The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members only club which sources casks from more than 125 distilleries, with monthly releases bottled at cask strength and sold exclusively to members.
The Society was founded following the Highland travels of one Phillip ‘Pip’ Harris. After visiting several Scottish distilleries, Harris was inspired by the qualities he found in single malt whisky when sampled direct from the cask and upon his return to Edinburgh, he persuaded friends and acquaintances to join him in investing in a cask from Glenfarclas distillery. As more casks were purchased, the group of investors grew and by 1983, society membership had been opened to the general public.
1983 also saw the purchase of a property in Leith which would act as a headquarters for the organisation. Known as The Vaults, the site came complete with extensive wine cellars said to date back to the 12th century. Additional properties were added in 1996 and 2004 and today the society has grown to include branches in Australia, Japan, Germany, India, South Africa and the USA, with membership spanning the entire globe.
Society bottlings are rather unique in that the name of the distillery is left undisclosed as a rule. Instead, each offering is named for it’s flavour profile. For instance, here I have a sample from an undisclosed distillery in Islay which goes by the name ‘Honey and Vanilla Smoke’. For the curious amongst us however, further information can be obtained with a little digging – each bottling carries a numbering code, which in this case is 53.242. The code relates first to the distillery, with 53 being the code for Caol Ila, and 242 being the number of expressions released thus far from the Islay giant. Aged for 7 years, the malt was bottled at 58.4% and made available to society members for £56 a bottle.
Smell: Peat Smoke and Charcoal with Vanilla Cream, Lemon Meringue, Honey and Biscuit.
Taste: Sea Salt and Pepper, Honey, Vanilla, Spice and Fiery Peat Smoke.
Value for Money: A feisty young dram from Caol Ila that offers a lot of bang for your buck at £56 a bottle.
Scores: 42.5 / 50. About the Scores…
A fine example of young Caol Ila that exemplifies the fun and unpredictability of single cask whisky. It is this sense of experimentation and exploration of flavour that makes the Scotch Malt Whisky Society such an attractive prospect to it’s many, many members.