Thanks to every one of you who emailed us with your feedback on the unpleasant experience of trying to purchase our festival bottlings and the issues with our website. We appreciate you taking the time to participate and helping us improve our members’ experience and wanted to share this update with you

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During May, we’re usually out and about at various festivals, sharing drams with our members who are able to travel to these locations and also through our Members’ Rooms. Unfortunately for everyone this year, that wasn’t to be the case – and as a result our website came under even more sustained pressure than usual when our festival bottlings went online.We realise we’ve been talking about a new website platform for a while, but the reality is that the work is well underway to invest in a new site, and we should be in a position to launch it by the end of this year. We’ve had some old systems to update and some wider issues to deal so this hasn’t been an easy challenge but completely understand and appreciate the frustration that this has caused.

The new platform will offer a better all-round experience, not only in terms of making browsing and buying our whisky more straightforward, but in engaging more with everything that the Society offers members in terms of whisky knowledge, member interaction and a place to come together to share our passion not only for the SMWS but for the wider world of whisky.

Unfortunately we weren't able to travel to Islay and the other whisky festivals during the month of May to share our exclusive bottlings with members in person.

SHARING AT OUR HEART

While we believe that our new web platform will help ease some of the frustrations you’ve been experiencing, it is not the entire solution to the increasing demand for our particular bottlings and in ensuring that members across the Society get the chance to share our most popular releases.

That’s why we have gone out to all of you to find out your thoughts and opinions and to help drive the changes we put in place. We want the same level of fairness for all members, and certainly not with different tiers of membership that get special treatment. That’s not in the spirit of the Society, but we do appreciate the loyalty from our long-term supporters, and for the future we’ll explore a reward and recognition system beyond the festival releases.

We are committed to making sure all members from across the SMWS get the chance to share in our most popular releases.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

Until our new website is up and running, we are planning to trial some new features that we’ll then review. Based on your initial feedback, these include:

Ballots: We will look to incorporate ballots for particular releases  plus any Outturn bottlings we think will be in high demand. We are also planning to incorporate a new system where members entering all ballots will need to approve payment upfront .

Queuing: We will introduce a queuing system for all new Outturn releases, encouraging members to only log-in on one device to secure their place. This should help control the volume of web traffic trying to check out and make the experience smoother. Introducing the queuing system means we can run more testing to switch our basket timer back on, which means your bottle is secure for a period of 15 minutes.

Flipping: Buying bottles to resell on auction sites is strictly against our membership rules. Any members suspected of selling to auction sites will have their bottles cancelled. We appreciate that the number of members doing this  has increased with demand for these bottles, we will actively look for these members and deal with them accordingly. If any members suspect this is happening, please drop us more details at feedback@smws.com. We know that we will need to go further in stopping this and are exploring options with packaging for future releases.

Discovery Packs: We’ll continue to provide 25ml Discovery Pack experiences and look to incorporate both particular releases and in-demand Outturn bottles to allow more members to share them as single drams, to be shared online in virtual tastings.

Outturn releases: We will re-evaluate the number of bottles we release and when.

Look out for a wider member survey coming your way to help us shape our plans for the future.

WHAT’S NEXT

While we evaluate the feedback you have provided already, we plan to hold a wider member survey to allow everyone to have their say and to help shape our plans for the future. Following this, we’ll come back to you with the results and how and when we can start to build changes into our release programme.

We’ll email the survey to all members on Monday, 15 June, to tackle issues such as fine-tuning our ballots, thoughts on offering smaller bottles for particular releases, and tasting kits.

MUST DO BETTER

Once again, I’d like to thank you for your participation towards making these changes, and for your patience with the Society. We hope you agree that we continue to offer fantastic whisky, and that we are part of an amazing whisky community – but we acknowledge the need to listen to all of you and to make your experience better all-round. We are continually motivated by your enthusiasm, understanding, ideas and passion – so thank you all again. We’ll be in touch on Monday, 15 June.

Slainte,

David Ridley

MD and Chief Member Champion