Meet The Whisky Wisemen

April 16, 2015

Whisky can be and mean different things to different people; from the variations on the spirit created around the world, to the emotional connection that one may have. Here at Distiller, we like to think of it as something akin to being a force for good. Whether that’s purely enjoyment, education, or in the case of The Whisky Wisemen, a lynchpin for charitable endeavors. We had the chance to pose a few questions to The Wisemen, a growing group of individuals brought together by a shared appreciation of whisky with a vision to #bebetter and #dogood in the world.

Distiller: Can you give us a quick rundown of what Whisky Wisemen is all about? What’s your “mission statement”?

WW: Let’s start with our vision first: Our society was founded on the belief that the glass is half full. Meaning we believe it is always possible to find the good in any situation and to create good in every situation. Our vision is to grow an inspiring community of change-makers aspiring to #dogood and #bebetter, every day…

We have created two unique charity platforms for communities to leverage to see our vision through. Our mission is to establish these sustainable fundraising models across the world for society to support their local communities by leveraging whisky as the common thread. The first of these models are our #socialwhisky events, held monthly on the #thirdthursday of each month in our chapter cities. The premise is simple, whoever comes out to support us and knock back a few drinks, 10% of the entire spend from everyone for the evening gets kicked back to us and we donate that to a local charity, whichever that chapter city supports. The second way we do this is through our #cocktailforacause, The Wiseman. This delicious, whisky based drink support the chapter cities as well, where if one is ordered at any of the supporting bars, $1 from the sale of each will also go to the cause. Our goal is to extrapolate these across the country and across the world so that the events are happening simultaneously and our community of do-gooders is ever expanding. So far we have this up and running in Vancouver, Calgary, Victoria and New York City, with Toronto also coming online soon. Join us!

How was it that the concept of Whisky Wisemen came together?

The Whisky Wisemen was created out of a budding interest for the dark spirit between a couple best friends and their network of young professionals in Vancouver. What first started as a conversation between Kevin Shaw and myself to find more time to spend with each other and friends as our schedules filled up faster and obligations and responsibilities outnumber the hours in a day, our idea quickly grew into a community of people looking for the same thing and then some.

We found out very fast that not only is the popularity of whisky as a drink of choice growing, but the desire to carve out some time to enjoy that with likeminded people was also a popular past time of our community. We decided to leverage what people are already interested in doing, enjoying drinks with friends, and trying to also squeeze doing something good out of that at the same time.

In a nutshell, that’s how it all developed over two years ago. We reached out to our friends and colleagues and invited them out to our events with the simple proposition that they would get a free drink just for coming out, initially supplied by the bar but now our whisky partner, and 10% of their bill would go to charity. Easy button right?! Some of those close friends of ours wanted to get more involved so we invited them onto our Board and now there are 7 of us, all with uniquely important talents that drive our passion project forward.

Currently, after hosting 28 monthly events, we get over 150 people, half of them unique, to each of our events in our flagship chapter of Vancouver. We’ve amassed a great social following online and the buzz is building in the chapter communities as our change-makers are making a real impact on the city all while sharing a few glasses with other like-minded, young professionals looking to make a difference – we call this social philanthropy and we’re about to turn it up a notch.

It looks like you’ve expanded quite a bit this year, between the new chapters and “Club Wise” – how do those portions of what you do function, and how would you like to see them grow?

You bet! This wasn’t entirely done by design but definitely the plan. So far, every one of our 3 and soon 4 chapter cities that are operational were started by individuals from that community who reached out to us and liked what we are about and what we started so much, that they asked us if they could start a chapter in those cities. We really couldn’t believe it and when it rains it pours. We’ve created a Chapter Development Package for them with the ins and outs and some general guidelines about what we’d like to see them establish there and away they go. It truly has been inspirational and in most instances we haven’t even met most of the people involved in the launches but through modern technology we’ve been able to make this work swimmingly. Ideally, we want this to continue to grow organically through motivated individuals in different communities who also have a love for whisky and want to give back their communities. This way the group is genuine and enthusiastic about creating something positive for that city.

Club Wise is a bit of a different project and it is just exclusive to Vancouver at the moment as we test the waters with what we are calling an offshoot of the Whisky Wisemen community for those people who craved even more from our events. Basically we vetted and enlisted 40 members for a nominal fee and then created 4 unique events for them throughout the year which all include three components: a whisky tasting, a guest speaker and different venue with their food pairings. To attend the event you must be a member and so far after the first event the response has been amazing. We already have the other chapters itching to launch the program but we want them to build their communities and awareness up first. Much like the chapters and some other projects we have, these will all develop as there is a desire for them and when the timing is right but if someone wants to come in and take the reigns with this or other things then we are ready to do it!

What are the goals for Whisky Wisemen as a not-for-profit organization in 2015 and beyond?

2015 is poised to be a big year for us! We are aiming to have at least 4 new chapter cities launched and operational (2 are up already!) so that we’ll be hosting our #thirdThursday events across 5 cities, 3 time zones and 2 countries! We are hoping to get a full year of our Club Wise events under our belt so that we can refine the idea and then extend this to other cities as well. We’ve already launched our new social movement called the #ChivalryChallenge where we are encouraging people to perform random acts of kindness on a stranger and then passing on one of our Chivalry Chips for them to continue the trend and set off a ripple of good deeds into the community. We are aiming to expand our #cocktailforacause, The Wiseman, in to all of the chapter cities and onto as many cocktail menus as possible in order to extrapolate the reach of revenue generation for the local charities.

We are pushing ahead with a few other ideas too and the future is very exciting for us. All of our board members and committee members in the chapter cities volunteer their time because they believe in our idea and the premise to #dogood and #bebetter. We are aiming to raise $10,000 for our charity partner in Vancouver, Power To Be, $3000 for our charity partner in Victoria, Together Against Poverty Society and $3000 for our charity partners in our other chapter cities in 2015 which have yet to be decided by the chapter committees. At the end of the day, it is just good people, doing good to help others but in a fun and enjoyable manner that is inclusive for anyone – and it helps if you like whisky too!

We are all very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us and we really appreciate the support from organizations like yours and others to ‘support the little guys’ and spread the good word. If anyone out there wants to get involved, please visit our website for more information and drop us a line!

And as it’s only fitting – what are on the W.W.’s Top Shelves these days (your top-five go to whiskies)?

I asked our 6 other board members this question at last month’s meeting and we were barely able to narrow it down to 5 because like the saying goes, there’s no bad whisky, just some that are better than others, so here we go! In no particular order of preference:

– Lagavulin 16 Year
– Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood
– Ardbeg 10 Year
– Highland Park 18 Year
– Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

We know that they are all scotch and that there are many other great whisk(e)ys and bourbons out there but that’s what you get when you ask seven enthusiasts I guess! To elaborate a bit more, anything from Nikka in Japan is a crowd favorite as well as anything from Buffalo Trace in the bourbon realm of things.

Much like Distiller, we like to review and try new and exciting brands and whiskies and we share that with our community on Instagram so that would be a good resource for people looking to see what we’re into as well. Slainte!

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