Spirited club shares fellowship and fine whisky
On a cold, misty night in January 2012, a group of 18 men gathered at Graeme Dalziel’s home in The Cliffs Valley.
They had one key thing in common: a penchant for single malt whisky. This informal, highproof happening turns out to have been the inaugural meeting of The Single Malt Club, which now boasts 100 active members.
Having grown up on the border of Scotland and England, Dalziel was singularly suited to launch a single malt whisky club.
“To create interest, I called the first meeting on the 25th of January, the birthday of Rabbie Burns, an important Scottish poet who is associated with the tradition of drinking whisky in Scotland. We discussed the idea of a regular gathering, and by the end of the evening, all 18 guys thought it was a good idea,” Dalziel recalls with a laugh.
At monthly meetings in members’ homes, attendees each bring a bottle of single malt and an appetizer, while the evening’s host provides an entrée. All the bottles are placed together on a table, alongside tasting glasses, for all to try.
“Great friends, excellent food, and an awesome assortment of single malt scotch to taste — what’s not to like?” exclaims Gary Christensen, one of the club’s “elders,” who has been a member from the outset.
The majority of the club’s members are already single malt enthusiasts. For others, the group provides an introduction to this category of spirits, which, by definition, must be sourced from a single distillery and made from only three ingredients: barley, water, and yeast. In Scotland, by regulation, single malt whisky must be aged for at least three years.
Dalziel, himself, came late to the single malt party. He was in his 40s when he and his wife, Anna, met an older Scottish couple while on a train trip in India. “[The husband] heard my name and said, ‘Ach, you’re clearly from Scotland. You’ll be joining me for a single malt, will ya?’” Dalziel recounts. “I told him I’d never had the experience of drinking single malt, and they took us to their compartment, where I had my first taste of single malt, a Macallan 12 — and I’ve never looked back.”
In addition to sampling as many as 200 different single malt whiskys at meetings over the course of a year, club members participate in annual events, including a whisky-pairing dinner at The Cliffs Valley Clubhouse in February, a charity golf tournament in October, and a Christmas party featuring videos produced by Dalziel and Lou Lipomi.
The club’s signature event is the midsummer salute to Robert Burns (1759- 1796), the national poet of Scotland. The celebration includes a bagpiper piping as the haggis is paraded out on a silver platter by The Cliffs Valley Executive Chef Julius Kaiser, along with the customary accompaniments of tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips, for the uninitiated), and cockaleekie soup. Tradition dictates that men of Scottish descent don kilts, and the single malt flows. As part of the prescribed sequence of readings and speeches, Elder Tom Peter reads “The Selkirk Grace” and Dalziel recites Burns’ famous poem, “The Address to the Haggis.” This is followed by a speech immortalizing the memory of Burns, an entertaining “Toast to the Lassies” and a “Response from the Lassies” — all making for a great evening.
“Clubs like ours are a good way to integrate into The Cliffs community,” Dalziel says. “At the end of the day, The Single Malt Club provides a wonderful opportunity to build friendships and enjoy camaraderie and shared interests with people you might not meet otherwise.”
Peter McNaughton agrees. “The appeal of a fine group of gentlemen enjoying fellowship, fun, and fine whisky is hard to beat,” he says. “I am of Scottish/Irish heritage and this family-style gathering fulfills my need for social connection, good drink, and endless laughter.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.