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Scotch Malt Whisky Society

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@Tom92
Tom92 started a discussion

Do we have many SMWS members out there? Any favourite bottles of late?

5 months ago

17 replies

@Tom92
Tom92 replied

Mays festival bottlings are phenomenal! The 29 sherried all the way, so dark it looks like treacle

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

I have just joined the SMWS after they dropped their membership fee. Ordered a couple of bottles which I'm currently waiting for to be delivered.

One thing I'm impressed and a little intrigued by is the ABV of their bottlings which is high even for single cask stuff. A lot of their bottles seem to be around the 60% abv. One of the bottles I've ordered is an older whisky at 22 years and it's nearly 61% abv. Seems very high for a whisky at that age. I wonder how they achieve that? Very strict cask management?

The Angel's seem to be taking less of a share from the SMWS's casks!

5 months ago 2Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC replied

@Wierdo - Out of interest, where do the SMWS mature their casks? Do they have their own warehouses or do they stay at the distillery, or perhaps a bit of both?

5 months ago 2Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

@RianC I have no idea? @Tom92 did you say you work at the SMWS? Can you shed any light?

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Tom92
Tom92 replied

@Wierdo @RianC SMWS to my knowledge all is matured at our own warehouse. I think I've had 25+yo grain Whisky sitting above 60%abv. The grains are truely outstanding and at their prices for their age total bargain

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Tom92
Tom92 replied

@Wierdo out of curiosity, what bottles have you gone for? Do you regularly drink CS Whisky or just getting into it?

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

This is almost becoming an advertising thread for the SMWS.

And while in principle I would not support that, I do have a lot of regard for the SMWS's products, but living in Canada where it is hard to get them it just ads to my FOMO...

5 months ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@Wierdo, I would guess a heated warehouse (or storage technique that would align with your hypothesis of higher abv) if the abv is "higher", less humidity and more water leaving the barrels.

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

@Tom92 I don't want to reveal the bottles I've gone for as when I get round to opening them I'll send samples to @RianC and I don't want him to have googled them beforehand. I'd rather just send him the samples with the reference number and name then he can have a bit of fun sampling the whisky trying to work out what it is before googling it.

I will say this and it's one of the things that is good about joining the SMWS or shopping at Cadenheads etc I went for 2 bottles from distilleries that have good reputations but their offical bottlings are a bit sub par.

In terms of what I didn't go for but was tempted by there was a Dalmore and a Longmorn that were tempting me (which I guess fall into the above paragraph) and a Balblair. Which doesn't but I really like Balblair so the chance to grab an IB is tempting.

From May's output. I am tempted by a few bottlings. An Aberlour, A Pulteney and another Balblair.

Finally regards cask strength whiskies I have been drinking them off and on since fairly early days in my whisky journey, all official bottlings. But in the last couple of years I have really started to enjoy them and would say hands down my favourite way for a whisky to be presented is cask strength, natural colour, unchillfiltered and no cask shenanigans, no finishing in casks that held M&Ms or whatever, just a good quality refill Bourbon or Sherry cask.

5 months ago 4Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

I've opened my first two bottles from the SMWS and have to say I'm disappointed so far. The first bottle (which I have reviewed on this site) was sub par imo.

The second bottle, which I've so far had a couple of drams from, is better. I'd say on a level with something you'd pick up from other Independents like Cadenheads or North Star. Which begs the question why pay an annual membership to buy whiskies as good as you can get elsewhere with no membership fee?

The answer is the membership fee gives you access to the SMWS's bars. But seeing as I don't live in London or Edinburgh the odds of me using these bars is slim.

I've got 10 months of membership left. I'll buy a couple more bottles at least and see how they shape up. I'll go for something familiar and see how they compare? But at this moment in time I doubt I'll be renewing next year.

4 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Tom92
Tom92 replied

@Wierdo what style of whisky do you normally drink? US SMWS membership?

3 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

At SMWS prices I would want to try before I buy. I've liked almost all the SMWS bottles from which I have sampled, but at their prices I would have to like them very much for me to want to put down the coin to buy any of them. .

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

I'm with you on that one @Victor. It's good to have a friend who is a member and who is generous with samples. Some of the ones I have tasted are spectacular, others have not performed up to their price point. I have had may outstanding bottles from independents such as Cadenheads, Old Malt Cask and A.D. Rattray, etc. all at near or full cask strength, for far less money. SMWS has great looking bottles though.

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

Sorry @Tom92 only just seen your post.

To answer your questions. I'm happy to drink pretty much all whiskies. Although lean more towards scotch as a rule. In terms of scotch my favourite distilleries (always subject to change) are Springbank, Lagavulin, Balblair, Glenfarclas. I generally prefer cask strength whisky and if not try to avoid much bottled below 46%.

I've just took delivery of my second 2 whiskies from the SMWS.

37.113 Biscuit Bisque

54.075 Refined, Refreshing and Redolent

@Victor I wonder if SMWS whiskies are much more expensive outside the UK? Inside the UK they're fairly competitively priced imo. A 10-11 year old bottle of cask strength, NCF whisky setting you back about £50. The 22 year old I brought was just over £100 which again I'd say was reasonably priced.

The issue would be the membership fee which is £65 a year. But that is offset a bit by the fact that in the UK you don't pay delivery.

Tom if I had another criticism of the SMWS other than the fact I was unimpressed with the 22 year old Glen Grant I had from them it would be the scarcity of bottles in the mid age range. Plenty of 8-9 year olds and 10-12 year olds and quite a few 20+. But in that mid age range 14-18 years very little on the SMWS. I see that age range as a sweet spot for a lot of whiskies in that you have a balance between spirit and cask both having an influence on the whisky and the price at that age doesn't get too prohibitive.

That annoys me a bit I'd like to see more choice of 15 year olds etc.

2 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

@Wierdo my knowledge of SMWS US pricing is only approximate. From what I've seen in the past most bottles seem to be for sale in the $ 150 to $ 200 range. I want a lot for that money. @bwmccoy can give you much better up to date information about SMWS prices in the US.

I and many others agree with you that 14 to 18 years old is the sweet spot for Scottish malt whisky, especially as relates to quality in relation to value for money. Above 18 or so years old quality may or may not go up slightly with additional time in cask, but pricing starts to rise exponentially. It makes perfect sense that distilleries would NOT have as many of those 14 to 18 year old mature casks for sale to independent bottlers, because they would want to use them for their own releases. Idiosyncratic casks and casks maturing in less in-demand age ranges would make sense to be more relatively available for sale.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

@Victor I assumed that the SMWS would buy casks from producers when they come off the production line and then mature them themselves?

I'm sure I read somewhere that the issue with the SMWS is that it changed owners a few years back with the old owners Glenmorangie bottling a lot of the good casks before the sale. Meaning the new owners have a scarcity of decent stock which they're trying to build back up again. Hence the plethora of bottles in the 8-12 years range.

$150-200 a bottle is too expensive. I wouldn't pay that. Most bottles from the SMWS in the UK seem to be in the £50-70 range.

about one month ago 1Who liked this?

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

@Wierdo - Full disclosure. I am not an employee of the Society, but I am a long-time member (12 years now). Additionally, a couple of years ago, I was asked if I would be willing to be a member ambassador for the Society in the Seattle area. In that role, I lead whisky tastings for the Society in the area. (I just want to be totally transparent.) Since I am not an employee, I don't know all of the inner workings of the company, but I am happy to share what I do know.

It is my understanding that casks are matured in Society owned warehouses. What I don't know is when the Society acquires the cask from the distillery. I would assume that it would depend on when the distillery makes the cask available for sale, which could be any time in the cask's life after it has been filled. The Society may chose to bottle at that time or continue to age it in their warehouses until it is deemed ready for bottling, but all of that is just my assumption based on what I have read and conversations that I've had with Society employees.

As for pricing, membership in the US is $99 to join, $70 per year to renew. There are often specials where new members receive a $50 gift card when they join. Bottle prices used to be strictly based on age. All 10 year old's were $XX, 15 years was $YY, 20 years was $ZZ, etc. That changed when the Society was sold a few years ago. Bottle pricing is now "dynamic" in that it is based on what the Society had to pay for the cask. Bottle prices start at $80 and go up from there. However, most bottles are in the $130 to $175 range.

I hope that helps. Again, I'm happy to share any knowledge or answer any questions that I can about the Society. If I don't know the answer, I will be glad to ask.

about one month ago 4Who liked this?

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