A QUICK START GUIDE FOR NEW MEMBERS
Come on in!
You’ve received the card and have the badge to prove it. You’re a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Welcome! By now you’ll hopefully have read our special welcome issue of Unfiltered magazine about all things Society, from our manifesto and our history to the story of our founder, Pip Hills. Consider this a Society one-pager with some of the more common questions and answers we get, along with tips from some of our long-standing members
WORDS: MADS SCHMOLL
WHERE CAN I ENJOY SOCIETY WHISKY?
Our Members’ Rooms are your whisky homes away from home. You can visit for a dram, grab a coffee or lunch during the day, or have some dinner. There are weekly tastings, not to mention more popular events such as Outturn preview tastings and distillery visits.
Your membership gives you access to all four of our Members’ Rooms in the UK. We have one in Glasgow on Bath Street, one in London on Greville Street near Hatton Gardens, and two in Edinburgh. Our New Town venue in Edinburgh occupies a multi-storey Georgian townhouse and is the only venue that has a bar open to non-members. Our other Edinburgh Members’ Room is our spiritual home and Society HQ, The Vaults in Leith.
All of our Members’ Rooms have a different look and feel to them, and you’ll find most members have a favourite. Regardless of which one you choose to explore first, you’ll enjoy a warm welcome and plenty of Society whisky at each. You can bring up to three non-member guests at each Members’ Room.
If you’re not near a Members’ Room, we have tastings around the UK and Europe – both virtual and in-person. No two Society events are ever quite the same, but you can expect Society whisky and good company at all of them. The adventure doesn’t stop there either, as we also have a network of partner bars around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Bring your membership card with you on your travels and you’ll enjoy a discount on Society drams within this network. Last but not least, you’ll also find us at festivals around the UK and Europe. Bring your membership card as we usually have a members’ only dram or two.
Members at The Society’s Bath Street venue in Glasgow
If you are visiting a Members’ Room, ask the staff for a recommendation –they’ll usually unearth something you might otherwise have overlooked. Don’t be led by prior experiences with off-the-shelf bottlings from particular distilleries, the Society’s single casks can be vastly different. Challenge yourself to try a Society bottling of something you would normally avoid. – Steve Foster
HOW DO I CHOOSE A SOCIETY WHISKY?
Our 12 flavour profiles provide an extra layer of information to help you navigate the hundreds of Society bottlings released each year. Think of them as a signpost to help you find flavours you already enjoy or if you are after something different, to boldly explore new tastes. For example, if you love big syrupy notes such as salted caramel, orange peel and balsamic glaze, our Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits Flavour Profile might be a good place to start (and you can find out more from Julien’s exploration of this flavour profile on the following page).
If you’ve read our new member issue, you’ll know that our Tasting Panel is responsible for sampling and approving every spirit that we bottle. After this, it is our Tasting Panel Chair who comes up with the name and tasting notes, based on input from the panellists. These tasting notes highlight what makes each bottle unique and what flavours you can expect, with a bit of humour and fun.
Finally there’s the coding system, which tells you which distillery a bottling is from. Our very first bottling – Cask No. 1.1 – started a coding system that’s still in place today, with the first number representing the distillery the whisky is from, and the second representing the number of single casks that the Society has bottled from that particular distillery. But as you’ll read, our members recommend that you cast aside any preconceptions and focus on flavour. You might be surprised!
For more information on reading our bottle, check out the anatomy of an SMWS bottle label.
Approach every Society release with an open mind and a friendly curiosity... the Society has shown me time and again that they have a real talent for choosing outstanding whiskies that I would easily have overlooked if I had only focused on the details on the label. One of my all-time fave SMWS bottlings is Cask No. 48.98: Bubblegum church candle, for example. On paper it may not sound too spectacular. In the glass, however, the whisky fully lives up to its telling name, offering a super-unique bubblegum sweetness with a thick waxiness underneath! Sadly, my bottles have long since been emptied. – Tobias Piwek
WHERE CAN I BUY SOCIETY WHISKY?
Traditionally, we release new whisky on the first Friday of the month. You’ll hear members refer to this as Outturn day or First Friday. On this day, you can purchase new bottlings in-person from our Members’ Rooms, online through our website, or by placing your order via telephone with our Member Services team. In advance of this, we send out an email with the release time and publish our Outturn booklet, which has all the information about what’s on offer. Later in the month, we offer a mid-month release.
Finally, we also have a preview that usually comes out the week before Outturn. Your email inbox is the best place to stay up to date on any upcoming releases as that’s where we’ll make any release announcements.
MEMBER TIP: If you are close to a Members’ Room, Outturn preview days are great to try before buy. If not, the virtual tasting packs are good. – J Davis
The most important thing? Have fun! As member Ann Bingham says: “You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ to enjoy whisky and experience new and unusual drams.” To us, that is what the Society is all about. Here’s to adventure!