With nearly two decades of history and over 1,000 whiskies under its belt, South Okanagan Whiskey Tasting Society remains somewhat intimate by choice. “People usually remain on our waitlist for five years before they have a chance to join,” president Kevin Ritcey says. Founded by 23 local whisky enthusiasts, South Okanagan is one of only a few whisky tasting clubs in British Columbia. Throughout the years and the many whiskies tasted, the goal of the club remains the same: “Our main objective is to educate members and guests about the fascinating world of whisky,” Ritcey explains.
A tasting coordinator plans five tastings a year that include half-ounce pours of eight whiskies, plus a catered meal. And, after all this time, they have the process literally down to a science. “We utilize lab-quality dispensing equipment to dispense tastings precisely and quickly,” Ritcey explains. New members ante up CA$60, with dues of CA$35 per year after. The fee entitles members to purchase tickets for tastings, at a reduced rate of CA$15, before they are opened to non-members for CA$25. The whisky for each tasting will usually cost the club between CA$1,800 and CA$2,000 for 16 bottles, with annual dues contributing to other expenses.
Meetings take place in a convention center that seats 125 people. A buffet-style meal (for around CA$45) is served at the midpoint of the tasting and is carefully orchestrated to put the whisky front and center. “We do not serve spicy food, to avoid damaging palates,” Ritcey explains. “We have a great bunch of people from across all walks of life who love to taste, discuss, and share their opinions about whisky.”
South Okanagan Whiskey Tasting Society at a Glance
Location: Penticton, British Columbia
Year founded: 2002
Number of members: 136 maximum
Membership: Open to the public