Great Whisky Club: Monmouth Whisky Club

Like many single malt scotch fans, for Peter Grasso it was love at first sip. Of course, it wasn’t just any sip. “A friend had a small party in 2015 for the Preakness [horse race] where we had several single malts,” including Glenlivet XXV 25 year old, Grasso says. “I had not had a single malt prior.” Grasso—who at the time was planning to visit his daughter, who was studying for her master’s at Newcastle University in England—was so intrigued he wanted to visit the source of this elixir. “We decided to extend our family vacation to Scotland, where we visited numerous distilleries,” Grasso says. Upon his return to New Jersey, he was eager to continue his nascent whisky education, but was unable to find a suitable group. “I looked for a scotch club to join and could not locate anything in the area,” he says. “I contacted several friends, organized the club, and never looked back.”

Grasso wrangled about a dozen whisky-inclined pals to launch the Monmouth Whisky Club in early 2016, with the goal of creating an approachable, diverse social circle centered on whisky. “You won’t find any of our members with Pappy on their shelf,” Grasso says, referring to the rare and expensive Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. “In fact, in a very early meeting, I asked everyone what they had at home, and most of us had one or two bottles.” At the time, Grasso’s own stash numbered ten bottles—more than everyone else in the group combined. Today, his home bar has burgeoned to more than 150 bottles. “And many of our members have built nice little collections as well,” he adds. But the members of Monmouth Whisky Club remember their roots, and focus on fostering new whisky lovers and inclusivity. “We work hard to invite women to join,” Grasso says. “Most [members] are professionals working in New York City, a few are in law enforcement, and a number are retired.”

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Monmouth Whisky Club charges a base price of $75 to join, then $50 a year, with each tasting priced according to the whiskies on offer, anywhere from $20 to $85. “If someone wants to join but doesn’t know [a current member], then we encourage them to attend as a guest, after which they’re welcome to join,” Grasso says. “We do this simply to meet the potential member,” and to ensure prospective members get what the club is all about—tasting and enjoying new whiskies.

To keep things fresh, Monmouth Whisky Club has hosted cocktail-making classes and also converged at Morris County School of Glass where members made their own cocktail glasses. The club has acquired around 250 Glencairn glasses for tasting events held at local bars. “We store these glasses in restaurant racks so that before we leave an event, the venue can run our glasses through their washer,” Grasso explains. “Keeps our post-meeting work to a minimum.”

Monmouth Whisky Club at a Glance

Name: Monmouth Whisky Club
Location: Monmouth, New Jersey
Year founded: 2016
Number of members: 55
Membership: Member referral or by attending a meeting

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