Scotch Malt Whisky Society celebrating 40 years

Scotch Malt Whisky Society celebrating 40 years

A number of activities will take place to honour the anniversary, including special releases, events and collaborations.

31 January 2023

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is set to celebrate its 40th year anniversary, with a number of activities to take place in the next year including special releases, events and collaborations.

Among these will be the creation of a chilli-tinged whisky and a world record attempt which is currently being kept secret. A new podcast series featuring characters from around the world is also set to launch and the assembly of an all-female tasting panel to select future releases.

The society has specialised for years in releasing predominantly single malt whiskies bottled from single casks not diluted with water, artificially coloured or chill filtered.

As well as turning 40 years, the society is also approaching 40,000 members worldwide, which is cause for celebration.

The SMWS was founded in 1983 by Edinburgh-based accountant Pip Hills. His idea to form a club to share whiskies straight from a cask with others was considered game-changing at the time.

Speaking on the foundation of the society ,Hills said: “I started the whole thing for a lark. At the time, most of the Scotch whisky industry was very dull and most of the whisky wasn’t up to much. I had had no great liking for whisky, but when I first tried whisky drawn straight from a cask, it was an epiphany – this whisky tasted astonishing and quite unlike any whisky I’d drunk before. I shared some with my friends and they loved it too, so it seemed like a good idea to share it with more people.

“When we started the Society and began to share the ‘secret’ of single cask whisky with others, there’s no doubt that we began to alter people’s attitudes, so that they came to see that behind the branded sameness of Scotch whisky there lay a world of variety and interest, as well as a drink that tasted a lot better than what they were used to. The great thing was that we had a lot of fun doing and people joined the Society in their thousands to share in the fun, as well as to get their hands on the whisky.”

Pip Hills, founder of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, pictured at the Abderdeenshire farm where he first discovered single cask whisky: pic by Mike Wilkinson

Another of the celebrations to come this year is the release of a short film, which will document the society’s beginnings and the experiences of Hills when first sampling a single cask whisky at an Aberdeenshire farm.

From these humble beginnings, the society has now grown to around 30 branches across the world, including in China, Australia and the USA.

Andrew Dane, CEO of Artisanal Spirits Company, which owns the society, commented: “They say ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ and that is true of the Society’s story. It’s incredible to think that a small gathering of pals sharing single cask whisky in Edinburgh has grown into this worldwide club. It seems apt that in our 40th year, we are closing in on reaching 40,000 members, worldwide.”

For more information on the society, visit the website here.

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