THE SPIRITS TEAM
MOSTLY SINGLE CASK, BUT SO MUCH MORE
At The Scotch Malt Whisky Society we celebrate the delights of the single cask, but that’s not the whole story, as our head of whisky creation Euan Campbell explains
PICTURED: Euan gets up close to a fino sherry cask in Jerez, Spain
The Society’s first love is for single cask whisky, bottled at cask strength, unchillfiltered – whisky in its purest form, and always an absolute treat. It’s where we started out in 1983, when our founder Pip Hills had his own single cask flavour epiphany and couldn’t wait to share his experience with friends. All these years later, we believe that once you try our single cask whisky, you’ll never look back, and you’ll want to share your own epiphanies with pals. There is no end of opportunities, given the constant variety of incredible single casks we bring to members every month in these ‘one-of-a-kind’ bottlings.
Our single casks capture a moment in time and place – that special day when the spirit was distilled and the cask filled. Every cask develops differently, with a unique personality. You can fill two of the same type of casks with the same spirit from the same distillery on the same day and store them together in the same warehouse for many years. The chances are that they will develop differently. The Society has done just that – and members have been able to sample them side by side to appreciate those differences in character.
But we’re not only about single cask bottlings. Sometimes we might produce a bottling from a stock of single malt that had previously been consolidated, and not from a single cask. It all comes down to what the whisky tastes like, and whether we’d be doing members a disservice by not getting it into a Society bottle.
Our expert noses on the Tasting Panel need to give their consent – if the whisky scores highly enough, surely we should make it available, whether it comes 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. The Spirits Team is also free to seek out amazing flavours and grasp the opportunity to be inventive in creating our own bottlings.
That means developing our programme of additional maturation, carrying out our own contracted distillations, and getting more creative in our range of experimental small-batch blended and single 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.
ABOVE: Kai Ivalo and Euan Campbell at Dalmunach distillery on Speyside
PICTURED: Euan leaves his mark in a Jerez bodega
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 small-batch blended and single malts, we started out by developing Exotic Cargo back in 2017, which has been followed by a growing list of creations, offering members an alternative to our single cask whiskies, usually with a strength of around 50% abv and at an inviting price.
Crafting these malts has allowed us to grasp the opportunity to become even more imaginative in our pursuit of new flavour experiences, and to share more of the same whisky with members around the world.
AN OVER-ARCHING MARK OF QUALITY
The upshot is that The Spirits Team is getting ever-more inventive, and members are getting ever-more choice. That might mean more of 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. 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 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.
ABOVE: Taking stock of precious deliveries
PICTURED: Spirits director Kai Ivalo