A CLUB WITH PERSONALITY
“The people who said it couldn’t be done were so dull”
~ Pip Hills, Society Founder
A BIT ABOUT
An unconventional club has unconventional beginnings. The Society started when founder Pip Hills stumbled upon the delights of whisky drawn straight from the cask – undiluted and unadulterated. That was in the 1970s, when the whisky industry considered such a spirit too quirky and challenging for delicate palates. Overlooked and unappreciated, it had been left to languish in warehouses across the country, unknown to the wider public. Pip shared his discovery when those experts said there was no demand for it and watched as word of mouth spread. In 1983 he and his pals formed The Scotch Malt Whisky Society to share whisky in its purest form and to unite those with a passion for flavour, for variety, for fun… and for not always doing as you’re told.
To The World
Our spiritual home is The Vaults in Leith, where we started out in 1983 in a historic but dilapidated building that you can still see at the heart of our Society monogram. The building has now been beautifully restored, and as our membership has grown we’ve added Members’ Rooms at 28 Queen Street in Edinburgh’s New Town, at 19 Greville Street in London’s Farringdon district and most recently at 38 Bath Street in Glasgow’s city centre. The Society now has a presence in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa the USA and of course most recently, Mexico. Each branch releases regular batches of new whiskies throughout the year and hosts events for members and non-members.The SMWS has a growing network of international Partner Bars that have been exclusively selected to offer Society whisky. The Partner Bars provide a home from home for Society members and whisky lovers alike, offering a unique and extensive range of exclusive single cask offerings for you to indulge and delight in.
Today, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an international club made up of nearly 30,000 members from around the world. The club has become a place for whisky lovers to discover new flavours, broaden their knowledge, and share these wonderful experiences in the company of friends.
We bottle some of the finest rare whisky in the world. Our award-winning single cask productions are not sold to the public but instead offered exclusively to Society members through our online shop.
Each Society bottling is unique and produced in a limited number, making each bottling incredibly rare. At the Society all our whisky comes from single casks. Each cask produces unique flavours, aromas and taste sensations. Joining the Society gives the adventurous whisky lover the chance to taste rare, one-of-a-kind whisky.
All our whiskies are undiluted, naturally coloured and are not subjected to chill filtration or any other interference, so members can enjoy their dram as if it were straight from the cask. The net result is bottlings that often surprise, as well as delight, and which accurately reflect the remarkable variety in the craft of distillation, as well as the infinite complexities of wood, spirit and time, which can only be uncovered in a single cask bottling.
PASSING THE TEST
The Tasting Panel
Each of our single cask whiskies must pass the uncompromising nose test of our expert Tasting Panel – a group of independent whisky connoisseurs from all walks of life – before being deemed worthy of an iconic Society green bottle. The selection criteria are simple: quality and interest. The Tasting Panel meets weekly at one of the Society’s Edinburgh Members’ Rooms to judge a selection of samples, assessing the colour, nosing and tasting the whisky neat, then with a drop of water. The participants discuss each sample, decide whether it is of the required quality, and award it an overall score – but are under no obligation to pass any of the casks they have sampled. Casks that do not pass the test are rejected.
The bottles offered by the SMWS are unique from what you find elsewhere. A number, rather than a name, denotes each distillery. This is because Society members want to discover and enjoy each and every whisky on its own merit, for its own flavour characteristics, and not based on where it comes from. Due to the nature of single cask whisky, the region or distillery it comes from is often not the best indication of what it might taste like.
- NAME Each bottling is given a descriptive name based on its essential flavours and characteristics.
- TASTING NOTE A unique tasting note offers a description of the flavours in store when you delve into the magical malt.
- CODE Each bottle carries a bottling code- the first number represents the distillery the whisky is from, the second represents the number of casks that have been bottled from that distillery by The Society. So this bottle shown is the 86th cask bottled from distillery number 46.
- FLAVOUR PROFILE Every bottle is colour coded according to the Society’s unique 12 flavour profiles, to help whisky lovers navigate the hundreds of bottlings we release each year.
- OUTTURN SMWS whiskies are bottled from a single cask and the outturn indicates how many bottles the cask produced.
AGE: Our bottlings clearly show the whisky’s age, unless it is one of our occasional no age statement (NAS) releases.
- DISTILLED The precise date this precious one-of-a-kind liquid was created.
- CASK The previous contents of a cask, and the number of times it was used, can tell you a lot about what the whisky will taste like. Society bottles carry the cask type on every bottle.
- REGION Another useful signpost is this indication of the whisky’s origin, without specific reference to its distillery.
- STRENGTH The Society’s cask strength whiskies are undiluted for your drinking pleasure, and are sure to pack more of a punch than your average single malt.
The Flavour Profiles
Whisky is a versatile, complex spirit that can deliver a range of flavours, evoking different responses from person to person so the best way to enjoy this ‘water of life’ is to focus on its flavour. For that reason the Society has developed 12 flavour profiles to help group whiskies into easily identifiable categories so members may navigate our monthly Outturn easily, and find a whisky best suited to them. Think of them as locations on a flavour map, and prepare to take a journey through our ever-changing selection of single cask, single malt whiskies.
YOUNG & SPRITELY
Our Young & Spritely flavour profile challenges established age conventions and reflects the whisky’s character rather than its age statement. Typically, the bottlings from this flavour profile come from within the 8 to 14-year-old age bracket and exude characteristics of younger whiskies, with flavours such as sour apple sweets, rhubarb, gummy bears, tinned mandarins and flying saucer sherbet sweets
SWEET, FRUITY & MELLOW
Our Sweet, Fruity & Mellow whisky flavour profile is a culinary delight, with watermelon, Pimms, apple pie, or even lime marmalade. The profile focuses on the best in sweet whisky, evoking thoughts of sherbet and other treats. The mellow flavours and strength make this a popular profile for beginners and experienced enthusiasts alike.
SPICY & SWEET
Expressions within the Spicy & Sweet whisky flavour profile can vary, but common flavour experiences can include gingerbread, hot cross buns, mulled wine and even balsamic strawberries. Think about the culinary experience of bringing spice into sweet dishes, the addition of cinnamon to pastries or sweet chilli flavours from East Asia.
SPICY & DRY
The Spicy & Dry whisky flavour profile contains expressions from all over Scotland. The iconic flavour experiences captured in the profile evoke memories of cooking with nutmeg, cloves and peppercorns. On the nose this profile delivers rich experiences and includes whiskies with strong aromas of sandalwood, pencil shavings and even tree bark.
DEEP, RICH & DRIED FRUITS
Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits offers a wonderful selection of aromas and flavours. Our Tasting Notes describe fruity whisky profiles on the nose such as marmalade, balsamic glazed fruits and demerara. If you discover flavours of rum truffles, treacle toffee and salted caramel, you’re probably not far off for this profile.
OLD & DIGNIFIED
Our Old & Dignified whisky flavour profile exudes the characteristics that can only come from long, careful maturation and older, well-balanced age statements. The Tasting Notes typically refer to rich flavours with clear aromas, such as honeycomb, brandy snaps, and dark chocolate orange to excite the palate and make this flavour profile a must try.
LIGHT & DELICATE
The Light & Delicate flavour profile is one to confound your expectations, as it may not reflect a whisky’s age as you perceive it. The light whisky focuses more on subtle and delicate flavour experiences emerging from the drams, with softer flavours such as fresh laundry, peach and green tea.
JUICY, OAK & VANILLA
Juicy Oak & Vanilla is a complex flavour profile, and one that offers an interesting assortment of flavour experiences. Our exacting Tasting Panel describes clear aromas of honeysuckle, coriander seed and even dunnage warehouses. Flavours in this profile often include exciting, juicy fruits and a deeper wood flavour. Think chocolate-coated cherries, passion fruit or pineapple sorbet.
OILY & COASTAL
Our Oily & Coastal flavour profile certainly contains coastal whiskies, but it isn’t limited to them. That’s because the Society challenges traditional whisky convention to focus on flavour as the main guide. The flavours in this category remind us of coastal settings and the foods and experiences available there, with oysters, barbecued prawns and beach bonfires.
The Lightly Peated whisky flavour profile is the first of three covering the sought-after Peated category. Lightly Peated whiskies in this collection evoke intriguing flavours and aromas, from sweet Parma Violet sweets and toasted marshmallows to smoky garden bonfires and wood ash. This profile makes an excellent first step into Peated whiskies for those exploring whisky flavours and is a great offering for more seasoned Peated whisky fans.
The Peated whisky flavour profile sits between Heavily and Lightly Peated whiskies, offering a clear sense of peat for Peated whisky enthusiasts and an intriguing step into the world of Peated whisky for explorers. The profile has robust perfumed aromas on the nose, while the flavour delivers rich meats and roasted foods. Expressions can deliver herbal flavours and aromas that give this category a wide range of flavour experiences.
Heavily Peated whisky comes with the territory of strong smoky flavours and earthy tones. Smoky whisky fans will love the rich aromas of cigar butts and wood burning stoves. On the palate, Heavily Peated whiskies often deliver smoked fish or meats. The flavour mixes and intricate aromas make this a compelling and powerful category to explore.