Gathering point

When a building is your place of work and you become used to coming in and out, it’s sometimes difficult to stop and reflect on its incredible history. But by any standards, The Vaults in Leith has some serious stories in its stones.

As the Society’s birthplace and still our spiritual home, The Vaults is kicking off our month of Gathering events for September, when we’ll be bringing members together in person and online from Edinburgh right across the world. With that in mind, who better to recap the fascinating history of The Vaults than the Society founder himself, Pip Hills. After all, if he hadn’t chapped on the door four decades ago to ask on the off chance if it might be for sale, we wouldn’t be here now.

At around the same time as Pip was setting up the SMWS in the Vaults, a young cooper was doing his apprenticeship and starting out on a lifetime’s experience working with casks. Stuart MacPherson has recently retired from his role of Master of Wood with The Macallan after more than 40 years in the industry, and I had the pleasure of catching up with him at our Bath Street Members’ Room in Glasgow to hear about his career and a lifetime of knowledge working with wood.

We’re delighted to share a dram this month with writer Dave Broom to find out about his new book A Sense of Place, taking us across Scotland to look not only at whisky’s history but at the landscapes and communities that produce it. Elsewhere we meet flavour fanatic Aidan Kirkwood to discover why we don’t ever say a whisky ‘tastes of chemicals’, even if our system is responding to the beta-damascenones, dimethyl disulfides or even isobutyrics in our glasses.

Finally, step inside the Society’s newest partner bar, La Whiskeria in Barcelona, where I was delighted to attend our just-launched Spanish branch’s inaugural tasting at the end of July. It’s yet another place to gather together and celebrate what the SMWS offers members around the world.