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Auckland’s Single Malt Club combating loneliness, isolation among older men through whiskey group

It’s called the Single Malt Club. It’s old school – there are just 12 members and it’s men only.

The youngest is 75-year-old Tony Stanaway, and the oldest is Mark De Lautour, at 95.

“This is the highest level of society,” De Lautour said laughing.

They meet once a month at the Fairview Lifestyle Village in Auckland. The rules are simple – drink good whiskey, tell good tales, and enjoy a laugh.

“The important thing with that finger missing was when the kids were small they used to say, ‘Dad, how did you lose your finger’, and I’d say, ‘When I was very young when I told a lie, my mother said if I ever told a lie my finger would fall off’. I don’t think the kids ever told a lie,” one member shared.

But the reason behind this whiskey drinking group is actually sobering. It was set up to help with loneliness and isolation in older men – and that’s a real problem in New Zealand. 

The National Institute on Aging said the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and it can lead to a reduction in lifespan by up to 15 percent. It’s significant.

“Loneliness plays a very big part in it because there are guys here who are widowed and some, in particular, have only lost their wives recently and their lives have taken huge changes, quite painful changes,” Stanaway said.

This group helps with friendship and opening up.

“The whiskey plays a part in that. They all sit there very quietly for the first five to 10 minutes. By 6 o’clock, I can’t shut them up,” Stanaway adds.

This thriving group will soon mark its 20th anniversary and it’s prompted other lifestyle villages to follow suit.

It’s just one happy hour, and there’s always time for another drink, another story – but never too much.

And while 89-year-old member and muso Bennie Gunn told the group about his experience at a Frank Sinatra concert, perhaps it’s George Thorogood who sang it best for this group with his hit song ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’.

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