May is a month to celebrate for whisky lovers, with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) taking its colourful events and characterful cask strength whisky to the Speyside, Campbeltown andIslay festivals.
The whisky experts, with branches and members across the world, have an extensive programme of events and an exceptional range of special celebratory bottlings.
The Society will begin its festival tour at the start of May at the Spirit of Speyside festival (1 – 6 May), before its first appearance at the Campbeltown Malts Festival (21 – 22 May) and finishing at the renowned Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt (24 May – 1 June).
Firstly, the Society’s Speyside shenanigans will include partnering with whisky writers Hans Offringa, Charlie MacLean and Dave Broom to host a series of events at the Dowan’s and Craigellachie hotels as well as hosting a special drop-in bar with rare drams.
There will be a series of exclusive Spirit of Speyside bottlings available at the festival and then on sale to members from Friday, 3 May. This will feature an 11-year-old from the Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile and a 21-year-old named ‘Succulent, scintillating and substantial’.
In the West of Scotland later in the month, the SMWS will be taking over the Ardshiel Hotel in Campbeltown from Tuesday, 21 May, with celebratory malts available throughout.
The Campbeltown festival experience will also be shared with the Society’s global membership through a virtual tasting, meaning if they can’t attend in person they can take part in the event with fellow whisky enthusiasts online. For more information on the Campbeltown virtual tasting, visit; https://bit.ly/2HXEp9P
Ambassadors John McCheyne and Matt Bailey will join forces to taste drams of exclusive festival whisky live from Campbeltown, which will be broadcast to members via Facebook.
For the first time, there will be a dedicated SMWS bottling specially for the Campbeltown Festival, which will be a Lightly Peated 10-year-old whisky with lovely sweet mellow notes backed up with peatiness to give it added complexity.
An essential fixture in any whisky fan’s diary is Feis Ile, the annual Islay Festival of Music and Malt, where distilleries and venues across this magical whisky island open their doors for tastings and events.
Much like previous years, the SMWS will be hosting a variety of events throughout the festival and producing an exclusive range of bottles, kicking-off with its open day in the splendid surroundings of Islay House, where members and non-members alike are all welcome.
In what promises to be a memorable experience for members, the Society is also hosting a ‘Tour de Islay’, which will see a peloton of whisky fans cycle around the island, stopping off at each of the nine distilleries and collecting stamps as they go. For information on how to sign-up, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In between masterclasses, guests can also fulfil any fantasies of taking part in a Highland Games with two rounds of Islay-inspired games on the grounds of Islay House, which will include hi-jinks, soft landings, and liquid gold prizes for the winners.
The coveted Islay Festival bottlings for 2019, which range from 10 to 27-years-old and include four different cask types, will go on sale to members on Friday, 24 May. The first is called ‘Cuquillo black olives’, and is a full-term bourbon maturation of unpeated spirit, giving it an Oily & Coastal character. By contrast, there’s no mistaking the Heavily Peated character of ‘Cooking for Hades’, which has spent eight years in an ex-bourbon hogshead.
Those looking for a big bruising Peated Islay dram should be delighted by ‘A beachcomber’s stash’, whereas the final bottle, named ‘A visceral, elemental experience’ is incredibly dark, fruity, smoky and sweet.
For more information on SMWS membership, festival bottles and activities, visit www.smws.com