If we’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that if we want something delivered to our homes, somebody will figure out a way to bring it to us. Southerners, of course, rank bourbon pretty high on their lists of essential staples, right between toilet paper and oxygen, and for booze-subscription clubs, business is booming. “We typically see orders fall off after the holiday gifting season,” says Phil Wilson, co-owner of the Chicago-based Pour More. “But this year, as the pandemic hit, we’ve seen a steady increase going forward. More new members are joining for personal consumption than in prior years.” Translation: In the current crisis, it’s every bourbon hound for himself.
So how do these tippler-centric sub clubs work? The details can vary, but the end goal is the same—to regularly land a new bottle of your preferred spirit in your eager hands, while also introducing some new players to your bourbon roster.
Note that some states prohibit shipping alcohol, so for any of the clubs listed here, make sure to check the club’s guidelines for your state.
Pour More offers six clubs including rum, tequila, and—cheers!—bourbon. New members choose if they want a 750-milliliter bottle to arrive each month or every other month. They also pick a price point of $49 or $79, which roughly corresponds to which shelf you might shop at the corner liquor store. The specific labels that arrive are a surprise. “Bourbon can be quite regional, and we try to deliver less-known or hard-to-get bottles to our subscribers,” says Wilson, who also serves as Pour More’s primary bourbon taster. “We’re finding a lot of small-batch distillers.” So while recent labels included Rowan’s Creek from Kentucky and Heaven’s Door from Tennessee, expect to broaden your bourbon horizons with craft distilleries such as Chicago’s FEW and Brooklyn’s Widow Jane.
The most straightforward membership plan may be offered by the appropriately straightforward-named Taster’s Club, which has also seen demand increase. The Minnesota-based club offers subscriptions for all the most popular liquors, plus a mixed “stock the bar” option. The bourbon-only subscription is $69 a month, plus $15 shipping. Members receive a surprise 750-milliliter bottle each month—with recent labels pulled from a craft-leaning stable of distillers including Black Button, Two James, and Yellow Rose—along with tasting notes and background info on the distiller.
Back in March, the number of new members joining Flaviar per day doubled pre-lockdown rates, and its bourbon sales also have doubled over the last six months. “More and more people have upped their home bar game,” says CEO Jugoslav Petkovic. The New York City-based outfit puts bourbon and rye together in its “American Whiskey” club, but you can always choose to receive bourbon if desired. Plans starting at $300 per year let members pick one 750-milliliter bottle per quarter from a roster of both well-known and craft labels. Members also receive a nifty quarterly tasting box containing a trio of samples of different bourbons packaged in glass vials that look like they were reclaimed from a vintage apothecary. “The opportunity to taste great spirits side by side before going all in on a full bottle is even more important now,” says Petkovic, “given that there are few other avenues available to do this if you can’t visit a distillery or be guided by your local bartender.” While we’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic, until that wonderful day, at least we can settle for a new box of bourbon on the doorstep.