The 12 Best Whiskey, Beer and Wine Subscriptions of 2020
Alcohol shipment by mail isn’t available to everyone. Check the laws in your state before buying — the National Conference of State Legislatures has a pretty solid round-up.
Several years ago, Dollar Shave Club exploded onto the internet in a supernova of affordable, delivered-monthly razors for men. Because of this and others like it, everyone wanted to put what they sold in a box and send it to you on a similar cadence. Truthfully, this model isn’t so great for everything — most people don’t need a box of literal bones delivered to their homes.
But, in the world of alcohol, where rarity and availability exclude hoards of would-be enthusiasts, there is promise. Thanks to a select few outlets, the discerning whiskey, beer and wine drinker need not work through second-hand salesmen that drive prices through the roof.
The trick is identifying those outlets and managing expectations — there isn’t anybody carrying flats of Pappy or Hill Farmstead, but there are unique bottles to be found across the internet.
Our guide to the best whiskey, beer and wine subscriptions features picks for exclusivity, quality and every budget.
Best Whiskey Subscriptions
Photo: Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Not new by any means, membership into the 35-year-old club grants, among other things, access to some of the most award-winning scotch in the world of late. In 2019, SCWS took home a whopping six Double Golds at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, including the Director’s Award for Excellence, Best in Show Whisky and Best Blended Malted Scotch.
The catch? SMWS doesn’t actually make its own whisky; rather, it acquires casks from other distilleries in the UK and sells them in limited runs on its website. The $99 a year membership grants you access to these sales (which inevitably sell out rather quickly), various social tasting events, a quarterly magazine and other scotch-drinking resources.
Craft Whisky Club
CWC is not for the volume whiskey drinker (you know who you are). Starting at $50 a month, the folks at CWC spend more time sourcing out rare and sometimes unheard of bottles from smaller distillers than any other option on our list. It’s pricey, but there aren’t a lot of options for a whiskey drinker who wants to try something outside the norm. There’s also a small, curated selection of snacks sent with every bottle.
For starters, you’re required to join an email waiting list — so it pays to drop your name in there even if you’re unsure if you want to commit your money to it (it took me a week or so to be “accepted”). Once accepted, you’ll find one of the largest spirit collections on the internet — bourbon, scotch, ryes and everything in between making up a large part of it. Expect to pay about $300 annually for quarterly booze deliveries. Its offerings (as with every other provider on this list) change seasonally, but names like Michter’s, Old Forester, Balvenie, the Glenlivet and 1792 all pop up with regularity.
For $69 a month ($79 for Scotch), Taster’s Club allows you to choose what type of hard-to-find whiskey (or whisky) you want to be delivered to your house. This means you’re not disappointed to find a peaty Scotch in the mail when all you wanted was a mellow old bourbon. Most of what Taster’s Club ships out leans regional and craft, with an emphasis on slightly more idiosyncratic distillers. This is a good choice for whiskey drinkers who like surprises.
Best Beer Subscriptions
Photo: Belgi Beer
The Original Craft Beer Club
The Original Craft Beer Club keeps it pretty simple — every delivery includes 12 or 24 beers in different styles and from different breweries. It only sources beer from independent American microbreweries, and, rather uniquely, offers delivery monthly, every other month or even quarterly. As basic as that sounds, most alcohol subscriptions don’t offer that flexibility. Its beer curation is varied and widespread, and there’s always enough styles available to avoid IPA-fatigue.
Tavour is an app-based beer subscription that allows you to add beers to your “cellar” to be shipped to you whenever you want. Beers are taken off the list when Tavour’s lot has been fully claimed by subscribers, and typically two new beers pop up each day. Each claimable beer comes with a lengthy description and insights into the brewery it was made in. The selection is decisively undecisive, which is to say Tavour stocks what feels like the most diverse and far-ranging selections of any beer subscription out there — barleywine, sour, gose, kolsch, märzen and virtually every type of ale you could want all make regular appearances.
Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club
An old dog in the beer subscription world, the Beer of the Month Club has been delivering curated collections of the world’s best beer for more than two decades. The family-owned business takes the word “curation” seriously, too, as all beers that make the cut are vetted via blind tasting by a panel of professional brewmasters and beer judges. They even keep a historical catalog of previously approved beers, complete with tasting notes from the pros. Starting at $30 per month, this subscription is what you get if you care about the flavor behind the buzz.
Belgium is undoubtedly one of the most important beer nations in the world. The home of the dubbel, tripel, lambic, witbier and a few hundred variations thereof makes a whole lot more than that. Belgi Beer’s sole purpose is getting more interesting Belgian beer into the hands of those who can’t make it for a trip. One-time purchase boxes of beer and monthly subscriptions are available, though it’s worth noting that shipping cost is going to be a pain in the ass (it was near twice the price of the beer itself from Belgium to New York City).
Best Wine Subscriptions
Photo: Plonk Wine Club
The Grand Tour Wine Club
Curated by the wine director at New York City’s Eleven Madison Park’s, recently named the world’s fourth best restaurant, Grand Tour Wine Club is for the would-be wine head. The steep $95 a month tag gets you four wines, each part of collections highlighting regions, wine-making techniques and wine history. These are somm-approved wines that won’t be easy finds at your local bottle shop.
K&L Best Buy Wine Club
The website is antiquated and slow, but that only adds to the allure. Just $20 for two bottles a month, K&L is the sleeper of the wine-subscription world. The company has been sourcing and importing wines stateside for over 40 years and promises the single bottle cost of the wines you receive are far greater than the cost of the subscription. There’s nothing fanciful or verbose about it.
Plonk Wine Club
Plonk only sources and delivers organic wines. That may not sound like a big deal, but there isn’t another large-scale wine subscription that can claim something similar. You can choose red, white or mixed selections and pricing starts at $110 for four bottles a month. You can also cancel anytime, a relative rarity in the weird world of alcohol subscriptions. Also unlike most other subscription services, you can re-order bottles you like from past deliveries to have again and again.
Winc knows many of its users aren’t master sommeliers — and that makes it one of the more approachable wine subscription services. A six-question quiz lets an algorithm suss out what kind of wines you’d be interested in, and after you finish each month’s curation of wines, you can rate what you drank so your next delivery is even more tailored to your tastes. Additionally, all of Winc’s wines are produced by the company under the supervision of sommelier Brian Smith. Membership prices start at $39 for three bottles of wine, and shipping is an additional $9. Nonmembers can also buy bottles a la carte, with prices starting at $15 a bottle.
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