Greate Bay CC is cultivating a new segment of aficionados within its membership.
As whiskey sales continue to rise nationwide, Greate Bay Country Club, Somers Point, N.J., has found an entertaining way to educate its members about the finest Scotches, ryes, and bourbons on the market.
Dubbed “Whiskey Wednesdays,” the classes will be held three or four times a year in one of the club’s banquet rooms. Nearly 80 members can attend each class, which includes a flight of samples, pairings and a full presentation by a whiskey expert (see ph
So far, the club has hosted three of the classes, each featuring a moderator for a different distillery; to date, Laphroaig/Cooley, Glenmorangie/Ardbeg and Macallan have been highlighted.
“Wine dinners and cigar dinners have run their course,” says Will Arabea, Chief Operating Officer of Greate Bay CC. “We wanted to do something different. Whiskey seemed like a universal topic of interest within our membership, so we went with it.”
For $79 per ticket, each class has sold out within hours of being announced, and the program has had a positive ripple effect within the membership.
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“Since hosting these classes, we’ve seen members who previously didn’t know one another well or play golf together, now dining and playing together,” says Arabea, who has been with Greate Bay CC for about three years.
To ensure that the content of the Whiskey Wednesday classes is of the same quality as the featured whiskey (or whisky—both are technically correct), the club partnered with Passion Vines, a New Jersey-based wine and spirits retailer that hosts similar, albeit smaller, education classes in its stores.
“Michael Bray [founder of Passion Vines] and his team have been valuable partners,” says Arabea.
Passion Vines’ Dave Baldwin, a self-described “whiskey guy,” leads the classes. Baldwin has experience with spirits from all of the major regions of scotch production, as well as other whiskies from around the world. He is an expert in production methods, aging techniques, and palate similarities and differences.
“My best advice to clubs is to experiment and deviate from the standard whiskeys,” says Baldwin. “Whiskey drinkers love Manhattans—but to really impress them, try spicing up this classic cocktail by either switching to a rye whiskey base, or using one of the many flavored bitters, such as orange or walnut.”
Greate Bay has heeded this advice well, as its members are fast becoming whiskey enthusiasts.
“There is a sense of camaraderie among our whiskey drinkers,” says Arabea. “The classes have helped us to establish another club within the club.”