CINCINNATI -- Cincinnatians wanting a taste of high-end scotch without worrying about the price tag need look no further than the Cincy Scotch Club.
The club, which aims to make scotch accessible to newcomers and those on a budget, meets every couple months to sample different scotches. The cost is the same at every meeting: $35 per person.
“The thing is, scotch gets … pretty pricey pretty quick,” said Cincy Scotch Club co-founder Patrick Betscher. “By spreading the cost, we can get two or three bottles.”
Although the participants may be unwilling or unable to pay several hundred dollars for a high-end bottle of scotch, the club provides an affordable opportunity for tasting them.
“It gives everybody a chance to come in and try something that they may never have a chance to try,” said club co-founder Ian Hummel.
Betscher and Hummel founded the Cincy Scotch Club four years ago, along with another friend who shares a taste for whiskey, beer and cigars. While the trio enjoyed trying new things, they weren’t very well-versed when it came to scotch.
“I think me, in particular, I was more of a bourbon drinker,” Hummel said.
Working for a cigar company, he had traveled to numerous events where cigars were paired with different types of bourbon and scotch.
“I had a couple scotches that I liked, but I didn’t know much about it,” he said.
The group started with six participants. It has since grown to include around 12 individuals at any given event.
“(It) makes for a great evening,” Betscher said. “It’s not too big.”
The group is always open to newcomers, though. The initial hope in forming the group was to make scotch more accessible for people while socializing with other like-minded individuals.
“The biggest thing was the ability for us to get together and taste different vintages, taste different regions and more importantly to get more people involved,” Hummel said.
In addition to their semi-regular meetings, the group occasionally hosts special events around Cincinnati. Members of the group will host a scotch tasting at 6 p.m. March 4 at the Fairfield Community Arts Center, prior to the city’s Signature Session concert by Ronny Cox Band.
While tasting events and clubs devoted to beer, wine, bourbon and other spirits are not a new concept, the group’s emphasis on camaraderie sets it apart, Betscher said.
“If you’ve been to a wine tasting, it can be way too formal for our liking, with it almost being like a class,” he said. “To us, it just gets boring.”
Detailed explanations and customs also can make tasting events uncomfortable for those hoping to socialize while trying something new.
“Especially for somebody new, it’s almost sort of intimidating,” Hummel said.
Betscher offers a brief explanation about the different scotches during tasting events, but he tries to limit himself to about 30 seconds. The rest of the time is devoted to sampling and socializing.
“We’re informal, and everybody has a good time,” Betscher said. “We’re not trying to have a class.”
The group is open to anyone who would like to join. With continued growth could come opportunities for new and bigger events, incorporating distillers and local businesses, Hummel said.
“The more people we have, the better things that we can do,” he said.