Before March 2020, no one had really thought of the virtual whisky tasting or virtual gin tasting concept, then Covid and lockdowns hit the UK, and indeed the world.
But for GreatDrams, during the pandemic, we have managed to add 60% to our readership and turn a predominantly offline business (~85%) into a thriving online business by being first to market with virtual whisky tastings on Facebook / Zoom, most of the industry followed so think we did a decent job with the idea and making it happen…
It started life as a ‘what if’ concept during one of our government sanctioned walks a week after something in the region of 75 events we were booked onto for the year were cancelled, bringing with it a LOT of uncertainty about our business viability, and just after the original UK lockdown was brought into force. I asked Kirsty if it would be in bad taste as the country was nervous, panicking and unsure about what was going on in the world, for me to put a message out there to try and keep our company alive by seeing if we can get 15 – 20 people to join me on what I called a virtual whisky tasting on Facebook Live.
She was unsure, but I did it anyway and instead of 15 – 20 people we ended up with 212 people on our first virtual tasting – the first in the country from any brand – which was hosted on Facebook Live with me speaking to my phone which was beaming me life to Facebook and Kirsty as well as my father-in-law messaging me on the laptop which was showing me comments, questions, requests for shoutouts and the like through the event… there was also a backup iPad and a second phone recording a duplicate video just in case… and at this point we knew nothing about doing anything like this… it also ended up as our single biggest sales day in the history of the company as so many people were taken by the whiskies we sampled that night they cleared us out of most of them !
That was just the beginning.
It took a couple of months at the beginning to learn the magic of Zoom, but for those first three or four months we did one every fortnight and averaged 170 people participating – it was truly incredible. We also acted on ALL feedback received which lead to new packages being created, printed tasting cards for each whisky bring printed and included and even the content of the inserts with ‘how to get the most out of your virtual whisky tasting with GreatDrams’ with hints and tips on how to set yourself up for the perfect event at home.
We streamlined the process completely to make it easy for people who want to book and enjoy a great night in with GreatDrams
- Submit an enquiry through https://greatdrams.com/whisky-tasting/
- All we really need to know is when, how many people, where you’re based
- We then provide a set of packages / quote
- Once all is booked in and addresses are received we send out the packs to each participant
- On the agreed date and time we all get on Zoom (unless you have a preferred alternative platform) and have an awesome time talking about whisky (or gin)
19 months later and around 600 virtual whisky tastings hosted, and we are still going strong, hosting mostly private virtual tastings for birthday parties, friends get togethers, corporate entertainment, whisky education, whisky clubs, even whisky brand training sessions.
AND I STILL LOVE THEM !
November / December 2020 I was hosting up to FIVE virtual tastings back to back each day, as was our Brand Ambassador too – it was incredible and without it our company would not exist and be as strong as it is today.
For me there is a joy to virtual tastings that you cannot get from ‘real life’ tastings – everyone can have an equal voice, you can moderate and balance the inputs of participants so no one dominates and people can communicate in a way that works for them – asking questions out loud, in the comments or in private messages, however it works for the participant it works for us.
And it allows us to tailor our conversation to each group too; some want the geekiness, others want more introductory conversations, others want banter and to challenge us (which I love) and others just want to listen – whatever the style preferred, we tailor and make it work.
Here's what some of our participants have had to say to date...
I knew very little about whisky. But by the time Greg had finished, I knew plenty: history, characters, tales, and most of all how he makes his own fantastic whisky. He’s great company. We had four very different whiskies, any of which I’d happily have again. Just as important, Greg kept seven very different customers entertained and eager to know (and drink) more. I can’t think of a better lockdown night in.
I wanted to give my other half a special experience for his birthday and so decided to book a private whisky tasting with Great Drams. Right from the get go, Great Drams stood out from the crowd. Greg was incredibly quick to reply to any questions and provided some great suggestions to create the perfect selection of whiskies for the night. On the night itself the tasting was hosted by brand ambassador Craig who was absolutely amazing. It felt more like a virtual catch up with an old friend who happened to have an incredible knowledge of whisky. The whiskies we sampled were all beautiful and we were impressed with the variety and breadth of flavours. We wouldn’t hesitate to book again or to recommend Great Drams to anyone looking for a unique and memorable experience.
A brilliantly fun evening for us girls to get together and taste some superb and unusual Gins from around the country. As big Gin drinkers it was brilliant to be challenged with trying neat gin to fully understand the flavour. The selection of Gin tried was superb. It split us into 2 camps as to what we liked, which is great as sometimes you just think gin is gin. We had one of the best nights we have had in a long time. Great to be on a girls night in. Great to be testing some lovely gin. Great to just all be together doing something fun. Thanks.
Greg hosted two virtual tastings for us with 82 attendees across the two nights. Everyone loved his knowledge of whisky and most importantly the whisky itself!! Leading up to the event Greg kept in regular contact about the numbers we were expecting and got the whisky to us with plenty of time to pass it out. This was one of the easiest virtual tastings nights I have had to organise thanks to Greg being easily contactable and quick to reply. Will definitely look to use GreatDrams again in the future.
I booked a virtual tasting as a year-end gift for a few of my clients, and everybody had a blast! It was a great way to get to know some whiskeys we had not encountered before. We were led through the experience by Craig, who was knowledgeable and informative, and overall it felt just like an in-person tasting event—without having to worry about getting home afterward!
I’ve already recommended you guys to several people and will continue to do so. Cheers!
For the past year, my colleagues grew weary of endless meetings through Zoom video calls. Great Drams provided an amazing opportunity to virtually leave our home offices and step into a virtual distillery. The history of scotch paired well with the tasting portions delivered to the homes of participants in multiple countries. I would highly recommend Great Drams at home to anyone looking for a way to connect with a group without a worry that the meeting will be dry.
Thank you Great Drams for being able to organise a really fun whiskey tasting event for my husbands 40th at such short notice. You were able to take care of the logistics so easily and make it a fun evening for the group, everyone raved about it for weeks afterwards. An unusual and memorable lockdown event!
Greg made the organising of the private tasting event absolutely stress free. With several options available to suit the budget and tastes of the group, the most complicated part was getting 13 people to agree on a date. Once booked the drams were sent out quickly and well packaged – the tasting notes were informative and useful, and the glass is a lovely reminder of the evening.
On the night we had Craig run our virtual tasting session – he was a fantastic host, knowledgeable, welcoming, and obviously passionate about what he does. The selection of whiskeys provided were great, a lovely selection of very tasty whiskeys! Everyone had a great night, especially the birthday boy – for whom the whole session was a surprise. We are all looking forward to the excuse to book or join another session and taste some more fantastic whiskeys!
Greg was fantastic! The whole team was absorbed in the tasting and have since asked for another. I would highly recommend this event for virtual parties and remote teams. There were no issues with communication or organisation and the GreatDrams team got everything through customs and sent to Germany without a hitch and on-time. 10/10 would recommend.