Our April auction is upon us and we’ve got a very special group of lots – a remarkable collection of over seventy rare old bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society sourced from a private collector in Macclesfield. Most of these bottles were bought in the 1990s and there are some very rare editions from highly-sought after distilleries.
If you’re not very familiar with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, here’s a few facts to get you going and to explain why we’re so excited about this collection.
- The Society was founded in Edinburgh in 1983 and is therefore celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. In those 35 years the Society has grown enormously and is now represented, at last count, in 21 countries outside the UK.
- The Society began as a private club led by Pip Hills, who had been cycling around Scotland visiting distilleries for some years. Hills clubbed together with some friends to buy a cask of Glenfarclas which they would share and drink together. The remainder of that cask became the first Society bottling when the club was formally established in 1983.
- The Society’s original premises are at The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh. A London bar and tasting venue was purchased in 1996 with the proceeds of a share scheme for members, while a second Edinburgh venue was established in 2004 at 28 Queen Street, in the same year that the Society was purchased by Glenmorangie. The Society was sold in 2015 to a consortium of private investors.
- SMWS single malts have always been bottled at full strength from single casks, without dilution, chill-filtration or additional colouring. These practices were very unusual in 1983 but are now common among independent bottlers.
- Distillery names are never mentioned on Society bottlings. Instead, each whisky is identified by a two number code and occasional clues in Society publications. The first number represents the distillery, and the second identifies the cask. Therefore, the first bottling from the first distillery was 1.1, while 43.10 is the tenth bottling from the 43rd distillery. Lists of which numbers represent which distilleries are widely available on the internet but have never been confirmed by the Society.
- Casks are chosen by the Society’s Tasting Panel, who approve each bottling and compose concise tasting notes to be published on the label and in the Society’s in-house magazine. As each bottling is from a single cask, expressions from the most popular distilleries sell out very quickly.
Now you’re up to speed on the key facts, here’s a small selection of the highlights from our auction this month. There’s a few areas of interest as follows:
Old vintages: Highlights here include a pair of Bruichladdichs from 1968 and 1969, a Glen Garioch 1968, a Glenturret 1969, and one of the absolute standout lots, a 26 year old Ardbeg 1966 – the last bottle of this we had sold for £1600 over two years ago, so who knows what this will end up going for.
Low Cask Numbers: These are always highly sought-after and are hard to come by as many were bottled long before collecting whisky became popular. There are a lot of these in this fantastic collection, including the first ever SMWS bottlings of Glen Scotia, Craigellachie and the incredibly rare Glencraig (distilled on a Lomond still at Glenburgie). There’s also the second bottlings from Clynelish, Glen Ord, Miltonduff, Glenturret, and the closed distilleries Imperial and Glenugie. Bidding on all of these lots will be absolutely fierce.
Closed or Rare Distilleries: We’ve got single-digit casks from closed distilleries including Dallas Dhu, Millburn, North Port and another standout lot: SMWS 61.3, distilled in 1977 at Brora. There are also several bottles from distilleries that are rarely bottled independently, including Dalmore, Talisker, Isle of Jura, Scapa, Glenlossie, Royal Brackla and Lagavulin.
Popular Distilleries: Clearly our collector had very good taste, as there are some mouth-watering lots from great distilleries. We particularly like the look of long-aged Clynelish 1983 and 1976, and the Ardbeg 1977 and 1974 – these classic vintages will be fought over, as will Brora 1981, Highland Park 1976, Laphroaig 1978, Caol Ila 1983, heavily sherried expressions from Ben Nevis and Glenglassaugh (both from the 1984 vintage) and the special edition society bottlings: Longrow 1990 – the first release from Longrow, bottled for the Millennium, another Longrow 1990 bottled for the opening of the Queen Street venue and last, but certainly not least, the famous Glen Grant 1972 bottled in 2001 for the Society’s 18th anniversary.
We’ve only really scratched the surface here – there are dozens more fantastic SMWS single malts available from this amazing collection in our auction this month. Check them out now, there really is something for everyone. Good Luck and Happy Bidding!