THE SMWS RANGE
LABELLED WITH LOVE
The Society offers an endless journey of discovery, whatever your tastes. One of the questions we get asked most often is: what do the different labels mean? Mads Schmoll has some of those answers
Let’s start with the glass. The majority of our bottles are green. Why is that? The decision behind the iconic green bottle is one that was made in the early days of the Society.
Here is what SMWS founder Pip Hills says: “I had laid down a policy on this right at the beginning and, as nobody else on the Board seemed to be much interested, all went along with it.
“My reasoning was that we should position our product as whisky in its finest, most authentic form. The green bottle and the simple design of the label were intended to convey a message of antiquity and historicity which supported the description of what we were doing – or trying to do. This seemed to be completely accepted by both staff and members, as well as by the press.
“The quality of the whisky spoke for itself and the simple, artisanal air of the bottle conveyed an impression of modesty on our part, which people responded to very favourably. (Needless to say, the whisky industry didn't think we were modest but that didn't bother us – or, at least, me.) A flash bottle would have struck quite the wrong note.”
Our signature white label bottlings are what we’re all about – an endless variety of single cask, single malt whiskies – and the white label on a green bottle has remained true to the Society in various forms since we started out. These liquids are bottled as they came out of the cask: uncoloured, unchillfiltered and at cask strength. Each bottling is assessed by the Tasting Panel and assigned one of our 12 flavour profiles, in addition to being given a name and Tasting Note.
The Society is all about good spirit and, as a result, you will find whiskies from more than 150 distilleries globally. Each one represents a story of flavour exploration that can never be repeated. You can expect a plentiful variety of these releases each month, which celebrate the uniqueness of the single cask.
From time to time we also release white label bottles with special labels. These often are grouped around a theme, such as our May Festival releases, or they may mark a more auspicious date or anniversary. You can always find the Tasting Notes for these bottles online or in our Outturn booklet.
PICTURED: the May 2023 festival small batch bottlings
ABOVE: a special release of a Society small-batch blended malt
Clear glass bottlings are used in a few different ways at the Society. Often they are used for our range of small-batch experimental bottlings. You can read more about the history of these bottlings in Unfiltered. They started with an idea in 2011 that eventually resulted in a blended malt with Batch #1 Exotic Cargo in 2017. Today there are more than 20 small batch releases.
Clear glass has also been used for special single malt experiments such as Full Bloom, a small-batch single malt matured in a combination of first fill bourbon barrels and first fill Australian muscat barrique. For our 40th anniversary, we created Maverick to celebrate the iconic sherry cask using bourbon hogsheads of Speyside malt which we then moved to a selection of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez-seasoned hogsheads, all made from Spanish oak, for varying periods of maturation. Because our normal ‘cask strength’ rules don’t apply, these bottlings often have a lower strength, diluted to 50% abv. This came from testing various strengths in the first few batches, and we agreed that 50% abv was ideal to bring out the best of the whisky’s flavour, while giving you the option to reduce its intensity with a little water.
ABOVE: a black label bottling nestled in a row of white label bottlings
Our black labels are the next step on your flavour discovery. While age is more than just a number, whiskies within this range can be from unusual and rare casks or distilleries with interesting cask types. These whiskies can be expected to fall in a higher price bracket and will be at least 18 years old.
MORE THAN WHISKY
Our grey labels denote a carefully curated selection of Single Cask Spirits including armagnac, bourbon whiskey, cognac, corn whiskey, rum, rye whiskey and barrel-aged gin. These bottlings are a result of a collaboration between the most creative and skilled distillers. As with our other bottlings, each one of these liquids is assessed by our Tasting Panel. Embrace the wonderful wider world of the single cask and expand your flavour palate. These bottlings are also a great way to introduce non-whisky drinking friends to the Society.
FROM THE VAULTS
Our Vaults Collection bottlings are the pinnacle of our single cask whiskies, with only a limited number bottled every year. While many are old and many are rare, the decision to add a bottling to our Vaults Collection goes beyond both of these attributes.
These casks represent a journey back into whisky history, offering the opportunity to experience styles or distilleries that no longer exist, or the chance to try a hidden gem, the like of which is rarely seen and will never be repeated. While single cask whisky is already finite and fleeting, these whiskies are all the more intriguing due to their creativity and variety.
Take Cask No. 53.431: “The Stuff that dreams are made of” and Cask No. 53.432: Take a step back in time. Both of these whiskies spent 27 years in the same oloroso sherry butt before being split into separate bourbon and rye casks for four years for additional maturation. The result: two distinct personalities from the same Islay spirit. These bottlings demonstrate an experience that you are unlikely to find regularly – even from ourselves.