Throughout 2010 I was digging the Whiskey Explorers Club, which sent you four 50ml bottles of whiskey, six times a year, and invited you to guess what was inside. It was lots of fun (and not just because I dominated the leaderboard for most of the run), but imperfect: The little bags made it too easy to “cheat,” and more importantly being tied to the 50ml format meant the Club had a very small subset of the whiskey world to work with. Not a lot of high-end whiskey is bottled in the 50ml format, after all.
Now the WEC has been rejiggered and upgraded, and it’s lost an “e,” thanks to a partnership with Master of Malt. The key is that MoM can re-bottle just about anything for the WEC, putting spirits into non-bagged, miniature bottles (about 30ml each), unmarked aside from the code you use with the Explorers Club website printed on the label. The Club is still designed to expose drinkers to entry-level whiskys, but the variety should be greatly enhanced.
You can still find the Whiskey IQ Game here. Just plug in the code on the bottle and start guessing descriptors for color, nose, body, taste, and finish, then guessing what you’re actually drinking. The game mechanism is about the same as before, though the descriptive and scoring system still seems a bit wonky. Not only do I disagree with some of Ian Buxton’s tasting notes, but several of my picks simply didn’t register when they were graded. (As well, I would love nothing more than to have my chosen descriptives appear alongside the “official” ones so I could compare them at the end.) I was really pleased to go 4 for 4 in picking out the identity of each of these whiskeys blind.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone, but the first four whiskeys I received were all surprisingly high quality and high priced — not what I would term “entry level” at all! The focus, by the way, has overwhelmingly moved to the Old World. No more cheap Canadian whisky or widely available Bourbon in the mix. (Hence the change to “Whisky.”)
$160 gets you four sets of five whiskeys over the course of the year. That’s a slight hike over the old $120/year for 24 whiskeys, but the vast improvement in quality merits it.
On the whole, the “fun” aspect of the Whiskey IQ Game is still the same, but WEC has really upped the ante on the quality of the stuff being offered. Go for it.