The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is taking its show on the road and across the sea throughout May, with an extensive programme of events and an exceptional range of special celebratory bottlings for the Spirit of Speyside, the Campbeltown Malts Festival and the Islay Festival.
Here’s everything you need to know to get involved – whether you’re able to travel in person or not.
The month kicks off with the Spirit of Speyside festival, which runs from 1 to 6 May. Renowned whisky writer and SMWS ambassador Hans Offringa will host four Society events at both the Dowan’s and Craigellachie hotels, teaming up with whisky writers Charlie MacLean and Dave Broom, as well as Glen Moray’s Iain Allan for a special tasting from distillery 35.
Members are also invited to a special drop-in bar at the Dowan’s Hotel on Friday, 3 May from 3-6pm where they can meet Hans, pick up our special Spirit of Speyside bottlings and sample some exclusive Society drams.
SMWS SPIRIT OF SPEYSIDE BOTTLINGS
We have three Spirit of Speyside festival bottlings that go on general sale on Friday, 3 May.
Cask No. 9.161: Cream tea at the patisserie is a Sweet, Fruity & Mellow 11-year-old and Cask No. 30.106: Succulent, scintillating and substantial is a 21-year-old from our Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits profile. Both will be available at the festival and online.
Next up is the Society’s first ever appearance at the Campbeltown Malts Festival on 21 and 22 May, where we’ll be setting up camp at our partner bar in the Ardshiel Hotel. The Society bar will be open for business from 1-4pm on Tuesday, 21 with celebratory bottles and drams available, and our Master Brand Ambassador John McCheyne on hand to help you discover the right flavour profile to suit your character.
Wednesday evening from 7-9pm will see John and the Society’s ambassador Matt Bailey – all the way from Australia – joining forces to present a virtual tasting from the Ardshiel Hotel. If you can’t be there in person, be sure and buy your Festival Discovery Pack and join us online to share this unmissable evening with your fellow Society members.
SMWS CAMPBELTOWN MALTS FESTIVAL BOTTLING
Cask No. 93.108: Earthy and masculine is the first bottling we’ve done for the Campbeltown Malts Festival and will be available from Tuesday, 21 May. It’s a Lightly Peated 10-year-old spirit matured in a first-fill barrel, with lovely sweet mellow notes from the cask backed up with the peatiness to give it an added complexity.
OVER THE SEA
The celebrations roll off the ferry onto the magical whisky island of Islay for Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt, from Friday, 24 May, with a variety of events taking place in the splendid surroundings of Islay House at Bridgend.
Everyone is welcome to the Society’s Open Day, kicking off at 1pm and going on well into the evening, where as well as the Society whisky bar we’ll be offering local produce, a seafood barbecue and live music into the night.
SMWS ambassador Matt Bailey will also be on hand to host our series of Islay masterclasses, including an exploration of our celebratory festival bottlings from 2-3pm and a deep dive into the world of old and rare peated gems from 6.30-7.30pm.
In between, you can fulfil your fantasies of taking part in a Highland Games, when we hold two rounds of our own version of Islay-inspired games on the grounds of the house. Expect hi-jinks, soft landings, and of course liquid gold prizes for the winners.
TOUR DE ISLAY
There’s no better way to experience the glories of Islay and tick off a stop at each of the island’s nine distilleries than by bike – so on Saturday, 25 May we’ll be rounding up a peloton of members for a gentle spin around the island. Starting off from Ardbeg distillery at 10am, bring your bike and we’ll provide the map, the card to get a distillery stamp at each stop, and even a free Society cycle jersey for the first 10 to sign up. Then of course, it’s all back to Islay House for a dram.
Sign up now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
LAST CHANCE POP-UP
Our final event on Islay will take place at Islay House on Monday, 27 May from 1-4pm (PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE), where we’ll have a pop-up sampling session and shop.
SMWS ISLAY FESTIVAL BOTTLINGS
Our Islay Festival bottlings range from 10 to 27-years-old, with four different cask types, as well and a combination of both full-term and additional maturation.
At the younger end, we have an interesting pair of casks from distillery 10 to contrast: Cask No. 10.168: Cuquillo black olives is a full-term bourbon maturation of the unpeated spirit, giving it an Oily & Coastal character. By contrast, there’s no mistaking the Heavily Peated character of Cask No. 10.170: Cooking for Hades, which spent eight years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before we transferred it to a first-fill moscatel hogshead for two years. Smokeheads looking for a big bruising Peated Islay dram should be delighted with Cask No. 53.285: A beachcomber’s stash, which has a whopping 60.2% abv. Cask No. 29.260: A visceral, elemental experience was matured in an American oak refill oloroso butt which we transferred into an excellent quality first-fill Spanish oak oloroso cask for three years, so it’s incredibly dark, fruity, smoky and sweet – a real show-stopper of a dram.
These four Islay Festival bottlings go on sale on Friday, 24 May