I have been a member of the Society since 1989 and I've been going to their annual tasting event EVERY year since. [I am actually also a member of the UK Scotch Malt Whisky Society; I have family in London, and go there periodically so it only makes sense to be able to purchase rare society bottlings of single cask single malt Scotch whisky from the original society, closer to the source -- as well as from the US branch closer to home. At least that is what I tell me wife and she, bless her, pretends to be persuaded.]
The details of tonight's event:
When: Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Time: 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Cost: Society Members - $115.00; Non-Member Guests - $130.00
On offer for tasting: over 100 whiskies will be poured this year!
So I thought I'd post an article I wrote about the 13th Annual Extravaganza, in honor of tomorrow's event and in general furtherance of my efforts to maintain some public record of all the articles I wrote for The Examiner newspaper in DC.
Here then is another of those pieces that originally appeared in the Weekend Edition section of the Washington Examiner print edition back on October 21 & 22, 2006. [Like MOST of my fairly regular output for them, this was never posted to their website and so it lost for all time...until now.]
Scotch's time has come
Interested in Scotch whisky? Whether you consider yourself a seasoned aficionado, or a total novice with an interest but not a clue, then you’ll want to attend the 13th Annual Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza on Wednesday, October 25th, from 7-9pm, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel (1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW).
This isn’t just any old whisky event. This is, hands down, THE whisky event of the year in the Washington area. Over 60 “rare and exceptional” whiskies are on offer for tasting; a full dinner buffet is provided, as are premium cigars. The event is run by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA), and is co-hosted by the Robb Report.
What makes the event so special? Well, every year they bring you over 60 (usually more like 70+) excellent Scotches from more than 30 producers, and often a couple of Irish whiskies and the occasional rare American Whiskey. Single malt Scotch whisky will usually run you $10-$25 per shot in the Washington area restaurants and bars, and most of the better bottles start at around $45 but easily run double or triple that for the sort of rare and exceptional whiskies you’ll find at the event. So $95 ($105 for nonmembers) is actually a remarkably good value for money.
Each tasting table is staffed by friendly representatives from the distilleries or the distributors who will discuss the joys and nuances of each offering, answer questions, and generally do their best to add to the fun atmosphere.
So what exactly is Scotch whisky? Well, “Scotch whisky” is simply whisky made in Scotland. The term whisky, is derived from the Scottish Gaelic term “uisge beatha” or “water of life.” Whisky is little more than an alcoholic beverage produced by distilling a fermented mash of cereal grain (like corn, rye, wheat, oat, and barley).
As the novelist Iain Banks noted a couple of years ago in his otherwise verbose and rambling book on Scotch whisky, Raw Spirit, you simply “make beer in a teapot, transfer it to a bucket and then boil it in a kettle. Thereafter: barrel, bottle and serve.”
This is not to say that producing a complex, enticing, high quality whisky is as simple as just distilling beer. But, fundamentally, them’s the basics. That is whisky.
The term “Scotch whisky” usually refers to blended whisky—a mix of malt whisky and grain whisky (whisky made from grains other than malted barley). A “single malt” simple means that the whisky comes from one distillery and is made of 100 percent malted barley. Blended whisky can be really good, but single malt whisky can be sublime. If you like your whisky to be tantalizingly complex yet thoroughly enjoyable, then you’ll want to try some single malt Scotch whisky. The best way to learn more about Scotch is to drink it.
The best place to do that while getting the biggest bang for your buck amidst friendly faces is to attend the 13th Annual Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza. The second best way to discover great whisky is to join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Tickets for the event are $95 for SMWSA members, and $105 for non-members and must be purchased in advance at 800-990-1991 or through the SMWSA website www.smwsa.com.
One final note, for anyone thinking of joining the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. I very highly recommend joining! Should you decide to so based on anything at all that I have written here or elsewhere, please mention me or this blog.
Here are the details of SMWSA membership:
he Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a private membership club whose member's are avid enthusiasts of single malt Scotch whiskies. Our objective is to promote the appreciation and discerning consumption of the finest whisky in the world.
Benefits of Membership
As a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society you can discover the very best single cask, single malt whisky available to mankind anywhere in the universe. From a range of over 120 whisky distilleries, every Society bottling is exceptional. Capturing rarity and perfection in the glass, the Society's malt whisky attracts the curious and discerning.
Commercially-bottled malt whisky has to be consistent in taste so the whiskies from different casks are mixed, with great skill, to achieve this uniformity. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, however, exists to celebrate diversity. The Society's tasting committee selects particularly fine casks and bottles their contents at cask strength, without chill-filtration.
We bottle malts from virtually all of Scotland's distilleries and have brought to light some really great whiskies, which were previously unavailable to the public. Each cask is allotted a number which appears on the bottle label and by which members may identify the whisky.
Exclusive to Our Members
Society whiskies are available exclusively to our members and are not sold commercially. The limited number of bottles produced from each cask will vary, thereby adding to the exclusivity of the whisky.
How to Join
Membership in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America is open to all persons over 25 years of age upon payment of the initial membership fee of $199.00 -- (plus shipping and handling in the amount of $16.00 for regular ground, tax where applicable) -- which shall include the purchase price of one 750ml bottle of an extremely rare and unique malt whisky never to be available again.
Receipt of your Society whiskies will be arranged through a licensed purveyor of fine spirits in your area. The member also receives a membership kit, which includes a membership certificate, membership card, The Short Guide, the most recent bottling list and newsletter, along with our gift catalog. Annual renewal of $35.00 is due on the anniversary of joining.
Throughout the year the Society sends its members a number of Newsletters and Bottling Lists. Each list contains details of all the whiskies, which are currently in bottle. Members wishing to order supplies of whisky can do so from the list, by telephone, fax, mail or online. We do encourage members to call us if they have any questions about the whiskies or any of our activities.
We also offer a wide range of gift items to our members, which can be ordered at any time. They make very nice presents for special occasions.
For more information on the Society, please visit www.smwsa.com or call 800.990.1991