When I first started working with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society – we’re going back to the fourth issue of Unfiltered, in July 2009, if you must know – the name Pip Hills was known within the Society, but not so much the man himself.
No one seemed to know anything about where he was, what he was doing or how he felt about the whisky club he founded. The one thing that preceded him was a reputation as an outspoken character, who might not necessarily welcome any approach from the Society after leaving on less-than-happy terms in the mid-1990s. But as the years went by, and I became editor of Unfiltered, I felt that we should find out for ourselves.
Pip wasn’t easy to track down when I started searching him out in 2018. No one could come up with a phone number, email or home address. No one even knew whereabouts he lived – or indeed, if he was living at all. But with a bit of digging and perseverance I finally tracked him down to his home in Montrose, where I wrote a slightly tentative letter asking if he might possibly be interested in a chat, to coincide with the Society’s 35th anniversary.
Thankfully, his response was positive, and I spent a captivating couple of hours in Pip’s company, learning more not only about how he founded The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, but about many of the other hijinks and whisky-fuelled adventures he’d had along the way.
I’m delighted that Pip has now been firmly reconnected with the club he founded 40 years ago, and that he’s updated his book Maverick – The Founder’s Tale to bring the story full circle.
You can read more about that in the following pages, and I look forward to seeing you online with Pip on the evening of Thursday, 10 August to chat more about the book and the return of the Society’s original maverick to the fold.