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SMWS MEMBERSHIP

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SMWS MEMBERSHIP

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue May 24, 2005 6:51 pm

Have now been a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) for a year and have just received my renewal notice.

I see that the subscription has now jumped to £45. Personally, I think that this is a bit steep. Got me thinking what 'free benefits' I get for this £45.

Bottled Whisky? - No. I pay for each bottle that I buy
Tastings? - No. I pay for each tasting that I attend
Accommodation - No. I pay if a stay in a flat
Bar facilities - No. I pay for all drams and food consumed

In fact, all that the £45 seems to get me is a couple of thin newsletters.

Also, arguably, the right to buy Society whisky.

But many fine independent bottlers don't require any membership fee to buy their whiskies. You just pay for what you have.

Perhaps, one solution might be for the SMWS to have two tier membership.

Say a notional £10 if you only wished to buy mail-order bottlings.

Then, a higher membership if you wished to use facilities, etc.

What do other SMWS members think?
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Postby Tom » Tue May 24, 2005 7:01 pm

Those are valid points eelbrook and i too am interested in the answers of members. Thats exactly the reason why i didnt join the SMWS (yet).
Although the bottlings i have tasted from the SMWS were all very good to excellent i still find it "snobistic" to have people pay so they are allowed to pay again for independent bottlings.
On the other hand, like i said the quality is high and the prices seem reasoneble. Its a hard choice, specially since here in Belgium there is maybe 1 SMWS tasting a year.So far it hasnt been interesting enough to do it.
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Postby Lawrence » Tue May 24, 2005 10:12 pm

You both make very good points however I suggest that you approach the dues from another angle, the dues help support the Society expenses and thus those costs are not piled onto the Society whiskies.

Yes, £45 is a lot of money but I would argue there is very little if any 'snob appeal' to the Society because ANYBODY with £45 can join.

Since I'm in Canada my dues are £55 per year but I feel I am still receiving value for money as I buy from the UK, the Swiss and the US branches of the Society. The Society whiskies are always of very good quality and well priced. You just have to look at a 32 year old single barrel Glen Keith for about £105, what would that cost from a independant bottler? Another example is the recent bottlings of Glenfarclas 37 year old for £120 versus the 40 from the distillery shop for £1500! I have tasted both and I know the Society malts is the better value.

But as with any club or society if you are not going to use it then it is not a good value. Despite being on the other side of the ocean from the Society I have still found time to visit the members rooms frequently when I'm in Edinburgh.
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Postby Admiral » Wed May 25, 2005 4:17 am

I generally agree with Lawrence. Being on the other side of the world, I obviously don't get to enjoy to club's facilities in Edinburgh or London.

To my way of thinking, my membership subscription is my "licence fee" for having the right to attend the tastings (yes, I have to pay $65 to attend each one) and to be able to purchase the bottles (which I feel can often - but not always - be overpriced). However, the quality of the bottlings is always admirable, and I enjoy the atmosphere and fun that our tastings in Sydney offer. (We have about six a year).

Also, if such a subscription keeps the bottling and meeting costs down, then I guess the value is inherent somewhere in the system.

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed May 25, 2005 8:28 am

Thanks for your interesting responses.

I'm guessing that my £45 doesn't go to "subsidising" bottling prices.

Rather, to "subsidising" the various venues. For example, I can't believe that the London venue is self-financing from bar sales alone.

Why should I "subsidise" those few lucky members who can get to these venues easily.

Hence, my suggestion for separate "whisky" and "whisky + subscription" memberships
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Postby Aidan » Wed May 25, 2005 8:42 am

I think this sounds like a good deal. Does the society do tastings around the world?

I think I might join.
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Postby bamber » Wed May 25, 2005 9:08 am

If I was not in London fairly regularly I would not join. The bar alone is well worth £45 a year though.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu May 26, 2005 6:21 am

I would very happily join if I had sufficient disposable income to buy enough bottles from the SMWS annually to dilute the impact of the membership fee, and continue buying freely from other sources. The thing that stops me is the feeling that I would have to forego buying that bottle of Caol Ila cs from the LCBO on a whim, because I have to be sure to buy enough Society bottlings to make it worth it. You can break this argument down logically pretty easily, but there it is. Also, I generally buy very few bottles at the Society's price points, commonly £85-100. US$85-100 is more my usual ceiling. That's not at all a judgment on whether the bottles are good value, just on what I feel comfortable paying.
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Postby JimHall » Thu May 26, 2005 1:12 pm

Previously I posted a similar question. I am not a member and have yet to be convinced that the membership will be worthy of £95 of my hard earned cash.
The responses that I had were in the main very positive for the SMWS but each month I find that I would rather buy a bottle or three than spend out for membership.
I think that your point re tiered membership is very valid.
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Postby Aidan » Thu May 26, 2005 1:28 pm

Is this a monthly subscription or an annual one?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu May 26, 2005 2:39 pm

In the first year, the annual fee is £95 (which includes a 'goody bag' and a 70cl bottle of SMWS malt). In subsequent years, the fee is £45 per annum.

The SMWS issues around 6 bottling lists a year. Each advertises around 20 bottlings. All bottlings are from a single cask, are cask strength and are unchillfiltered and uncoloured.

Bottle prices vary from approx £35 to £105, depending on age and scarcity.
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Postby Tom » Thu May 26, 2005 5:27 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:I would very happily join if I had sufficient disposable income to buy enough bottles from the SMWS annually to dilute the impact of the membership fee, and continue buying freely from other sources. The thing that stops me is the feeling that I would have to forego buying that bottle of Caol Ila cs from the LCBO on a whim, because I have to be sure to buy enough Society bottlings to make it worth it. You can break this argument down logically pretty easily, but there it is. Also, I generally buy very few bottles at the Society's price points, commonly £85-100. US$85-100 is more my usual ceiling. That's not at all a judgment on whether the bottles are good value, just on what I feel comfortable paying.

Thats pretty much my own point of view also. if i have to pay the fee i would deffinatly want more for that money then a card with distillerys... and that means buying more SMWS bottlings then others. However although the prices are reasoneble they are not cheaper then Chieftains or Hart Brothers f.i. And they ARE independent bottlings even though some member stand on their head trying to convince me they arent. So i think its still not interesting for myself to join the SMWS. Also the prices of 100£ is a bit high. Like mrT usually i go to 100 Euro and sometimes up to 175 Euro but then it will be OB's instead of IB's. So its probably best to stay sampling SMWS bottlings now and again instead of joining them when im not ready to make the commitment.
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Postby Lawrence » Fri May 27, 2005 4:32 pm

I'm surprised to hear that you think £100 for a bottle of whisky is high especially when the quality is very high and at that price point it's usually a 30 year old whisky. It's also all cask strength so compared to a 40% bottling then it's a bottle and a half. Just compare prices of older whiskies to Society malts and the value is clear. Again I only have to fall back on the example of the Glenfarclas 37 for £120 from the Society and the OB Glenfarclas 40 at £1500.

However if you are not a frequent user of the Society venues or bottling lists then it's most likely not for you.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon May 30, 2005 6:28 am

Lawrence, it has nothing to do with the quality or value of the bottling. It has everything to do with my income and what I feel I can afford to pay for a bottle. As I said, "That's not at all a judgment on whether the bottles are good value, just on what I feel comfortable paying." I've paid as much as £120 for a bottle--once--and several times £100, but only when I've been on holiday in Scotland. Generally, spending US$100 on a bottle makes my stomach tie up in knots. Would that it were not so, but it is.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon May 30, 2005 10:54 am

As I'm sure that you guys know, a big-priced malt isn't necessarily a big-quality malt.

Personally, I seldom go over the £50 mark. Within this limit, I can get many quality bottlings by independents.
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Jun 17, 2005 10:25 pm

This is a question I've been pondering, too...The SMWS does two tastings a year near my home, and I could probably justify at least one year's membership at $189 USD with the first bottle. However, I'm having much more fun at the occasional Malt Advocate tastings locally and searching for unusual bottles at liquor stores around the region.

To be honest, I could probably play three rounds of golf for the same $189 and get less grief at home...

Mark
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Postby bernstein » Sat Jun 18, 2005 4:26 am

MGillespie wrote:...and get less grief at home...
Mark, I guess I know what you're talking about... :(
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:05 pm

Hats off to the SMWS for their 26 Malts project. I have seen the labels in the latest mailing and also in the flesh at Queen Street. They look very well indeed, and a welcome change from the normal, rather dowdy SMWS labels (awaits howls of protests from fans of the green and white).

The labels do look odd - as in radically different from anything in the shops - and I wondered at first what it was that was so strange. I think it is probably the fact that the designers lacked anything to go on other than the bottling code and tasting notes. Most bottlings in the shops either have the distillery name or the bottler as the focal point, and often this points to fairly obvious imagery. In the absence of this information, the labels have tended to be rather wordy, but many don't have a traditional focal point.

The sad thing is that the bottles look far too elegant to spoil by opening and emptying.
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Postby bamber » Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:21 pm

I got the mailshot yesterday and thought they looked very cool and very collectible and at reasonable prices too.
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Postby Nikwik » Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:38 pm

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Postby Derek » Tue Sep 06, 2005 9:12 pm

The first time I ever appreciated single malt whisky was because a friend invited us to the London venue; since then, I haven't let the sun set without a good bottle in the home. We had a great, wonderful time picking out whiskies that promised exotic, unusual noses (including unripe bananas and marihuana) and even the girls enjoyed it. Right then and there, I knew I had to join: if I had visitors to show around London, there could be no better place to visit for drinks; someplace that not everyone could enjoy.

NOW. In all practicality, I still haven't joined, mostly for the aforementioned reasons. But I still think it's a good idea.
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