I often think about acorns and oaks. How things can be seeded, and if the environment, timing and indeed the seed itself is worthy, mighty things can grow. Some grow fast and strong, while others take longer.
If I may be indulged, I harbour desires for the channel and the concepts it’s founded upon to continue to grow. From seeds planted around my dining room table, with fine drams giving colour and lucidity to dreams and ambition, emboldened by the glow of whisky, who knows where I’ll be permitted to take it?
In the beginning, things grew gradually from a slow start, when one day one of the videos caught the eye of someone who was motivated to send a direct message of encouragement. That someone was a London-based accountant called Jez Bhatti. His message of encouragement was very direct, and I can remember it to this day. I had no idea though, that the passion he shared in his message may one day be harnessed for his own dreams; his own “acorns” perhaps.
In time, he was also instrumental in me setting up a Patreon creator account, and promised to be the first to support if I did so. He may have been pipped at the post to that due to my clumsy announcement, but the timing is incidental. He was, in essence, my first “supporter” and remains so to this day. I’ve now had the pleasure of meeting Jez a few times. Now I understand the man a little more, I’d like to share with you, the thing about that acorn.
There are those who dream, and those who act. Real magic happens when dreamers act. Queuing for a whisky festival event, Jez struck up a conversational friendship with fellow visitors and floated the idea of a London Whisky Club. While the idea wasn’t shot down, he felt a little deflated when the idea wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm and confidence for success he harboured. He held the thought as he walked along his journey of discovering whisky. In time he approached fellow Londoner, whisky YouTuber and friend of my channel Jason Vaswani. Active in the whisky scene around London and beyond, Jez considered Jason someone who may harbour the same passion, and once more pitched the idea of a club in London, and perhaps mentioning the idea in my livestream chat, which Jason moderates.
Boom! In that exact moment where Jason, without a blink of an eye, said “Absolutely!”, the idea took life. After that announcement in the livestream on YouTube there was an informal embryonic meeting in Jez’s London office. Joined with fellow founders James Hope and Mikey Hay, the acorn was thrust into fertile ground. Over a shared dram or two, a club was born.
Now there must have been many clubs in and around London over the years sharing whisky in various ways under various structures, I don’t doubt, but together these four lit the touchpaper for this one. Today the London Whisky Club burns brightly.
During these Aqvavitae live streams, back before they were known as “vPubs”, Jez was almost always in attendance (I’m imagining him feet-up, glass in hand, perhaps a cravat) and he, Jason, Mikey, James together with Conor Strang discovered other Londoners with the same desire to get together and elevate their shared whisky experience with fellow fans. All they needed was a venue. The structure, in time, would take care of itself.
Today they have regular structured and informal meet ups around various venues in the city. They are attracting brands, producers, bottlers and hosts while at the same time nurturing a sense of sharing that I’ve never witnessed before in a club format. “Sometimes, there are just too many bottles!” remarks Jez. I was fortunate to be invited to the first year anniversary barbecue at Jez’s house, and this “problem” was on display. Despite trying to limit the bottles, the line up was staggering. And yet, eclipsed by something more remarkable.
There was a very comfortable and relaxed vibe, an easy friendship, a familiarity and a sense of openness and inclusivity. The conversation was a mixed bag of polite fun and story-telling with healthy doses of whisky geekery and a very profound and clear depth of knowledge already present in the very varied demographic of the membership. I was struggling to pinpoint the vibe, what it felt like. Then it was handed to me.
My roommate for the night was club member Kieran. I only knew Kieran from his Instagram account and was grateful to meet him for the first time (and enjoy his epic spiced prawn contribution) and share a dram or two. Late that evening, right before lights out, he shared with me how appreciative he was of the club, the outlet it gave him and the friendship. Wonderful open and unveiled sentiment, but it was the words he used; he was grateful for his “whisky family”. Wow.
Forget the structure, the joining fees, the venue, even the whiskies. When that is your acorn, it’ll grow anywhere. The London Whisky Club members have thanked me at times for hosting the platform that allowed their club to be realised. I think it was inevitable, but I’m very grateful I could be a small part of it. It dawned on me at one point that I was in the presence of so many patrons of my channel, all gathered together in the same spot. When I tried to make mention of the fact, I choked. It’s kind of overwhelming and, while I’m the sentimental type, I don’t want to be the one who fills up at a happy gathering.
Perhaps the channel provided the environment, but Jez held the acorn, the people represent the fertile soil and the timing is now. We can be sure they will grow steady and strong to become a truly dynamic and inclusive whisky club. A whisky family.
I am grateful to be a member of the London Whisky Club, despite being in Glasgow they offer membership benefits to anyone, anywhere, regardless of where you live. I’ll never dram alone in London! Contact them at whiskyclub.london