There are high barriers to entry associated with exploring for whiskey, as each bottle, especially the less commercially available, can be expensive. There is also a high level of engagement with buying a bottle as there is a risk of remorse for the buyer.
One way to curb this is to visit whiskey bars or whiskey bars to try out various alternatives in drams, which refers to a single serving of whiskey containing ⅛ ounces, or 30ml. Each dram acts as a sample for a spirit so you don’t have to shell out for the full bottle, allowing you to try before you buy.
This is how Aaron, Alicia and Jin, who were once whiskey novices, were able to broaden their senses to the complexity of the flavors presented in fine whiskeys. Eager to share their passion for exploring whiskey with other Malaysians, they launched The Whiskey Notes, a monthly subscription service offering organized and themed whiskey flights.
Bring the bar home
Klang Valley has no shortage of whiskey bars and whiskey bars that serve less traditional bottles with names like The Whiskey Bar in KL and 61 Monarchy in PJ. Even though these bars keep opening, they often limit the number of customers and require reservations in advance.
So the Whiskey Notes likely came into the picture at an opportune time in the midst of the pandemic. Launched in July 2021, the subscription service allowed whiskey lovers to experience new whiskeys from home, while learning about each dram digitally.
Starting at RM150 per month, the cost of the subscription plan decreases as you sign up for a longer plan. A 3 month subscription would cost you RM 145, while a 6 month subscription costs RM 140.
Monthly boxes contain 3 x 30ml taster bottles with discreet labels on each bottle, intended to eliminate any branding bias that customers may have. Upon receipt of each themed box, customers are encouraged to sample the drams blindly before scanning the provided QR code to reveal information about the whiskeys’ flavors and fun facts.
“We find that this experience democratizes whiskey by blindly discovering all the flavors that whiskey has to offer,” notes Alicia.
For an example of the types of themes offered by The Whiskey Notes, one of their recent themes called “Spring Fling” contained whiskeys with floral flavor profiles.
“We have introduced specially selected whiskeys that will transport you to spring days. Imagine frolicking in a field of flowers or stepping into an orchard ready to bear fruit. All of this while savoring sweet and delicious honey and spices, ”Alicia told Vulcan Post.
“In this selection, we featured an Aultmore 12 year old, a Glengoyne 12 year old and a Teeling Small Batch. “
Although the team did not disclose where their alcohol came from, they did assure that the whiskeys are only obtained from authorized wholesalers and importers.
Also looking at the gift market
Besides the subscription service, The Whiskey Notes also offers tasting boxes with a price range between RM135 and RM389 that target 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 tasting boxes actually list what’s inside the box, unlike subscription boxes where you won’t know what whiskeys you are getting.
The team even collaborated with 61 Monarchy to organize a tasting set that included rare and limited independent bottling whiskeys. The 30ml drams in this set include:
- Eiling Lim Bowmore 2002 15 years 14th outing
- Wemyss Malt Bowmore 1989 29 years old ‘Samurai Cask’
- The Whiskey Agency X Three Rivers Tokyo Island Single Malt 2002 15 years old (Orkney)
Did you know: An independent bottler is a company that purchases casks of whiskey from different distilleries, mostly mature whiskeys that are already of an appropriate age, and bottles them using their own designed bottles and labels.
Building a community
The subscription service and gift boxes offered by The Whiskey Notes essentially lower the barriers to entry posed by whiskey exploration.
Additionally, as the main mission of the team is to provide whiskey education and make alcohol more accessible, they plan to start a community called Nosy Club. This is where like-minded whiskey drinkers can come together and share their experiences with whiskey, and also get certain benefits from The Whiskey Notes services.
To ensure that participation breeds education, they will also organize 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 store to pair a whiskey tasting set with the latter’s snow skin mooncakes made from matcha Niko Neko.
“This has allowed our brand to be introduced to a whole new audience while educating our customers about the versatility of whiskey. It has reached a whole new target audience, from moon cake lovers looking to pair it with a drink to whiskey lovers with a matching moon cake taste, ”the team explained.
So far, The Whiskey Notes has already organized virtual and physical tasting sessions for groups of 25 to 100 people. These events were hosted by international whiskey brand ambassadors and independent whiskey connoisseurs to share at these events.
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Although we have a subscription service for wine in KL by Pour Decisions, The Whiskey Notes is probably the first brand in Malaysia to offer a subscription service for whiskeys.
It’s an appealing service for homeowners who enjoy the experience of discovering whiskeys without the social element or bar vibe that can be overwhelming at times.
On top of that, reopening bars and the crowds flocking to them can be short-lived behavior from customers who have been stranded for many months.
Those who prefer to drink long-term and more frequently usually do so at home, which is a gap The Whiskey Notes can fill without sacrificing the element of exploration.
- You can read more about The Whiskey Notes here.
- You can read more Malaysian startups than we wrote here.
Image Credit Featured: Aaron, Alicia and Jin, Co-Founders of The Whiskey Notes
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