We admit that when we think of a whisky subscription, we see wooden boxes cradling clear, glass bottles stamped with Serif-lettered labels, making their way to greying patriarchs who will cluck at the named distilleries and laud the various vintages. That stops now. Whisky-Me is the brand new, unpretentious and accessible monthly delivery service from the team behind London’s award-winning whisky bar, Black Rock. Sated attended the launch to discover what makes Whisky-Me entirely unique in its category.
On entering Black Rock, we are greeted by the bar and Whisky-Me Co-Founders, Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson. They sit us around the 185-year old English oak tree-trunk-come-whisky-barrel that makes up the table at the venue, and Tristan begins to explain their inspiration behind Whisky-Me.
“People are immediately turned off by whisky bars as they don’t know what to order. We tried to get rid of this at Black Rock by doing away with the traditional whisky list, replacing it with see-through cabinets arranged in groups of flavours: smoky, fruit, spicy, sweet. However, most people won’t visit a Black Rock. So, about 18-month ago, we came up with another way of making whisky more accessible, which is to put it through your letterbox!”
He gestures to the little mailing bags that lie before us. Inside, we find a matt brown pouch, somewhat resembling a Capri-sun juice pack, with a sticker announcing the name of the single malt contained within and three doodled graphics. This is certainly not what we expected when we were invited to learn about a new whisky subscription service, but we adore the refreshingly unassuming packaging and the whimsical imagery.
“You don’t usually see whisky packaged like this”, says Tristan. “This is how you see baby food packaged. You can’t see the liquid and there isn’t that tactile quality of the cork, however this is an incredibly efficient and environmentally sound way of packaging spirits.” He goes on to explain that the pouches take very little CO2 to produce and that, as they fit easily through a letterbox, there is no need for boxes or bubblewrap. This means that members don’t have to go to the Post Office to pick up their packages if they arrive when they’re not home, and also results in the team being able to keep the cost of the subscription down as they don’t have to allow for greater delivery charges.
Whilst the innovative exterior may have caught our eye, our attention is entirely held by its contents. This month, the dram of choice is the Macallan ‘Fine Oak’ 12 – a rich and sweet gem of a sherried malt with spicy oak and toasted malt notes that is nuanced and delicious.
“Wanted to start on a high with this belter”, says Tristan. “It was important to us to make it clear from the start that we are not offering entry level juice but fine whiskies from great distilleries.” Macallan’s small stills result in a reasonably heavy spirit but, when coupled with the American and European oak sherry casks, this becomes clean and finessed. Once we’ve had a taste, Tristan whets our appetite further with a few choice highlights and snippets of gossip about the distillery before explaining Whisky-Me’s version of tasting notes, that come in the form of three icons (drawn by Tristan himself) on the sticker label.
“We found some malty, pastry characteristics but also some spice, so we translated that as “cinnamon doughnut”. There’s also dried fruit from the sherry casks, which is depicted by a bunch of grapes. Finally, you’ll get a freshness that is bright and warm. To us, this was “orange”. The notes are intentionally vague and abstract and we wanted to design them to be more of a suggestion than a fact. Traditional tasting notes are a real barrier to whisky as people think they have to find those exact things in the whisky and if they don’t, they don’t understand the drink. That’s not true. You don’t have to agree with our version and you’ll experience each whisky according to your palate.”
Each month, subscribers will receive a pouch of single malt whisky, chosen by Thomas and Tristan. These will be bottled whiskies of £50-60. Every month, the physical package will be accompanied by a digital trail where members will be able to view a short, purpose-made video taken at the distillery, giving them a few top line facts about what makes it different from others out there. Tom pipes in:
“We’re aiming to get people into whisky – our target audience isn’t those who already see themselves as experts. Our goal is remove the stuffiness from whisky, taking you by the hand and leading you into the category. By giving them samples of great whiskies and a bit more information about what they’re drinking, we can help them understand a little bit more about the spirit. Once they’ve tried the affordable size, if they love one month’s choice, they can confidently go into a shop and purchase a bottle.”
Whilst there are already about seven or eight whisky subscription services currently live in the UK, Whisky-Me is the cheapest and best value in terms of quality. The monthly service offers two subscription options: a pay-monthly fee of £7.95 a month, which enables users to opt out at any time; or an annual subscription at £84 a year, equating to £7 a month making it the perfect gift for single malt lovers. Each month, members receive a 5cl dram of single malt; simple explanations of what they’re drinking; exclusive HD drone video footage of the distilleries and distillery data, accessible through social media.
Not only that, as Whisky-Me’s subscribers grow, the boys have plans to give back to their customers in the form of freebies and rewards ranging from free Black Rock table whisky pouches and tasting glasses, to permanently increasing the monthly give from 5cl to 6cl, and distributing Whisky-Me exclusive measures that no one else in the world will have access to.
To sign-up or gift the Whisky-Me subscription service, please follow the link here.