written by: Christie Marcy photos by: Adam Finkle
Who says you can’t get a drink in Utah?
Not the local whiskey-lovers group Whiskey Drinkers Union: Utah Local 801, co-founded by Jeff Thompson. “My friend Jim and I are part of a bunch of national whiskey groups, so we’d see all these other people getting together and buying barrels and networking about whiskey and trading bottles,” Thompson says. “I created a group and I invited four people and everyone invited their friends and then friends of friends showed up.”
The group of over 300 has a home on Facebook, where they compare notes on spirits, share liquor-related news, learn how to navigate the arcane rules of the DABC and brag about the varieties of booze they’ve tasted. The group is also real-world active—Thompson and his co-founders schedule monthly events ranging from in-home tastings to tours of local distilleries.
Though the word “whiskey” is in the group’s name, Thompson is clear that the club is about all liquor, with a focus on local spirit-makers. “We have a bunch of bourbon nerds. We have a bunch of Scotch nerds. We have people who like whiskey but know nothing about it,” says Thompson, who puts a premium on educating the members of his group. “I host tastings and we’ll go through how it’s made and its history.”
A little education goes a long way in appreciating spirits, he says. “There are people who come to our events and they say ‘Oh, whiskey is OK.’ But when you put a glass of Scotch neat in front of them and you teach them how to drink it—you sip it, you roll it around in your mouth, that whole thing—they aren’t saying, ‘This is gross and it tastes like fire’ anymore. They come around.” And to that end, Thompson says, “we’re just trying to build the culture of whiskey here.”
See more inside our 2017 September/October Issue.