Whisky Wisemen
Credit: Two Peas Photography

Social drinkers: A Whisky Wisemen event in Vancouver

A made-in-B.C. charity that brings professionals together over a dram has launched chapters throughout North America and beyond

Boy, yuppies have changed. On an August evening at Shebeen Whisk(e)y House in Vancouver’s Gastown, the local chapter of the Whisky Wisemen Society is holding its monthly Third Thursday event. Among the lively crowd gathered round the bar are a software entrepreneur, a business development director for a construction management firm and a staffing services company owner. Shebeen will donate 10 per cent of tonight’s proceeds to Backpack Buddies, a Vancouver charity that provides food to children dependent on school meal programs so they don’t go hungry on weekends.  

It’s one of seven such gatherings taking place tonight, in locations as far-flung as Victoria and Miami, the newest Whisky Wisemen chapter. What is now a non-profit society kicked off five years ago in Vancouver, when Jordan Scott, Kevin Shaw and a few twentysomething pals started getting together once a month to enjoy whisky, network and socialize. After Shebeen agreed to host them, they struck the donation deal with the bar.

“We coined the term social philanthropy because it was like giving by osmosis,” says red-bearded co-chair Scott, director of business development with Vancouver-based fibre optic infrastructure specialist Optic Zoo Networks. “But it’s really the bar that’s generating and giving the donation to charity.”
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The boys’ night became a mixed event, and the Whisky Wisemen opened it to the public. As word spread with help from social media, other cities formed chapters. “People started loving what we were doing and loving the community aspect of whisky,” says CEO Lesley Anne Brown, one of the society’s two full-time employees.

The Vancouver evening typically draws a crowd of 50 to 150, and attendees range in age from 19 to 65. On average, half of Third Thursday attendees are women, Scott estimates.

Through 2016, the Whisky Wisemen raised $30,000 for charity, Scott says. Every year, each of its chapters chooses a new cause to support.

Two years ago in Vancouver, Brown launched Club Wise, a private club for young professionals. For a $150 annual fee, members gain access to quarterly events featuring tastings led by a whisky ambassador and talks by guest speakers. Membership has grown to more than 80, and applications for 2018 open this month.  

“These are people that have a community-minded attitude but that are very active and ambitious in their respective fields,” says member Andrew Dilts, a lawyer with the Vancouver office of MLT Aikins LLP.

On October 20 at the Terminal City Club in Vancouver, the Whisky Wisemen debuts its Be Wise speaker series, a public event that includes a whisky festival. Now that global whisky partner Glenmorangie Co. has agreed to match donations up to $10,000, Scott is bullish: “I expect that $30,000 to double if not triple from the end of 2017.”