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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members only whisky club which sources casks of mature spirit from more than 135 distilleries, bottling a varied selection on a monthly basis and selling 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 outstanding quality he found in single malt whisky when sampled direct from the cask. Upon his return to Edinburgh, he persuaded friends and acquaintances to join him in investing in the purchase of a cask from the Glenfarclas distillery. As follow up casks were sourced and acquired, the group of investors began to grow and by 1983, the decision was made to open membership to the general public.
In that same year, the Society established a permanent base with the purchase of property in the Leith area of Edinburgh. Known as The Vaults, the site came complete with extensive wine cellars said to date from the 12th century and still acts as company headquarters today. Additional properties were acquired in 1996 and 2004 while the organisation has since grown to include branches in Australia, Japan, Germany, India, South Africa and the USA, with membership spanning the entire globe.
Bottlings are rather unique as distillery names are left undisclosed as a rule. Instead, each offering is named for its flavour profile. For instance, here I have a sample from an Islay distillery 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 casks bottled thus far from this Islay giant. Aged for 7 years, this single malt was bottled at 58.4% and made available to society members for £56.
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.
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 its many, many members.