Whisky exploration comes with high barriers to entry as each bottle, especially less commercially available ones, can be costly. Buying a bottle also comes with a significant level of commitment as there is the risk of buyer’s remorse.
One way to curb this is by visiting speakeasies or whisky bars to try various alternatives in drams, which refers to a single serving of whisky containing ⅛ ounces, or 30ml. Each dram acts as a sample to a spirit so you don’t have to shell out on the full bottle, allowing you to try before you buy.
This was how Aaron, Alicia, and Jin, who were once whisky novices, got to widen their senses to the complexity of flavours presented in refined whiskies. With a desire to share their passion for whisky exploration with fellow Malaysians, they launched The Whisky Notes, a monthly subscription service delivering curated, themed whisky flights.
Bringing the bar home
Klang Valley doesn’t lack in speakeasies and whisky bars that serve less mainstream bottles with names like The Whisky Bar in KL and 61 Monarchy in PJ. Even as these bars continue to open up, they often limit the number of patrons dining in, and require reservations beforehand.
Thus, the Whisky Notes likely came into the scene during an opportune time amidst the pandemic. Launched in July 2021, the subscription service gave whisky lovers the chance to discover new whiskies from home, while also learning about each dram digitally.
Starting at RM150 per month, the subscription plan’s cost gets lower as you commit to a longer plan. Subscribing for 3 months would cost you RM145, while 6 months is RM140.
Monthly sets contain 3 bottles of 30ml tasters with discreet labels on each bottle, meant to eliminate any brand biases customers may have. Upon receiving each themed box, customers are encouraged to blindly taste the drams before scanning the QR code provided to reveal information about the whiskies’ flavours and fun facts.
“We find that this experience democratises whisky by blindly discovering all the flavours the whisky has to offer,” noted Alicia.
For an example of the kinds of themes The Whisky Notes has offered, one of their recent themes called “Spring Fling” contained whiskies that had floral flavour profiles.
“We introduced specially curated whiskies that transport you to the days of spring. Imagine frolicking through a field of flowers or walking into an orchard that’s ready to bear fruits. All these, while relishing in sweet delectable honey and spice,” Alicia described to Vulcan Post.
“In this curation, we featured an Aultmore 12-Year-Old, a Glengoyne 12-Year-Old, and a Teeling Small Batch.”
While the team did not disclose where they source their liquor from, they assured that the whiskies are only obtained from authorised wholesalers and importers.
Looking at the gifting market too
Other than the subscription service, The Whisky Notes also offers tasting sets with a price range between RM135 to RM389 which targets the gifting market.
It may also be more suitable for those who already have an idea of the range of flavours they prefer. This is because the tasting sets actually list down what’s inside the box, unlike the subscription boxes where you won’t know what whiskies you’re getting.
The team has even collaborated with 61 Monarchy to curate a tasting set comprising whiskies of rare and limited independent bottlings. 30ml drams in this set include:
- Eiling Lim Bowmore 2002 15-Year-Old 14th Release
- Wemyss Malt Bowmore 1989 29-Year-Old ‘Samurai Cask’
- The Whisky Agency X Three Rivers Tokyo Island Single Malt 2002 15-Year-Old (Orkney)
Did you know: An independent bottler is a company that buys casks of whisky from different distilleries, most of the time mature whiskies that are already of a proper age, and bottles them using their own designed bottles and labels.Wholly Spirits
Building a community
The subscription service and gift boxes offered by The Whisky Notes essentially lower the barriers to entry that whisky exploration poses.
Furthermore, as the team’s main mission is in providing whisky education and making the liquor more accessible, they’re planning to launch a community called Nosy Club. It’s where like-minded whisky drinkers can come together and share their experiences with whisky, and also get certain benefits from The Whisky Notes’ services.
To ensure that participation breeds education, they will also host events that include guided whisky tastings, vertical whisky tastings (whisky flight tasting from one distillery), and food or confectionary pairings.
For example, The Whisky Notes collaborated with a dessert shop to pair a whisky tasting set with the latter’s snowskin mooncakes made from Niko Neko matcha.
“This allowed our brand to be introduced to a whole new audience while educating our customers to the versatility of whisky. It reached a whole new target audience from mooncake lovers looking to pair it with a beverage to whisky lovers with a taste of mooncakes to match,” explained the team.
Thus far, The Whisky Notes has already organised virtual and physical tasting sessions for groups between 25-100 people. These events were hosted by international whisky brand ambassadors and independent whisky connoisseurs to share at these events.
While we have a wine subscription service in KL by Pour Decisions, The Whisky Notes is likely the first brand in Malaysia offering a subscription service for whiskies.
It’s an appealing service to homebodies who enjoy the experience of discovering whiskies without the social element or bar ambience that can sometimes be overwhelming.
On top of that, the reopening of bars and crowds flocking to them may be a short-lived behaviour from customers who’ve been in lockdown for many months.
Those who prefer to drink long-term and more frequently would usually do so at home, which is a gap The Whisky Notes can fill without sacrificing the exploration element.
- You can learn more about The Whisky Notes here.
- You can read more Malaysian startups we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Aaron, Alicia, and Jin, co-founders of The Whisky Notes