Whiskey exploration presents high barriers to entry as any bottle, especially the less commercially available ones, can be expensive. Buying a bottle also involves a significant level of commitment as there is a risk of buyer’s remorse.
One way to stem this is to visit speakeasies or whiskey bars to try various dram alternatives, which refer to a single serving of whiskey containing ⅛ ounces, or 30ml. Each shot glass serves as a champion for a spirit so you don’t have to fork out the full bottle, allowing you to try before you buy.
This is how Aaron, Alicia and Jin, who were once new to whiskey, were able to broaden their senses to the complexity of the flavors presented in refined whiskey. With a desire to share their passion for whiskey exploration with other Malays, they launched The notes of whiskey, a monthly subscription service that offers themed whiskey flights.
Bring the bar home
In the Klang Valley there is no shortage of speakeasies and whiskey bars serving less traditional bottles with names like The whiskey bar in KL and 61 monarchy in PJ. While these bars continue to open, they often limit the number of diners and require reservations in advance.
Therefore, Whiskey Notes have likely entered the scene at an opportune time in the midst of the pandemic. Launched in July 2021, the subscription service offered whiskey lovers the chance to discover new whiskeys from home, while also learning about each shot digitally.
Starting at RM150 per month, the subscription plan cost decreases as you commit to a longer plan. Subscribing for 3 months will cost you RM145, while 6 months costs RM140.
The monthly sets contain 3 bottles of 30ml tasters with discreet labels on each bottle, meant to eliminate any brand bias customers may have. Upon receiving each themed box, customers are encouraged to blindly sample the dram before scanning the QR code provided to reveal information about the whiskey flavors and fun facts.
“We find this experience democratizes whiskey by blindly discovering all the flavors whiskey has to offer,” Alicia noted.
For an example of the types of themes The Whiskey Notes offered, one of their recent themes called “Spring Fling” featured whiskey with floral flavor profiles.
“We have introduced specially curated whiskeys that transport you to spring days. Imagine playing in a field of flowers or entering an orchard ready to bear fruit. All this while savoring the delicious sweet honey and spices, ”Alicia described to Vulcan Post.
“In this cure, we presented an Aultmore 12-Year-Old, a Glengoyne 12-Year-Old, and a Teeling Small Batch.”
Although the team did not disclose where their spirits come from, they have ensured that the whiskey is only obtained from licensed wholesalers and importers.
Also looking at the gift market
In addition to the subscription service, The Whiskey Notes also offers tasting sets with a price range between RM135 and RM389 that caters to the gift market.
It may also be more suitable for those who already have an idea of the range of tastes they prefer. This is because tasting sets actually list what’s inside the box, unlike subscription boxes where you won’t know which whiskey you’re getting.
The team even teamed up with 61 Monarchy to curate a tasting set featuring whiskey from rare and limited independent bottlings. The 30ml dram in this set include:
- Eiling Lim Bowmore 2002, 14, fourteenth release
- 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 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 reduce the barriers to entry that whiskey exploration places.
Additionally, as the team’s primary mission is to provide whiskey education and make liquor more accessible, they are planning to launch a community called Nosy Club. This is where like-minded whiskey drinkers can meet and share their experiences. with whiskey and also get some benefits from The Whiskey Notes services.
To ensure participation generates education, they will also host events that include guided whiskey tastings, vertical whiskey tastings (whiskey tasting in flight from a distillery), and food or candy pairings.
For example, The Whiskey Notes teamed up with a sweet shop to pair a whiskey tasting set with the latter’s snow skin mooncakes made with Niko Neko matcha.
“This has allowed our brand to be introduced to a whole new audience, educating our customers on the versatility of whiskey. It has reached a whole new target audience from mooncake lovers looking to pair it with a drink to whiskey lovers with a taste of mooncake to match, “explained the team.
So far, The Whiskey Notes has already organized virtual and physical tasting sessions for groups of between 25-100 people. These events were hosted by international whiskey brand ambassadors and independent whiskey connoisseurs to share these events.
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While we have a wine subscription service in KL from Pay out decisions, The Whiskey Notes is arguably the first brand in Malaysia to offer a whiskey subscription service.
It is an attractive service for those who enjoy the experience of discovering whiskey without the social element or bar atmosphere that can be overwhelming at times.
Additionally, the reopening of bars and crowds flocking to them could be short-lived behavior by customers who have been in solitary confinement for many months.
Those who prefer to drink long-term and more frequently usually do so at home, which is a void The Whiskey Notes can fill without sacrificing the exploratory element.
- You can learn more about The Whiskey Notes here.
- You can read other Malaysian startups we wrote here.
Featured image credit: Aaron, Alicia, and Jin, co-founders of The Whiskey Notes