BETTER WHEN SHARED
We don’t just bring you amazing whisky – we bring our members together to share their passion at our Members’ Rooms, tasting events, festivals and our network of partner bars around the world. That makes the SMWS the perfect place to start out on your whisky journey
MAIN PHOTOS: MIKE WILKINSON AND PETER SANDGROUND
Every member should at some point visit The Vaults in Leith, where we started out in 1983 in a historic building that you can still see at the heart of the Society monogram. Much of The Vaults’ history may be lost in time, but the vaulted cellars that still exist underneath the Members’ Room are thought to date back to before 1200. Within the cellars is a rare fungus, known only in the oldest wine cellars of Europe, and brought over with the claret from Bordeaux stored here in exchange for dried fish and coal.
Over the centuries, The Vaults has survived and thrived and is now an amalgamation, culminating with the addition of a fourth storey that was added relatively recently – in 1785. Wine merchant James Thomson leased the building in 1753, and it subsequently became home to JG Thomson & Co – and then to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 1983. A combination of good timing and a sense of adventure led to Society founder Pip Hills buying The Vaults as the home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society – thereby assuring the historic building’s continuous use in the liquor business for more than 600 years
MORE MEMBERS’ ROOMS
As the Society’s membership has grown, we added Members’ Rooms at 19 Greville Street in London’s Farringdon district in July 1999, handy for the famous Hatton Garden jewellery quarter. That was followed by the opening of a splendid Georgian townhouse at 28 Queen Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town in spring 2004 (in Edinburgh, everything has to be taken in context, and the ‘New Town’ refers to the area of the city developed from the 18th century – as compared with the medieval-era ‘Old Town’). Most recently, the Society crossed Scotland’s Central Belt to open a Members’ Room at 38 Bath Street in the heart of Glasgow – Scotland’s largest city (and some say most welcoming, although it depends who you ask).
Wherever you visit, as a member you’ll receive the warmest of welcomes at each of these locations, and you can also sign in up to three guests at a time for them to experience the special atmosphere of a Society Members’ Room for themselves.
Elsewhere across the UK the Society has a presence in various partner bars, where you can find SMWS bottlings and kindred spirits on both sides of the bar. A global reach The Society also now has an international 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 and the US. Each branch releases Outturns of new whiskies throughout the year and hosts events for members and non-members. The SMWS also 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 range of exclusive single cask offerings for you to delight in – and share a dram with friendly faces, wherever you are.
TIME FOR A TASTING
Our membership is as varied as the whiskies we bottle. But we all find common ground when we get round a table and prepare to savour a selection of Society drams, served up and introduced by one of our fantastic ambassadors.
Our programme of tasting events brings our whiskies to life every month with our new Outturn, as well as introducing different themes, pairings, guests, music or more. You may start the evening as strangers, but you’re likely to leave as friends. You can find tastings at our Members’ Rooms, partner bars and beyond, in the UK and across the world. Take the plunge and you’ll find that ‘better when shared’ is much more than a slogan – it’s a Society way of life.
Of course you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to share your passion for Society single malts. How about setting up a home tasting and inviting some friends or family over to spread the love – and maybe bring a new member into the fold?
If you’re as fortunate as some members, such as Jim Coleman in Scotland, you’ll already have the perfect space set up to host a whisky tasting. Jim has built a cosy wooden cabin in his garden to share the delights of a dram. “I like to do a five-dram tasting, and choose the whiskies depending on who’s attending,” Jim says.
When it comes to choosing bottlings, there are endless options: maybe it’s a tour of the five main whisky regions, using the Society’s flavour profiles to showcase the diversity of single cask flavours. Or try a blind tasting of casks from the same distillery. Whatever you line up, encourage everyone to come up with their own flavour descriptors. And download the Society’s tasting mats, tasting forms and flavour profile chart to keep things on track.