A couple of months ago, a long-time friend and one of the founders of the Bourbon Society of Greater Cincinnati reached out to me to see if I was interested in speaking at one of their monthly meetings on behalf of Rabbit Hole Distilling. As much as I have talked about bourbon with thousands of people over the years, I had never done an engagement like this, so I promptly accepted the invitation. I am not sure how exactly I expected the evening to go, but I can assure you that when it was over I was humbled and grateful for the group giving me the opportunity.
The Bourbon Society of Greater Cincinnati meets on the second Monday of each month, with the meetings usually taking place in the event space at the New Riff Distillery in Newport, KY. Members that are celebrating a birthday during the month of the meeting are asked to bring a bottle of one of their favorites to share with the group but there are always a few members that bring bottles regardless if it is their birthday month or not. Members are also encouraged to bring family and friends that may not yet be members so they too can participate in the fellowship that ensues. The crowd for the night of my speaking engagement, in excess of 100 people, was very diverse in regard to age, ethnicity, and gender. However, they all had one thing in common…a passion for bourbon and an enjoyable time.
I am never one to have a prepared agenda for a speaking engagement like this. I would rather get a feel for the audience and see what topics interest them, then build the conversation with as much audience participation as possible. From the moment I walked in the room to prepare for the evening, I knew that this was a laid back group of bourbon enthusiasts that just wanted to hear honest information about an up-and-coming whiskey brand while also having the opportunity to taste our offerings. I was happy to oblige. I kicked off with a little history about myself and some background on the origins of Rabbit Hole Distillery and our plans for the future. As usual, I was able to get a few laughs out of the crowd. The fun part however, was when I was able to share a sample of our whiskeys with the enthusiastic group.
Only about 20 percent of the people in the room had tasted anything from Rabbit Hole prior to that evening so I was starting with a pretty clean slate. One-by-one, we went through our three currently available whiskey products and I solicited feedback from the audience every step of the way. I made it very clear that although I wanted everyone to love my product that I knew that it was an unrealistic expectation. Much like they wanted to hear honesty from me, I wanted honest feedback from them….and I can assure you I got just that. Did everyone love the 4-grain bourbon, rye whiskey, and sherry finished bourbon I let them sample, no. But, I think everyone at least liked one or two of them and were very appreciative of the opportunity to try them all. Most enjoyable for me though was fielding the questions from the group, not only about Rabbit Hole, but about all aspects of the bourbon industry. This was an opportunity for me to release my inner bourbon geek and share my experiences, opinions, and thoughts about the industry.
After I spoke, the organizers of the evening finished up some society housekeeping regarding member dues, upcoming events, and other business. All the while, members enjoyed sips of their favorite bourbons, rye whiskeys, and a few other spirits. There wasn’t a person in the room without a smile on their face. When the formalities were done, several dozen members came to me one-by-one and thanked me for being there and gave me praise about our whiskeys. As I said earlier, this was very humbling and I could not thank them enough for allowing me to have a couple hours of their time.
There are bourbon societies like this in cities all over the country. If you want to meet a wide array of people that share a common interest with you, I strongly recommend you seek them out and attend a meeting or two. You never know what connections could happen and what friendships could blossom!!
Until next time, Cheers!!