An SFA graduate and his buddies want Nacogdoches residents to be a little more knowledgeable when it comes to picking their poison.
Next month, the Oldest Town in Texas will become the third city in East Texas to open its own chapter of the East Texas Bourbon Society, adding its name to the likes of Tyler and Longview.
The society was born out of a fundraising event organized to benefit the nonprofit Longview World of Wonders, said founder Cole Tomberlain. It spread to Tyler from there, and Nacogdoches was the obvious next step.
“We have a lot of buddies in Nacogdoches,” said Tomberlain, who graduated from SFA in 2010 and works as the principal for the Charles Tomberlain Insurance Agency in Longview. “They kept asking ‘when are we going to get our chapter of the East Texas Bourbon Society?’”
The club’s Tyler and Longview chapters boast a combined membership of some 60 individuals, and Nacogdoches is on track to add another 30 people to that roster, even though the chapter doesn’t officially launch until mid September.
The chapter opening is set to coincide with the debut of the Front Porch Distillery’s release of its 19 Oaks Whiskey on Sept. 7. The chapter intends to hold its first meeting on Sept. 12, Tomberlain said.
But those interested in knocking back countless rounds in the style of a Saturday-night college house party will be disappointed. The organization’s focus isn’t on rambunctiousness, but on rather on appreciation.
“We’re reading tons of articles and listening to podcasts,” Tomberlain said. “We really get some behind the scenes stuff going on.”
Each of the society’s meetings features a flight of bourbons for tasting that might range from $30 to $300 a bottle. Members participate in distillery tours and events like the distiller’s camp at Ironroot Republic Distillery in Denison, Texas, and run the Texas Bourbon Shootout, a recent competition that pitted Texas distillers against one another in a tasting by world-renowned whiskey critic Jim Murray.
Each chapter holds a meeting once a month, and Tomberlain said it isn’t unusual to have distillers bring them pre-relase samples to ask for their opinions and input.
To access all that, East Texas Bourbon Society members pay a $300 per year membership fee, or a $30 at-the door fee to attend a meeting.
But that isn’t to say the society is a stuffy, uptight group of know-it-alls open only to refined connoisseurs.
“You can be in any step of your bourbon-learning phase. We take anybody,” he said. “Bourbon is one of those American spirits that’s really relatable. There isn’t any one singular demographic bourbon appeals to.”