The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a special bottling appropriately named Maverick. The definition of a maverick is an unorthodox or independent-minded person. In 1983, Pip Hills founded The SMWS based on an idea that everyone said wouldn’t work. Pip wanted to bottle whisky straight from the cask, unadulterated, to retain maximum flavour. And he was right: people loved it, and the Society was born. He is a maverick in its truest form.
The SMWS was founded four decades ago in 1983 at a time when blends were the big deal and people rarely spoke about single malts. Pip Hills was not fazed by the negative commentary that followed after he announced his ambitious plans to start a Society which would only bottle single malt, single cask whiskies. “I had no background in whisky, but I got introductions to various people in the industry, and they all said: ‘Oh there’s no market for that. If there had been we’d have done it before.’ But the people I spoke to who said it couldn’t be done were so dull, there was no imagination,” Pip explains.
Forty years later, the Society is thriving. Last year, its memberships grew by approximately 12%, with around 37,000 members at the year-end, up from 33,000 at the end of 2021. They continue to bottle single cask releases not only from Scotland but also from other countries. You can even find the occasional gin, Armagnac and rum in there too. They have even created their own series of blended malt whiskies.
I visited the Society’s oldest members lounge recently. The Vaults – The Spiritual Home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a whisky lover’s dream. Their whiskies are truly unique and exciting, and they come with bizarre names. Some of my recent favourite whiskies were Dali-Esque Bodega Landscape (a magnificent sherry bomb) and Baldrick’s Aquatic Dress Turnip (cheesy, pickled and fishy but all in a crazy good way!). Unfortunately, the latter sold out before I could order myself a bottle. Their releases can be very surprising, a great way to challenge your taste buds.
The Society releases around twenty new bottles every month, with all the whiskies bottled at cask strength without chill filtration, allowing you to enjoy the whisky in a raw, untouched way, just how Pip always wanted.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is offering a whopping 40% membership discount, which is valid until the 31st March 2023. Use the code MAVERICK40 at the checkout.
Maverick 40th Anniversary Bottling
This expression celebrates the iconic sherry cask. First, they chose some bourbon hogsheads of Speyside single malt. This was then used to fill a selection of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez-seasoned hogsheads, all made from Spanish oak, for varying lengths of additional maturation – between two and three-and-a-half years. Eventually these casks were married to create the Maverick bottling, bottled at tasty 50% ABV.
I was kindly gifted a bottle to review, so here’s what I discovered. Please note, I do not add water. First, I nose and taste soon after the whisky has been poured into the glass. Then I leave it for few minutes, letting the air do its magic before coming back it.
Colour: Darker gold, rusty – in fact, I recently discovered renaissance gold, which is very similar to this whisky
Nose: Peppermint candy cane, yellow stone fruits, sultanas, prunes, vanilla pods, cinnamon, soft real vanilla ice cream, allspice, cloves – basically a type of coffee cake… (Note to self: buy cake to pair with this whisky!)
Palate: Warming mouthfeel, slightly oaky, fresh lemon peel, bergamot, tingling ginger, rhubarb pie with oats, baking spices
Finish: Fresh Finnish rye bread with salted butter, faint orange, dark chocolate, nutmeg
The nose just keep on giving, you can really lose yourself in this dram. I found the palate a bit surprising as I wasn’t expecting it to be as citrusy but I do like the warming feeling of it. The finish was transporting me back to Finland and I could have written many more Finnish sauna references here, but I decided against it as I doubt many have been using birch leaves as a part of their cleansing routine…
“I think it’s lovely… it makes me smile – very, very nice whisky indeed. I see from the bottle that it’s been in two or three different kinds of cask, which is not something that – being old-fashioned – I approve of all that much. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this is perfectly lovely whisky. Very, very rich, it has light fruity notes, but also dark fruity notes, it smells like Christmas cake and black bun, that sort of thing, and dried fruits. It’s floral as well, which you would expect any good whisky to be,” Pip Hills, Society founder and ‘Maverick-in-Chief’, describes.
Disclaimer: This post has been created in collaboration with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and includes some affiliate links.