Rachna Hukmani: Whiskey Stories LLC Founder

Photo credit: Katarina Kojic photography

Photo credit: Katarina Kojic photography

Whiskey Stories Snapshot: Whiskey Stories is a 5 year old Michelin Guide recommended luxury whiskey tasting multisensory immersive company where premium/high end whiskies are paired with music, comedy, blindfolds (Whiskey In the Dark), gourmet chef food courses, whiskey based colognes and more sensory elements. No two events are alike. We offer a a 90 min sit down interactive experience where guests are required to immerse themselves fully into the experience. We are for everyone! From whiskey enthusiasts to those who are new to whiskey. There is so much to experience that we have been named Top 5 experiences in NYC for all 21+ adults by TimeOut, Secret NYC, Bucket Listers, Elite Daily and more!

Here is our entire roster to get an idea of Whiskey Stories. We tend to get booked months in advance: bit.ly/whiskeystoriesluxury

Here is what our typical experiences look like: https://we.tl/b-c2BMixDJjb (Photos always tell a great story!)

In turn, we also invite people to take a look at our venue in Bushwick in Brooklyn via our Instagram photos since our venue adds to the immersive experience. www.instagram.com/whiskeystories

Bio: I’ve been working with whisk(e)y & designing new whiskies for more than a decade, have helped build whiskies like The Macallan Double Cask, Highland Park Magnus, Noble Oak Bourbon and more (liquid & concept creation). I also recently launched first of its kind whiskey based colognes which were featured on Bloomberg News, Forbes and Brown Girl Magazine which named me the first South Asian woman to open a whiskey company and launch whiskey based colognes.

My Native Admission Statement

To truly understand the nuances of whiskey/whisky, I like to use sensory elements of food, fragrance, sight, sound, and more to open people's minds and in turn their palates. I used to attend a lot of whiskey tastings and always felt that people were either too intimidated to ask questions or they do not truly comprehend the flavors imparted by grain, the whiskey/whisky barrel, water source and more. My mission with Whiskey Stories is to share my passion of whiskey as an art form in a way that is memorable, immersive and fun so that people leave feeling that they experienced something they haven't before.

How did you get into the industry?

I had just moved to the US from Cyprus on a work visa with a job in advertising but got laid off. I had a month to find another job or leave the country. But I refused to give up. I had been dreaming of moving to the US since I was 5 years old. Literally a few days before my work visa expired I found a job working at an agency with Johnny Walker as my client. It was at that job that something awoke in me. The intricate art form of whisk(e)y, versatile flavor profile, its history and the people behind these legendary whiskies intrigued me. I was hooked. I started to dig deeper into the art form and I loved it. I had found my calling. The rest is history.

Any emerging industry trends?

- More women in whiskey/whisky. More and more women are becoming distillers, blenders, brand ambassadors and this allows for newer ways of creation and being. Women and men's palates are very different and this invites newer opportunities in the industry.

- Need for better understanding at the shelf. I predict the whiskey/whisky industry is headed where the wine industry is now. Lots of choices at the shelf with confusion on what to purchase. With experiences like Whiskey Stories where we help understand flavors and brands in a unique sensory way, we are creating ways for people to be better equipped to build their whiskey journey. We also have a VIP club where we show members how to shop for whiskey and build their own whiskey collection.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Whiskey Stories LLC is my five year old Michelin Guide recommended luxury whiskey tasting multisensory immersive company where premium/high-end whiskies are paired with music, comedy, storytelling, blindfolds, gourmet chef food courses, sensory elements like our pairings with our whiskey based colognes and more. No two experiences are alike and we sell out months in advance.

I came up with the idea 5 years ago at an entrepreneur brainstorming session. I had attended several whiskey tastings by then and always felt there were elements missing to allow people to truly understand whiskey. So I decided to create just that. A way to truly help people understand whisk(e)y via sensory elements that they are familiar with (food, fragrance and more). My vision is for people to understand whiskey/whisky while getting entertained.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

1. We continue to sell out months in advance and have our own venue in Bushwick. We also have a dedicated venue in Manhattan now that we use for private and corporate experiences. Our goal is to continue to expand so that we book corporate experiences months in advance.

2. In turn, Whiskey Stories is big for special occasions (Bachelor Parties, Bachelorette Parties, Wedding Rehearsal, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Promotions). Our goal is to continue to book these months in advance as well.

3. We also launched our whiskey based unisex colognes line last Oct (featured on Bloomberg and Forbes). Our goal is to continue to expand this line beyond the existing 8.

4. My next goal is to expand Whiskey Stories is to expand beyond NYC and the US/train partners in our proprietary methods so we can share the magic of Whiskey Stories with even more people

Your most difficult moment at the Business?

I like to look at these moments as opportunities. Prior to securing a dedicated space, I had several partnerships with venues where the sales were pre-determined as an equal task yet, yet we found ourselves securing majority of the sales. However, that contrast has made us a stronger business, helped us really focus on what our competitive advantage is and continue to fine tune. Difficult moments make us stronger and I am thankful for those moments as well as the inspiring ones.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We put our heart and soul into every experience. We are 1087 experiences in and I am proud of the fact that no two experiences are alike and people leave our experiences feeling they truly understand how to break down whiskey in a fun way and/or they have experienced something truly unique. Whether you are a whiskey enthusiast or new to whiskey or even if you're not a whiskey drinker, Whiskey Stories has something for you. We help you discover, fall in love with whiskey and create memorable experiences for you and your loved ones.

How do you motivate others?

By being authentic, living life deliberately and honoring my voice. In turn, appreciating the artists we support (musicians, comics, actors, authors and more) & the team that helps me execute Whiskey Stories - we are all part of the Whiskey Stories dream. I once read somewhere that if you don't need help your vision isn't big enough. I believe in the teamwork and appreciate those to share my passion and vision.

Career advice to those in your industry?

This is such a great time to be in whiskey/whisky, especially for women. The innovation, the new ways of creation, the stories - if you're interested, take a chance. Put in your resume, volunteer at a distillery, attend one of our experiences/whiskey tastings in your city! Fall in love with whiskey. Just go for it. There will be people who don't support you but I believe one of the best things someone can do for us is underestimate us because that contrast sheds light on what we really want. As long as we continue to believe in ourselves, the rest falls into place, including the right company that helps us along the way rather than tell us we can’t do something. So, keep at it and the right avenues of abundance will come along. And ask for help from the right people.

What do I do best?

I care about people and I love telling stories. I have use these elements among many others to create Whiskey Stories. People leave feeling I helped each one of them individually. That makes me feel successful. I help each person who comes to Whiskey Stories create their own unique journey.

What makes me the best version of myself?

The belief that anything is possible and everything we desire is already here. Living my life with outlook allows me to be the best I can be for myself - and those around me.

What are my aspirations?

To continue to build Whiskey Stories, tell stories and have people fall in love with Whiskey like I have. And to continue to connect with each other. We are an immersive experience. I motivate people to put their phones away and just be present (we have professional photographers present so people can put their phones aside). I want to continue to help people let go and completely be in the present moment.

My Biggest Success?

Opening Whiskey Stories LLC. I had a dream and made it a reality. I didn't do it alone - I had many people around me who believed in my vision and my dream. I believe this is my biggest success. Surrounding myself with people who believe in me.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Leaving my full time job to pursue Whiskey Stories full time. I remember the day so clearly. Sitting with a close friend at a coffee shop (I had also started pursuing stand up comedy at the same time and he was helping me with one of comedy sets), I remember telling him the universe has a way of forcing our hand when we want something bad enough. There was something almost magical about voicing my dreams out loud. That was a year and half ago. The journey has been incredible!

My Motto?

Honor your voice. Voice your dreams.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

- In Business, Entrepreneurship, Life Goals: Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Emily Blunt. Priyanka Chopra, Mindy Kaling.

- In relationship goals: Emily Blunt/John Krasinski (they make, act in movies together and are just so loveable), Priyanka Chopra/Nick Jonas (they create their own rules and support each others dreams), Kristen Bell/Dax Shepherd (they make each other laugh and aren't afraid to be silly).

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Scotland, Spain, Cyprus (where I grew up), Goa, Machu Picchu, Iceland

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Bobbi Brown concealer, my colognes (!), my marvel universe pocketbook (it gets me free coffee every week!), my Alex and Ani bracelets

My Current Passions?

My animals, my whiskey collection, my comedy pursuits (acting, stand up, sketch), my writing, telling stories, my friends/family, my travels, movies, writing about movies, discussing movies, auditioning for movies

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: Make someone laugh daily.

Thought of the Day: Make friends when traveling

Action of the Day: Workout or dance with a friend and get brunch after

Deed of the Day: Make time for play and silliness with my animals (my german shepherd, ginger tabby, conure and seahorse)

Tip of the Day: Always get enough sleep

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City? In NYC you can really be anything you want

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Egg, Bacon & Cheese Wrap, Coffee, mangoes Or Idlis at Dosa Royale with a Masala Chai (or three!)

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Sleeping

10:00 AM - Getting ready to go to work - I work at The Wing in Dumbo, a gorgeous coworking space for Entrepreneurs.

7:00 PM - Working if I have a Whiskey Stories Experience or Performing if I have a show. Otherwise working out with friends or going out

11:00 PM - Writing or watching a movie.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Coffee. Three cups a day. Lots of water.

Most used App/Favorite Types of Instagram Accounts?

Instagram/I will admit I love Whiskey Stories instagram! Besides that I love various whiskey influencer accounts, comedy Instagram accounts. fitness/wellness, german shepherd accounts and game of thrones/marvel movie memes that make me laugh.

What should everyone try at least once?

- Masala Chai made on the stove by an Indian in their home. It's an art form.

- Improv comedy. It will change how you see the world

- Whiskey (!)

- A dance off

- Rock Climbing

- Snowboarding

- Ocean Ice Plunge in the winter

- A sunrise race

- Tough Mudder

- Camping in the snow

- Taking care of animals

- Stand Up Comedy

- Auditioning for a movie (even as a background actor)

- Karaoke

- A Rap battle (and be bad at it)

- Storytelling open mic night. Share your stories with the world

- Tell someone you're in love with them (without waiting for them to say it first)

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Somewhere sunny and full of beaches (like Cyprus, Spain).

My Pic of the Day: