A lifetime of Whisky adventure
35 years old? That makes the Society (slightly) older than me, but it’s an organisation that has shaped both my personal whisky journey and my life. Even as a student I was exploring the world of whisky, spending my summer holidays working in a local whisky shop and starting to build my knowledge of this amazing spirit. But it was reading a book called Appreciating Whisky that really set me on my path – it was written by Phillip ‘Pip’ Hills, who as well as describing the art of nosing and tasting whisky, told the tale about how he formed The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 1983. I loved the story of how Pip and his pals discovered the joys of single cask whisky, and was determined to find out more about this curious Society.
That’s how I found myself moving to Edinburgh and taking an opportunity to work behind the bar at The Vaults in Leith. I can even recall my first Society dram following my job interview – a 13-year-old bottling from distillery 3 – and thinking I’d definitely arrived in the right place. Working at the Members’ Rooms where the Society started not only opened up the opportunity to sample every new release from the monthly Outturns, it also gave me the chance to meet a huge variety of Society members, benefit from their knowledge and passion, and start to understand the range of flavour profiles and how there was a whisky out there to suit every taste.
Moving on to work on members’ events meant taking a nationwide view of our offering, working with our ambassadors to select the whiskies they would take to all corners of the UK each month – all the time developing my sense of the community of kindred spirits brought together through their shared passion for this incredible whisky.
Since then I’ve been fortunate to continue my Society journey by concentrating on sourcing and selecting our single cask whiskies, working with the Tasting Panel to present samples for possible bottling. Now I focus on sourcing not only whisky but the casks we use to manage its maturation, looking to provide the variety and the quality that our members expect and appreciate.
There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to visit various distilleries, tour the bodegas of Jerez in search of sherry casks or explore the wider world of spirits with trips to Cognac and Armagnac to source the finest single casks from those areas. With a freedom to innovate and experiment, the Society can work with different cooperages and distilleries to create whiskies through custom casks and different recipes – all with the goal of bottling unique whiskies that you can only here.
We have whiskies from almost every one of the Society’s 12 flavour profiles in this Outturn, ranging in age from eight to over 30 years old, as well as a single cask grain whisky, and 5 bottlings from whisky legend Charlie Mclean’s special selection – truly something for everyone.
As we turn 35, my whisky journey is well underway, but whatever stage you’re on, the Society is here to guide you on your way through our endless variety of releases and essential tasting events.
Happy anniversary, and here’s to the next 35 years of whisky adventures.
Euan Campbell, SMWS Spirits Manager