The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) landed on Singapore’s shores some time ago. It was a joyous moment for many of us as we finally get a chance to be a member of this esteemed whisky society. As we journey along with SMWS for these months, we discovered that not everyone knows how or when SMWS started. So, today, we are sharing a brief history of SMWS for all to enjoy.
The Birth of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
When we speak of SMWS, we think of Phillip “Pips” Hills and his travels around the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s. Due to his experience of tasting whisky directly from the casks during his visits, he fell deeply in love with whisky. His experiences changed his life forever, especially after he convinced his whisky-loving friends to jointly buy a cask of whisky from Glenfarclas distillery in 1978.
As the years passed, the group expanded into a syndicate where more people joined the group and purchased casks together. As the members continued to grow, they bought and bottled more casks from different distilleries and distribute these bottles to all the subscribing members. After five years, the Society is large enough to purchase their first property – The Vault – in Leith. The Vault comes with a set of vaulted wine cellars said to be from the 12th century.
The year 1983 marked the closure of many whisky distilleries in Scotland. It was a low point in the history of whisky. Many great distilleries like Port Ellen, Glenugie and St Magdelene closed down in 1983. It was this year that the founding members of SMWS decided to open their membership to the wider public as they can finally welcome more members with their ownership of The Vault. Therefore, SMWS was founded in 1983, as it was the first year that the society opened its doors to the general public.
The Ups and Downs of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
After the founding of SMWS in 1983, the society grew by leaps and bounds as more people joined the community. The Vault serves as the member’s second home, where several members’ rooms are available for use by only the members of SMWS. In 1996, the society launched a share scheme to purchase a second property in Greville Street, London. After that, SMWS bought a third property – a Georgian townhouse on Queen Street, Edinburgh in 2004. With three venues, the society grew strongly in numbers, and they purchase more casks than ever before. SMWS then caught the eyes of Glenmorangie PLC, which bought the society in 2004.
2008 marks the 25th anniversary of SMWS. The guiding members of SMWS decided to celebrate the occasion by redesigning the label to include more information and tasting notes on the front of the bottle. Things continue to run smoothly, and by 2015, SMWS was once again, acquired by private investors. SMWS remains as the property of these private investors today.
The Membership of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Only members of the society can purchase SMWS’ bottlings. Becoming a member is easy. Choose from the basic membership at SGD$140 or the membership pioneer at SGD$320. Both memberships come with the following benefits:
- Exclusive access to purchase whisky and spirits from SMWS.sg
- Members rates for all SMWS events
- Members rates at all partner bars across Singapore, UK & Europe
- Advanced access to all new whiskies (Outturn)
- Exclusive access to member venues
- Free subscription to our award-winning magazine
- Membership Card
The membership pioneer has the additional exclusive welcome pack:
- Three limited release SMWS 10cl bottles
- SMWS Journal
- Club lapel badge
If you are happy to get the membership without the welcome pack, the basic membership is good enough for you to gain access to the SMWS bottlings. However, the exclusive welcome pack is choked full with goodies, so if you are keen to explore SMWS and have a deeper pocket, why not try the membership pioneer?
Locations of SMWS Bars in Singapore
There are currently two SMWS member bars in Singapore – The Single Cask and The Wall SG. If you want to check out new bottlings from SMWS, visiting either bar will be a good choice for you to taste some excellent whiskies from SMWS. New members can also head over to The Single Cask to collect your membership card and pick up any bottles that you purchase online.
Members can access SMWS bars in other countries. Besides the three member-bars in the U.K, there are bars in Australia, Austria, Benelux, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the U.S.A.
SMWS Moving Forward
We hope to see more bottlings from SMWS coming into Singapore in the future as we move forward together as a nation to appreciate whisky. We believe that with SMWS coming onboard in Singapore, more people will get to try whiskies straight from the cask and at cask strength too!
In our next article, we will speak more of SMWS bottlings and the codes on their bottles.
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