At The Scotch Malt Whisky Society we celebrate the delights of the single cask, but that’s not the whole story, as our spirits manager Euan Campbell explains
It’s about single casks
The Society’s first love is for single cask whisky, bottled at cask strength, un-chillfiltered – whisky in its purest form, and always an absolute treat. But when you find yourself walking away from being able to create or bottle an incredible whisky because it doesn’t meet our strict focus on ‘single cask’, that’s very hard to take. And it’s happened to us more than once in recent years.
On the last occasion, we found ourselves questioning the wisdom of sticking so rigidly to the Society’s mantra of ‘cask strength, single cask’ whisky. Why would we deny you the chance to experience amazing drams, even if they weren’t bottled at cask strength or didn’t have a strict ‘single cask’ provenance?
A recent example was when we had the opportunity to offer you a 25-year-old whisky from a now-demolished Speyside distillery. It was an extraordinary dram, but came from a stock of single malt that had previously been consolidated, so it wasn’t from a single cask.
After sampling the whisky, we figured we’d be doing you a huge disservice by not snapping it up and getting it into a Society bottle. Our expert noses on the Tasting Panel agreed. If the whisky scores highly enough, surely we should make it available, whether it came from a single cask or not?
NO BARRIERS TO CREATIVITY
But we’re not only talking about bottling mature whisky, with or without a single cask provenance.
As the Society has embraced its independence, we’ve also found ourselves free to seek out amazing flavours and grasp the opportunity to be more creative. That means developing our programme of additional maturation, carrying out our own contracted distillations, and getting more inventive in our range of experimental blended malt bottlings.
We love the way our focus on additional maturation has been bringing results with the incredible whiskies we’ve been able to bottle. We’ve been relishing the chance to work with a huge range of cask types from across the worlds of bourbon, sherry, wine, brandy, rum and beer, allowing us to nurture our stocks of whisky and offer our members both quality and diversity.
Both your feedback, along with a healthy haul of top industry awards, tell us that our creativity and expertise in this area is paying off.
Now the Society has started creating our own new-make spirit. We’re working with different distilleries to carry out distillations to bespoke production recipes and specifications, managing the maturation for future release to members.
And with our blended malts, we developed Exotic Cargo, Peat Faerie, Old Fashioned, The Beachcomber, Big Swirl and beyond to offer members an alternative to our single cask whiskies, usually with a strength of around 50% abv and at an inviting price. Crafting our blended malts has allowed us to grasp the opportunity to become even more imaginative in our pursuit of new flavour experiences.
AN EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
We offer members an alternative to our single cask bottlings with a regular release of blended malts, giving us the opportunity to become even more imaginative in our quest for new flavour experiences
“We’d rather concentrate on flavour and character than commandments about what we can and can’t do”
AN OVER-ARCHING MARK OF QUALITY
The upshot is that we’re planning on getting ever more inventive. That might mean our own distillations, more intriguing blended malts, more small-batch experiments, more creativity in our additional maturation. More of everything, while we embrace being able to take a more active role in all the variety of whiskies and flavours we’re able to offer.
Single cask whisky is the core of what we do, and always will be. But we don’t let it limit us.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FLAVOUR
We’d rather concentrate on flavour and character than commandments about what we can and can’t do. An over-arching mark of quality will always be our driving force, the same as when we started out in 1983.
As our founder Pip Hills tells us: “It’s the quality of the whisky that matters, not how that quality is produced.”
Whatever you drink, we want you to think the same as we do – this is incredible stuff, and we can’t wait to share it.