Last Friday evening, I was hanging with a group of buddies – men in their 40s, most of whom I know from work, school or college. The second wave of the pandemic has made it tough for us to meet face to face over a drink on a weekend evening at our favourite watering hole; so ‘virtually over a whisky’ is what we have been doing. Savouring a glass of one’s favourite whisky from the private home bar with friendly banter about travel stories, distilleries we have visited, gizmos that we’re planning to buy when the lockdown is lifted; it was almost like old times.
These virtual experiences create an ambience of bonhomie among friends that we have been missing from the pre-Covid19 times. There’s also a lot to learn from each other about varietals, aromas, flavours and distilleries. It’s tasting time, you can come in your T-shirts and pyjamas, but bring a bottle of that exclusive single malt that is stashed away in your bar. With tasting sessions on the sofa, without leaving the safety of one’s home, becoming popular, the big liquor companies too are testing the waters to get involved. I have recently had talks with the senior leadership at a well known alcobeverages firm who are trying to gain a foothold in the virtual tastings and party space.
Popular restaurants, bars, liquor companies, wineries, distilleries and breweries are teaming up with sommeliers, master distillers and tasters to offer virtual tasting experiences and making them accessible to anyone in any part of the world. Some of these are free to join or they’re specially curated experiences which come at price tags ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 2000.
According to Whisky magazine, on a Private Tasting Group in USA“ Though in Zoom there are no handshakes or hugs, no knowing looks on the sly, no schmoozing, hobnobbing or networking. But it’s good because Zoom has unlocked a world of access to whisky makers, who now can lead tastings from their living rooms. Here’s how a tasting works: participants receive a box of at least five samples, either by mail or by Charlie’s private messenger service (i.e. him riding through New York City on a rented CitiBike). Samples come in one-ounce (approx. 30ml) bottles. Charlie purchased nearly 30,000 said bottles over the year, 6,000 at a time. His girlfriend, Summer Rej, an accessories designer for her company, Dauphines of New York, helps fill them for each event. Drammers distillery tour with Kings County founder Colin Spoelman
Participants settle in at their kitchen table or couch and Charlie plays host, going around the Zoom squares asking everyone to introduce themselves before he brings on the speaker. After the distiller or brand ambassador gives his spiel, Charlie returns to moderate the tasting, encouraging people to shout out their thoughts, bringing the session a communality often lacking in virtual tastings. Events have been known to go upwards of four hours. This scenario has played out to hundreds of whisky lovers more than 100 times in the last 12 months.
But there are challenges. With the lockdowns in place and some Indian states following strict laws on delivering alcohol at homes, procuring labels of choice can be tough. A liquor company can deliver cocktail kits, mixers, gourmet cheese and desserts to favourite customers to host an online appreciation session or party, but shipping the bottle of alcohol may not be an easy option. The new Delhi excise policy though, is holding out hope by paving the way for home delivery of liquor orders placed through mobile apps and online web portals. Cheers to that; it’s time to stock up and Zoom party.
Enjoy Responsibly !