Q&A: What is the Vaults Collection?

//Q&A: What is the Vaults Collection?

Q&A: What is the Vaults Collection?

What is The Vaults Collection?

The Vaults Collection is a group of the finest and rarest single cask, single malts, carefully selected from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s impressive stocks. They have been released from the depths of our treasure trove of casks, after decades of careful maturation and nurturing. The Vaults Collection represents a chance to journey back into whisky history, including the opportunity to experience styles or distilleries that no longer exist.

The Collection takes its name from the Society’s spiritual home at The Vaults in Leith, Scotland’s oldest working commercial building in continuous use whose connection with the drinks trade dates back to the 12th century. As the Society approaches its 35th anniversary, we are delving into our collection to offer a handful of hidden gems, the likes of which are rarely seen and will never be repeated.

What makes The Vaults Collection different?

Our rarest whiskies which are selected for the The Vaults Collection are presented in new packaging to differentiate it from our core range of whiskies. The label follows the same format as the core bottle, highlighting the bottle name, age and flavour profile colour. The remainder of the label is black to give it a more luxurious feel and demonstrate a progression from the core Outturn.

The whisky will continue to be bottled in the iconic SMWS green glass, with our round logo paying tribute to The Vaults itself. The logo will be printed in a copper foil, reflecting the copper stills which have given birth to these whiskies. The bottle is sealed with a more substantial tin capsule, with monogrammed neck label and a flash of copper on a ribbon which bears the SMWS name.

Finally, to display such a precious bottle, The Vaults Collection will be housed in a black wooden box. It contains a copper plaque on the front with the whisky’s details, as well as a round cut-out window. Through the window, our foil logo can be seen on an envelope which sits inside the box, and holds the story of the whisky. If the envelope is removed, the logo can still be seen on the bottle inside the box.

Why is The Vaults Collection more expensive?

The Vaults Collection will be amongst the most expensive bottlings ever released by the Society – but with good reason.

The casks hand-picked for The Vaults Collection are at the apex of the Society’s aged stocks. They will represent some of the oldest and rarest whiskies from our warehouse, which we have resisted bottling until they have been allowed the time to reach their perfect maturation. 

While all our single cask bottles are by their definition unique, the rarity of The Vaults Collection means that each bottle is a once-in-a-lifetime bottling of liquid history. A bottle from The Vaults Collection will take our members back in time to experience whiskies of a different era, distilleries which are no longer producing or traditional styles which are rarely seen. Casks of their type are getting harder to come across with every year that passes, and once they are gone, they will be gone forever.

What are the first bottles from The Vaults Collection?

  • 25.70 In a perfumed garden is from an iconic Lowland distillery, which closed its doors in 1993.  The fact that this distillery is no longer producing means it is getting increasingly difficult to experience the once-prolific whisky maker.  The SMWS however has been nurturing its last ever cask from the distillery until it reached its peak and was ready to be released to the world.  Now, as a rare jewel giving a glimpse at days gone by, it is a cask fit to launch The Vaults Collection. The whisky spent 24 years in an ex-bourbon cask, before being transferred into a second-fill Sauternes barrique for further maturation. We closely followed its development and after 18 months, determined that the whisky had taken sufficient influence from the wine cask.  It was then moved back to a second-fill bourbon barrel, where it rested for a final year before being bottled at its prime.  The whisky has a strength of 58.3% abv and sits within the Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile. The cask yielded only 170 bottles, 12 of which will be made available to Australian members at a price of $1,485. Experiencing this whisky from a previous age, from a distillery that no longer exists, transports you back in time to savour a true hidden treasure; a moment in whisky history which you will never forget.
  • 24.129 Meeting an old master is an aged gem from a legendary Speyside distillery, and the whisky follows the distillery’s classic maturation of using only the most exceptional, top quality sherry casks.  It is first matured in an ex-Oloroso sherry butt before, after 25 years, Spirits Manager Euan Campbell transferred the whisky to another sherry cask – this time a first-fill Pedro Ximenez cask. The 27 years spent across these two different styles of sherry cask increases the complexity achieved in the final whisky, adding layer upon layer of flavours which are rarely achieved.  The bottling strength is 53.6% abv and it sits within the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile. Just 414 bottles were gifted from the cask, and only 12 are available in Australia, pricing to be confirmed. Time stands still with this classic whisky from a bygone era as a precious expression of the distillery’s traditional and hugely sought-after style.  There is little doubt that this whisky’s release will receive unprecedented interest and demand.
  • 29.234 Smoked and salted toffee apples is a super-old refill sherry cask from this iconic Islay distillery where even at this age the smoke and toffee apples from their rich and oily spirit still shines through. Age statements and truly old stocks from this distillery are becoming increasingly scarce, but even scarcer are seeing single casks from this distillery from anyone but the SMWS. The 27 years spent in refill sherry really give this whisky a depth of character and old leather maritime notes with the panel finding notes of salted toffee, fudge and sea spray, smoke, spice from ginger and clove, with a side serve of dark chocolate. Bottling strength of 54.9% and in the Peated profile, cask 29.234 will be in hot demand at the release price and 12 bottles will be made available to members in June. Pricing to be announced shortly.

What do the experts say?

We held a tasting with whisky expert Charles MacLean, who praised the quality of the whisky in both bottlings for The Vaults Collection.

About 25.70 In a perfumed garden he said: “This is an exceptional example of this closed distillery’s remaining stock, which is rare and diminishing with every passing day. Its freshness and vibrant character shine through in a classic example of what was considered the Lowland region’s leading distillery. You’ll never see it’s like again.” 

About 24.129 Meeting an old master, he said: “An absolutely gorgeous dram and a wonderful example of this distillery’s traditional style of classic sherried whisky, as it was made in a previous era. It is big, voluptuous and stimulating, with a deeply complex texture. Precious as it is, I wanted to pour myself another dram immediately.”

Will there be more bottles released under The Vaults Collection?

Yes.  On the rare occasions where we identify a treasured cask which represents the pinnacle of our single cask whisky, and which has reached the perfect maturation for bottling, it will be presented to our Tasting Panel and released as part of The Vaults Collection.

Who can buy The Vaults Collection?

One of the key benefits of being a member of the SMWS is to receive exclusive access to the best selection of single cask, single malt whiskies.  As such, The Vaults Collection bottlings are only available to SMWS members.

The Vaults Collection bottlings will be available in the April, May, and June 2018 Outturns. With just 12 x bottles from each available at very reasonable prices, we anticipate these won’t last long. To purchase, each cask will be sold via ballot system to ensure a fair distribution to members. Check the Outturn each month for the exclusive ballot email address for each cask.

What is the price comparison with similar / previous bottles from these distilleries?

Due to the inherently unique nature of single cask whiskies, it is impossible to compare bottles and their pricing.  The pricing is determined by many factors such as rarity, Outturn, age, wood management and distillery which all vary greatly between each individual cask meaning like-for-like comparison is unfeasible.

How does this compare in taste to other whiskies from this distillery?

The most exciting thing about single cask whiskies is that each one is entirely unique.  Even two whiskies distilled on the same day, at the same distillery and maturing in the for the same length of time in the same type of casks can taste entirely different.  Therefore, as with price, it is impossible to compare tastes between other casks from the distillery.

However, as with all our whiskies, the casks from The Vaults Collection have been put through rigorous sampling by our expert Tasting Panel, who have created highly imaginative tasting notes to help bring to life the taste of the whiskies for our members.  What’s more, they have placed them under one of our 12 descriptive Flavour Profiles, which will direct members to a whisky which matches with their taste preferences.    


About the Author:

Matt Bailey is the National Ambassador and Development Manager for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Australia. He's tirelessly trying to meet every member and share a dram with you all.

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