July Outturn 2023 Article
I had a fascinating discussion with some members just the other night about some of the differences in how they enjoyed some of our content during Covid vs now, what’s changed, and what the future might look like.
We’ve said before, we take member feedback very seriously at The SMWS. We love hearing your suggestions and requests as to how to best improve the offering. That ‘offering’ is of course well and beyond just the bottlings, but everything else like Unfiltered, Outturn, livestreams, articles, events, Partner Bars, and more. During this candid discussion, one of our members remarked that we aren’t doing any of those big Zoom lives anymore where members all piled in (and sometimes got out of hand), to which another member replied “Sure, but they were very much a product of their time”.
This got me thinking. A product of their time. What content, what mediums, and what platforms, are best suited to complement whisky and general member chat, in 2023? We’re now more than a full year past the darkest part of lockdowns, so that prompts asking what’s changed, what’s returned to normal, and what are we missing? These are all pretty big questions. It’s been a long time since I did the nightly livestreams, including the classic “Monday Rant” that was always a favourite for me and for guests. I’m certainly not keen to rekindle that kind of schedule, but at the same time, I’m keen to find a nice middle ground and see what that looks like.
One of the strongest metrics we have to gauge all of this, is to evaluate interest, both in sales and in viewership. We pivoted very quickly back in 2020 to producing regular virtual tasting kits each month, sometimes twice a month. We had already produced tasting kits before the pandemic, but we doubled down in 2020 with regular tastings (and continuing the nightly livestreams which had been a feature for already 16 months at that point). That’s certainly one of the benefits of being the ‘small guys’ when it comes to whisky: the ability to pivot fast and adapt to the fast-evolving world. What’s been interesting to see lately is that as soon as the world started re-opening, our virtual kits suddenly lost a lot of sales, but our physical ‘in-person’ events really exploded. This is predictable. But what we didn’t predict lately was that in the last 3 months or so, our virtual tasting kits have really jumped in demand again. Maybe a perfect storm of living costs, interest rates, etc. Or maybe it’s just the whole at-home experience of tasting many flavours is evolving.
This then prompts us to ask: “how does the whole at-home experience of the SMWS work for our members, and how do we measurably improve on that?” We have a few ideas already here, which you’ll see as early as this Outturn, but we always love hearing your suggestions as to how we can improve every aspect of your Society enjoyment: this club wouldn’t be anything without its members enjoying every aspect of it, so please feel free to reach out.
So where does that leave us so far? Well, some of the small changes you’ll see rolling out are in this very issue of Outturn. Our virtual tastings are now involving more of our members in the process, formats are evolving, and our weekly content will be shortly changing too. Whisky isn’t meant to be complicated, it’s meant to be fun. Colourful bottles, incredible flavours, and simply sharing and enjoying the alchemy and magic of single-cask whisky. Dive into July, and show us your art!
This article is featured in July 2023 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 7th of July at midday AEST exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.