We spoke to one of the founders of this product Ken Jaremco. Had shared some great insight and experiences over his 40-year career.
So tell us Ken, how did you find yourself immersed in the world of whisky?
K: Many years ago I experienced blended whiskies like J&B and Ballantine’s. In the late ‘70’s and early 80’s Single malt scotch was an anomaly. Blended scotch was still is the norm. We would mix these with soda, water, ice, but never with carbonated drinks. Then one day my wife bought me a bottle of Chivas Regal. At that time it was indeed a luxury whisky from my perspective. I think I savored that bottle for months and months. Chivas is still today a favorite of mine and fosters images of days gone by in the Yukon where I spent 4-plus years. As all good things must come to an end, we found ourselves in Vancouver BC.
Over the next 30-plus years I met many people and a few I can call true whisky friends. In particular, an English bloke named Mike, who was a neighbor. One day we were invited over for a drink and Mike asked me if I would like a single malt scotch or a blended scotch. What’s the difference I asked? Well that question has taken me 35 years to understand and I will spend another good many years to understand the nuances of this question.Time, water, wood and craftsmanship are found in both blended whisky and single malts. Both equally enjoyable but both vastly distinct. It is not until you explore the far reaches of Scotland and indeed the world searching for single malt whisky will you find and understand the complexities of blends over single malts. The single malts are a reflection of the distillery and distillery manager from where they originated, the blends a reflection of the brilliance of the master blender and the stock he or she chooses to use to produce the blend.
That's interesting, Ken. So on this journey you came up with the Whisky Connoisseur Kits. Can you tell us more about that.
K: I belong to a Whisky Society in Vancouver. It takes us a good hour to drive to any events held by our group. Needless to say, today drinking and driving are not socially acceptable and we are all encouraged to drink responsibly. We observed that many club members would take a taste and push the remainder of the whisky back so they could get home safely. This presented an opportunity. Why not come up with a way to take the extra whisky home with you. Take-out, if you will.
Tell us the thought process behind it.
K: My wife has always said she would be the designated driver and make sure we arrived home safely after each event. In the beginning she patiently listened, watched and socialized until she found that some single malts were enjoyable to her palate. Now we had to come up with a way to taste, socialize and still be able to get home safely. SIP SAVE AND SAVOR was born. A collection of empty bottles in a case and a couple of glasses and a funnel would do the job nicely. I canvassed our membership and found there was a real need for this type of kit. A hundred were manufactured by one of my associate companies and sold out within several events. Eureka, a new product had found a purpose and a willing and eager consumer market. Whisky events could be recreated in the safety and comfort of your home and explored at your leisure either alone or preferably with a friend. If we could experience the world of whisky events again, why not on the road during business trips or on vacation. No more dull minibars in the hotel room at 11 at night after a late flight. Or on the beach while on vacation with some of your favorite drams in your suitcase to be experienced under a palm tree or the beach.
So tell us Ken, what is involved in the day-by-day operations of your business?
K: Marketing and sales are now our focus. We have established two websites with stock in the UK, United States and Canada. We ship to Europe, Africa, Germany, United States, and Canada. We have had inquiries from over 20 countries Several distilleries are using our product to promote their spirits to the hospitality industry by leaving small samples in Share A Dram bottles for managers to consider adding to their bar stock Visit www.whiskyconnoisseur.ca or www.whiskyconnoisseur.us
Ken, I am sure this journey has brought on many unique experiences for you and your wife. Can you share some with us?
K: We have had many whisky experiences but several stand out. The first was a visit to Highland Park while on a cruise ship visiting Scotland and Ireland. We took an excursion from Kirkwall with 20 other guests in a bus to the renowned distillery Highland Park. The pride of the Orkney Islands. Upon arrival at the distillery we were treated to a tour and finally a tasting in the sample room. After a brief 30 minutes we had a chance to visit the gift shop and purchase some mementos of the trip. My wife and I were much the juniors of our travel mates and kept back to allow them more time to consider their purchases. We brought up the rear of the platoon. We made our purchase, several mini 40 year old Highland Park in a beautiful wooden gift box to enjoy with our son and son in law when we got home. We headed to the parking lot and to our dismay, the driver departed with our travel mates and left us behind. We returned to the gift shop and asked the manager how we could get back to the ship. He asked how much time we had and we said a hour or two. We were then treated to a private tasting of the some seriously old Highland Park. After this amazing tasting, they called us a cab and returned us to the ship.
The second adventure was on another cruise to Scotland and Ireland and we took an excursion to Glenmorangie distillery. Upon arrival we were treated to the usual distillery video introduction and then a distillery tour. After the tour a tasting was offered but for an additional £10 Glenmorangie 30 year old Malaga cask was offered. Stunning was all I could mutter. This bad boy must come home with us. We also purchased a bottle and a miniature copper still that housed a 1971 vintage bottle. Both proudly displayed and saved for a special occasion to share with close friends.
The third excursion I can share was a trip to Kavalan, a Taiwanese distillery about 2 hours out of Taipei. My very good friend Fred who lives in Taiwan, arranged a private tour with the distillery. This distillery has achieved remarkable international prowess with the whisky they produce. After a tour and an opportunity to bottle my own vintage direct from a cask we ventured into the gift shop. If memory serves me correctly, this gift shop receives over a million whisky lovers every year. The gift shop is amazing. My wife spotted the twin set of whisky bottles. She said it looks like a marriage made in heaven, much like ours. We have to have this set. Only sold at the gift shop. So after an hour or two of mind blowing offerings. We had our cart filled. The only problem was how to get this booty home. Another suitcase was needed. Off to the shopping mall in Taipei. The suitcase cost more than the twin bottles. We have had an opportunity to sample both of these whiskies. One in an Amontillado sherry cask and the other in a Manzanilla Sherry Cask. Outstanding!
Wow, sounds like a great time. You mentioned before a whisky club, can you share with us how that came about and what happens when you all meet ?
K:Our club started with a few members meeting at their homes on an irregular basis some 14-15 years ago in Vancouver. But like all good things it is hard to keep a secret especially in whisky circles. So it was decided by the founding members that maybe it should be opened a crack. Several years ago membership topped 130 and a waiting list. Members come and go for whatever reasons but the diehards still persist and meet quarterly. Membership comes from all walks of life including military, law enforcement, judges, doctors, lawyers, insurance owners and farmers like ourselves. My wife and I host a country BBQ on our farm every year for club members and their significant other where we invite industry ambassadors to attend and educate us about their latest releases and sample drams that compliment a true BBQ by Smoke and Bones catering. What whisky doesn’t go well with brisket, ribs, salmon smoked meatballs and pulled pork.
I am sure over over the 30 years being in this business you tasting some amazing drams, what is your favorite of all time?
K: My favourite all time dram is probably the 1957 Bowmore. I experienced this with my son while on a trip to Ottawa. We had some spare time so we visited the Highlander Pub where they had an amazing array of whiskies. We had to try the 1957 Bowmore. At CAD $135 per dram we decided to share it. OMG as my son would say. LOL, this is incredible. We spent the better part of an hour nosing the glass and respectfully taking a sip and savoring the moment. The empty bottle and wonderful hand crafted case found its way over the Rockies and into our library. I made a clock out of the empty case to commemorate this once in a lifetime experience. I relive that experience every time I look at the clock for the time.
Is there an everyday, go-to dram you hold dear to you?
K:Depending on my mood, the weather and who I am sharing with, I personally like Glenmorangie Nectar d’or or their expression Quinta Ruban. A close second is Highland Park 18 or Dark Origins. On a blustery winter evening I like something from Islay. Notably Laphroaig Lore OR a very peaty Ardbeg like Dark Cove. My wife prefers and has issued an upper management decree that this is her exclusive dram Gordon and MacPhails 1966 Strathisla. A distillery that is the home of Chivas Regal.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us, Ken. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your Society?
K: Whisky is meant to be shared with friends and family. If you have the good fortune to have a mate like I do, it is doubly rewarding as we can travel and share like interests. The other aspect of whisky is sharing of knowledge and experiences. During this holiday season and throughout the year bear in mind that the privilege of experiencing these beautiful whiskies come with a onus to drink responsibly. SIP SAVE AND SAVOR with a kit if you are going to any masterclasses or travelling in the coming year..
We appreciate your time Ken and look forward to your continued journey and success.