A Welcome Guide To The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

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A Welcome Guide To The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

July Outturn 2023 Article


We recently realised just how many new members we have at the SMWS, and sometimes navigating all that’s available within your membership and what the club does can be daunting, especially if you’re quite new to whisky in general. 


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a whisky club, a community, a group — flavour enthusiasts that seek full-flavoured whisky where the aromas transcend the norm and awaken the senses. We’re experiential, brazen, unapologetic — our events aren’t just tastings, they’re experiences that stay with you forever, they’re unforgettable memories for our members. We are also an independent bottler; and our bottles, which we carefully mature and rigorously assess before release, are 100% flavour-driven: Cask strength, single cask, non-chill filtered, and bursting with flavour.


What is The Scotch Malt Whisky Society? The world’s largest whisky club, of course.

For 40 years we’ve been changing the whisky landscape by exclusively bottling our own expressions of single-cask, cask-strength whisky. That’s whisky extracted from a single cask (not blended or vatted with other casks), and bottled at the ABV it is in the cask (no watering down before bottling) — both of these ensure the most flavoursome whisky, in its most purest form: from cask to bottle. The club began in 1983 with an accountant and mountaineer experiencing his first whisky sip-iphany — it was a dram of cask-strength, single-cask whisky that changed how he felt about the spirit, and everything he ever knew about it.


Since that day we’ve been changing the way people think about whisky, and encouraging an unparalleled flavour pursuit. We’re a club with more than 40,000 members across the globe and a thriving Australian branch with regular events across the country, Partner Bars who stock our bottlings and spread the word of The Society, incredible content, and of course, usually between 12 – 15 new bottles EVERY month. These bottles are only available through the club, and you must be a member to purchase bottles.


Understanding the casks, deciphering the bottle labels

Because most of our releases are single cask, they’re all limited editions by nature — each cask (depending on size) will yield anywhere between 60 and 600 bottles worldwide; once they’re gone, they’re gone forever, never to be repeated again. That’s the beauty of single-cask whisky, it’s a non-recurring expression, a time capsule, even, of that time and place’s conditions.

If you’re wondering what the numbers, colours, names, and whimsical tasting notes are all about, it’s all directly tied into the flavour and identity of the cask. For various reasons (which you can read about in past issues of Outturn, Unfiltered Magazine and online on our blog ‘Whiskywise’), we do not state the name of the distillery that distilled the new-make spirit. We instead use a coding system.

The first number represents the distillery (in the order they joined our stable of distilleries), and the second number represents the number of casks that passed our expert tasting panel. For example, 14.83 is the 14th distillery to join The SMWS, and the 83rd cask to be approved by our expert tasting panel from that distillery.

This expert tasting panel also name the casks and write the tasting notes you’ll find in Outturn (an amalgamation of experiences and flavours from all panel members). The colours are indicative of one of the 12 flavour profiles we assign to each cask, which is a great starting point when looking at what a cask tastes like (you can see all of our flavour profiles at the back of this issue).


If you’re reading Outturn Magazine (our free, monthly catalogue of new cask releases, events, and articles) for the first time, welcome. If you’ve just joined The Scotch Malt Whisky Society — welcome to your first Outturn and the next step in your flavour journey! As always, we’re available for any questions you may have. Feel free to get in touch by emailing us at [email protected], or calling 02 9974 3046.


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.


About the Author:

Adam Ioannidis is SMWS Australia's Marketing Coordinator and general appreciator of whisky, music and cinema.

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