Neck- Colin Melnychuk
- Director of Disappointments-Patrick Watt
- Director of Patch-Making and Other Artistic Endeavours- Steve Klit
- Director of Munchies and Other Edible Consumables- Jon San Agustin
- Director of Interruptions-Dave Robert
- Director of Legitimacy- Rabbi
- Director of Building Clubhouses & Other Structurally Sound Structures-Curtis Hrdlicka
- Guest Director of Kilts and Swords: Andrew Walls
- Guest Director of Actually Knowing Stuff About Scotch: Jay Wheelock
- Editor’s Note: We take our board of directors roles VERY seriously!
After the extremely formal agenda, it was time to taste some delicious whisky. This lineup featured 8 whiskies, all of which were donated and all of which were priced at $100 or more.
But, before we could officially get started…what is a whisky tasting without some bagpipes?? Mike Johnson with the RCMP Pipe & Drums Band officially kicked off the tasting with some wonderful bagpipes that even included a Star Wars tribute! Thanks a lot, Mike. The bag pipes are now a new tradition!!
Whisky #1: Victoria Caldeonian Mac Na Braiche
- Age: 231 Days
- ABV: 50%
- Cask(s): Unpeated STR Cask #21
- Other Info: Distilled May 16th, 2016
- Donated by: Victoria Caledonian Distillery (Andrew Walls)
- Not yet available.
- Donated by: Victoria Caledonian Distillery/Victoria, BC
The first dram of the night, ‘Mac Na Braiche’ was presented by Andrew Walls with Victoria Caledonian Distillery. You know your event is off to a great start when the first presenter is a dread-locked, kilt-wearing, sword-swinging Scot. For anyone that hasn’t heard of VC Distillery, they opened up in Victoria, BC just a few years ago and this is some of their first spirit to come of the stills!! You’ll noticed I called this a dram and not a whisky because it needs to mature a full 3 years before we can call it a whisky. But don’t let the young age fool you…at 50% ABV this spirit doesn’t taste harsh and it definitely doesn’t taste just 231 days old. The most common comment I heard all night was, “I can’t believe how young that Mac Na Braiche was!!’
Our club has decided to purchase at least one, but possibly two, 30-litre casks filled with delicious Victoria Caledonian spirit. For more info on purchasing a cask for yourself or your club, check their website at http://vcaledonian.com/
Thank you to everyone at Victoria Caledonian Distillery and especially Andrew Walls for their contribution to this event.
Whisky #2: Single Cask Nation Glen Moray 12yr
- Age: 12 years
- ABV: 54.7%
- Cask(s): 6 years in 1st-Fill Bourbon Barrel/6 years in 1st-fill Madeira Cask
- Other Info: 1 of 312 Bottles
- Donated by: Unwined/Edmonton, AB
Until recently, we haven’t seen a lot of Glen Moray bottlings in Alberta and we are just starting to see more Single Cask Nation releases. So trying this Single Cask Nation Glen Moray 12yr was like killing two birds with one stone. When the owner of Unwined, Graham Usher, poured me a glass of this prior to the tasting, I knew immediately it would be a hit. This is one of the best 12 year old whiskies I have ever tried.
As far as I know, Single Cask Nation bottles are only available in select stores, like Unwined in Edmonton, Alberta. But check out the SCN website for more info. As for Unwined in Edmonton, it is in Edmonton City Centre and if you haven’t been there it is definitely worth checking out. They have a great, unique whisky selection that is sure to impress.
Thank you to Graham Usher and Unwined for this great donation.
Whisky #3: Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt/Release #05-Innovative
- Age: NAS
- ABV: 43%
- 1380 bottles
- Other Info: “The 5th release from Two Brewers, an offshoot of Yukon Brewing, is an “Innovative” single malt made from a sour mash.”
- Donated by: Two Brewers/Yukon
Canadian Single Malt whisky is making a big push lately and Two Brewers is one of the distilleries leading the way. This is the 2nd year in a row we have had a Two Brewers Whisky at our charity tasting. This year, Dave Gardner brought the distilleries’ 5th release which was a single malt made from a sour mash.
Two Brewers whiskies are getting better with each release. They are aging really well and this one is no different. Thank you to Yukon Spirits and Dave Gardner for supporting this event, once again! Check out all the releases including Release 06 coming to Alberta and BC very soon on their website.
Whisky #4: Glenfarclas 25yr/Kensington Wine Market Cask
- Age: 25 years
- ABV: 52.0%
- Cask(s): Sherry
- Other Info: From Kensington Wine Market’s website: “Bottled at 52.0%, this is a first in North America, just 300 bottles will be coming to Canada to help us celebrate our big anniversary!”
- Donated by: Kensington Wine Market/Calgary, AB
We were super excited to get Kensington Wine Market, in Calgary, on board for this year’s tasting. KWM has, for the 2nd year in a row, been named the ‘2nd Best Whisky Retailer in the World’ by Whisky Magazine. The main reason for that is KWM’s owner, Andrew Ferguson. Andrew is a supporter of our club, a whisky encyclopedia, and just an all around solid bloke. Unfortunately, Andrew couldn’t attend the tasting this year but he made up for it by donating a 25 year old single cask Glenfarclas that was bottled exclusively for Kensington Wine Market’s 25th anniversary.
To picture this ridiculously good whisky, just take the standard Glenfarclas 25 year and turn it up to 11 (or to 52%). I’m pretty sure they still have a few bottles left and you should all probably buy one. Check out the KWM website for more information.
Thanks to Andrew and everyone at Kensington Wine market for donating this gem of a whisky.
Whisky #5: SMWS 120.8/ A surge of sweet peat
- Age: 13 years
- ABV: 63.1%
- Cask(s): 2nd Fill Hogshead
- Other info: Just 250 bottles of this whisky were produced from one cask at a Japanese distillery. This whisky is NOT available in Canada.
- Donated by: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Canada
We became members of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society almost immediately after we started this club. As a club, we have made a point of including an SMWS bottle in almost every tasting and that has led to us truly appreciating the uniqueness of cask strength, single cask whisky. The SMWS bottles don’t always win our tastings…but they are always received well and always create good discussions.
For the 2nd year in a row, Kelly & Rob with SMWS Canada stepped up in a big way for our charity tasting. I mean in a BIG way!! Kelly wanted the bottle for this tasting to be special and special it was. She somehow rounded up 3 bottles (2 for tasting, 1 for auction) of SMWS 120.8, “A Surge of Sweet Peat”. This whisky is from a rare Japanese distillery and is not in Canada. Kelly walked us through a brief history lesson on the SMWS while we enjoyed this ridiculously good dram. Thank you so much for your support, Kelly & Rob.
Whisky #6: Glendronach 1995/Tawny Port Pipe
- Age: 18 years
- ABV: 53.6%
- Cask(s): Finished in Tawny Port Pipe Cask #5959
- Other info: 692 bottles
- Donated by: Wine & Beyond/Edmonton, AB
The Glendronach single cask series very rarely disappoints. This bottle was no exception. When we were setting the lineup for this tasting and we realized there were two Port Cask bottles we decided to put them side-by-side so people could compare and contrast the two whiskies. One, a non-peated Scotch; the other, an Indian peated single malt.
The club wanted to send out a huge thanks to Ryan Engen with ‘Wine and Beyond‘ for contributing not only two bottles of this Glendronach but he also donated a Bruichladdich 22 Year Old Haut Brion Finish and a Duncan Taylor Glen Grant 1995 Single Cask…both of which were part of our silent auction.
Whisky #7: Amrut Peated Port Pipe
- Age: 5 years
- ABV: 59.0%
- Cask(s): port pipe #2712
- Other Info: 660 bottles exclusively for Canada. Made from peated barley.
- Donated by: Fountana Beverage Corp
Our club just recently hosted Ashok Chokalingam, the global brand ambassador for Amrut distillery, at a tasting here in Edmonton. I asked him what his favourite Amrut bottle was and THIS was it!! I recently purchased one for my collection because magical releases like this only come around every so often. The combination of the sweetness from the port and the Scottish peat, that doesn’t overwhelm the delicious Amrut spirit, makes for a truly unique dram.
This bottle was donated by Jay Wheelock with the Fountana Beverage Corp. As much as I took friendly jabs at Jay during the tasting, he is practically a full-fledged member and has been given the title of “Guest Director of Actually Knowing Stuff About Scotch”…because…well…he knows stuff about scotch! Thank you for all your contributions to our club, Jay! We really, really appreciate it!!
Whisky #8: First Editions Laphroaig 2001
- Age: 15 years
- ABV: 58.4%
- Cask(s): Refill Butt/Cask #HL12382
- Other Info: 306 bottles. Bottled in 2016.
- Donated by: Keg n Cork Liquor/Edmonton, AB
Our club LOVES peat. If you put a peated whisky in a tasting (and we almost always do), it is guaranteed to finish 1st or 2nd place. This whisky was no exception. I have tasted over a dozen different Laphraoigs over the past 3 years, including single casks and distillery releases, and this was DEFINITELY my favourite. Do seek it out and do drink it with good friends on a cold winter night by a fire.
Dave Scott and Keg n Cork Liquor in Edmonton donated this ridiculous bottle. When I contacted Dave about the charity tasting he said “I want to pour something special…give me some time to think about it.” Well, 3 days before the tasting I dropped into the shop (located just south of the Whitemud on 99th street) and said, “Dave…I kind of need to know what you’re pouring now!” I’m glad we waited because this bottle was worth the wait.
Dave and Lionel at Keg n Cork have been HUGE supporters of The Edmonton Scotch Club since day 1. They even hired me when I just happened to be in their shop every single week staring at the Great Wall of Whisky. The club appreciates all the support and we just wanted to thank both of you for contributing to this event and our club. Cheers!!
We wanted to thank every single person that attended and/or contributed to this event one last time. We also wanted to thank the Edmonton Freemasons Society for letting us use their great space.
We also wanted to give a special shout out to Cole Hofstra with Cole Hofstra Photography who turned down thousands of dollars in wedding money to take pictures at our event…all for some free whisky! Check out his website and his pictures throughout this blog post.
We also wanted to say thank-you to the Edmonton Food Bank for all they do for our city. One of the reasons we have chosen them as our charity of choice is because we know the money stays local, we know the money goes a long way, and we also know that a large percentage of their customers are children. Please consider helping out the food bank in any way you can. Monetary donations are the best as they can get 3 times as much food for $1 than we can. But, you can also donate time or food.
Last, but not least, I need to thank my wife, Lisa. I spend many, many hours planning this and other events for the club and she has been extremely tolerant and supportive throughout the whole process. Thank you!!
For 28 guys who started a whisky club because they wanted an excuse to hang out more often, raising $16,225 for charity absolutely blew away any expectations we had. That puts us over $21,000 in two years!! All we can do is hope to match and maybe even surpass that number next year. If we do…great! But if we don’t, at least 80 whisky-lovers will be in one room having a good time and drinking whisky…exactly how it was meant to be enjoyed!
Until next time, Cheers/Slainte!
-The Edmonton Scotch Club (@ScotchClubYEG)
*More pictures below!
THANKS TO ALL OUR DONORS/SPONSORS:
|Alley Kat Brewery|
|Aspen Asphalt & Dirt Works|
|Bank of Montreal|
|Bealer Wealth Management|
|Canvastone Children’s Art Studios|
|Chris Caughell (Private Donation)|
|Craftwork Spirits/Millstone Whisky|
|Diana Kenedy (Private Donation)|
|Eau Claire Distillery|
|Fountana Beverage Corp.|
|Geordie Moskie (Private Donation)|
|Gold Medal Marketing|
|Grey Ghost Woodwork|
|Have Mercy Southern Grill|
|Homes by Avi|
|Ital Bespoke Tailors|
|Keg n Cork|
|Kensington Wine Market|
|La Tienda Cigars
|RCMP Pipe & Drums Band|
|Scotch Malt Whisky Society|
|Shoppers Drug Mart|
|Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits|
|Two Brewers Whisky|
|Victoria Caledonian Distillery|
|Wine & Beyond|