Does the Scotch Malt Whisky Society offer value for money?

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Does the MSWS offer value for money?

Total votes: 20

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Does the Scotch Malt Whisky Society offer value for money?

Postby Scotchio » Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:57 am

I've been considering signing up with these guys primarily to pick up a bottle of their current Glenugie as other independent bottles available at present appear to be somewhat variable. However I keep baulking at the £75 joining fee. Given the range of decent indi bottlers I am doubtful as to whether I can justify the outlay and the resulting commitment to buy their bottlings to justify the joining fee. So to members past and present do you consider the MSWS to be good value for money. Furthermore if there are any members who@d be willing to pick up a Glenugie for me I will happily add a few quid to their outlay in return for their efforts or if there is anybody in the Hereford area of the UK who would like to join up but split the membership fee please contact me.

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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:20 am

The SMWS does offer excellent value for money if either (a) you buy several of their bottles during the year or (b) you drink relatively often in their bars. They have access to some excellent bottlings (and some less good bottlings), many of which are substantially different to anythong else out there. The fact you want their Glenugie sort of makes the point. IMO, often the better value is found in their more expensive bottles. £100 for the 36yo Longmorn was a steal. Their Christmas parcels are also good value - offering 3 "random" bottles for £100. I have received youngish bottles that haven't sounded terribly good - hence they didn't sell - but which are very drinkable and not what I would ever have tried in the normal run of things.

If you are able to get to their bars and buy whisky, you are in the best position of all because you can try before you buy.

Do note - the initial joining fee includes the price of a bottle.

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Postby Mr Ellen » Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:25 am

Personally, I don't think it's worth the money. I have been a member for a year and have just closed my membership. I joined the SMWS just to be able to buy a specific bottling.
However, a month after the release I could buy the bottle at The Whisky Exchange and at a lower cost. Isn't that strange?
If you absolutely want the Glenugie, ask a member of the society or try to contact retailers such as TWE, Loch Fyne Whiskies or RMW and ask them if they can get hold of the bottling for you.


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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 30, 2006 6:42 pm

I have never seen SMWS bottles on sale at The Whisky Exchange and I can't see how they could sell the stuff at a lower price unless a third party had paid full whack and sold them on to The Whisky Exchange at a loss.

Obviously, if you join purely in order to buy a single bottle, you'd have to want that bottle pretty badly. The SMWS is a club aimed at people who like to buy cask strength whisky and it offers them a good range at attractive prices - in return for a membership fee.

I wouldn't advocate asking somebody to buy a bottle for you because that is trying to obtain the benefits of membership without paying the fees. I know it can be done, and I'm sure people do it, but it does seem rather sneaky to me.

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Postby Mr Ellen » Mon Jan 30, 2006 7:15 pm

Of course, if your goal is to obtain several bottlings on a regular basis from SMWS it might be worth joining the society. However, Scotchio's aim was primarily to obtain ONE specific bottle.
And I personally do not think it's worth spending that much money on a membership just to obtain this specific bottle.

Sure, if you have an intention to visit their club room and have the intention to buy several bottlings a year or collect SMWS bottlings you might want to join to benefit from their offerings. If you're interested in whisky you could probably find more bottlings at reasonable prices too.
As a collector however, you can always get around club and societies membership fees to get the bottlings you're after and be able to cut some great costs - nothing I recomend though. If you don't want to ask a member of the society to buy the bottle, it will sooner or later show up at auction houses, eBay or at other whisky retailers.
I joined the club myself just to be able to buy one of their bottlings. But I still think it's a very high cost for a couple of Newsletters via E-mail per year (bottle included).

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Postby karlejnar » Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:17 pm

I think it's good value for money especially if you're after the older ages. I must admit right away that I'm not a member (yet). That's mainly because they don't ship bottles to Denmark. But being in Scotland every summer, that's not a very good argument :oops:
I visited the Vaults once as a guest, and my host let me buy two bottles. However my wife couldn't get access in her wheelchair, so then I used that excuse for not joining.
I'll soon have to give up and join since they are now rebuilding the place and installing a lift :roll:

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Postby Scotchio » Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:57 am

I wouldnt have thought it was too immoral to ask a member to pick up a bottle and sub them a few quid to offset their joining fees. SMWS is owned by Glenmorangie, great company who do like to make money. Would getting a member to buy a bottle be any more immoral than charging people £75 for the right to buy your products. I cant think of any other business that does this.

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Postby Lawrence » Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:46 pm

Costco, most credit card companies, etc, etc all charge membership fees, it's niether uncommom nor immoral. It's up front and quite clear. There's nothing wrong with a company making money, if they don't they go out of business and then where would we buy our Society malts from??

I buy a large number of bottles annually for myself but mostly for one of the clubs I run and the value and selection is outstanding IMHO. However if you are not going to use your membership then it's of little value. I also like to be able to visit the Vaults when I'm in Edinburgh, it's my favourite spot.

At the end of the day the SMWS is a CLUB and clubs usually charge dues.

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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:51 pm

I actually do think that the new renewal membership fee of £45 is steep.

It gets you:-

Access to bottlings - which you pay market rates for;
Access to to events - which you pay market rates for;
Access to behind-the-bar drams - which you pay market rates for.

And, for the Brits, it isn't quite the same as Costco. That wholesaler does have a small membership fee. But, unlike the SMWS, it entitles members to cash-and-carry prices on products.

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Postby Spirit of Islay » Wed Feb 22, 2006 8:49 pm

Hi ,
I happen to think The SMWS represents good value for money even though the price hike this year was a bit O.T.T. , i don't think it would have been as noticable if they'd done it over a few years rather than in one go !
As for the price of the bottles , Great value , especially when you contrast to one's in the market place (these are a few of my personal favourites):-
SMWS 40yo Glenfarclas £150
O.B. 40yo Glenfarclas £1500

SMWS 19yo Bruichladdich £57
O.b. 20yo Bruichladdich £70

SMWS 25yo Caol Ila £62
O.B. 25yo Caol ila £98
OMC 25yo Caol Ila £73
Sig 25yo Caol ila £79

Fair enough some of the younger ones are a bit more expensive but not much (7yo SMWS Ardbeg £44 , Cad 12yo Ardbeg £41.50 ) but some of the distilleries you'll have trouble getting elsewhere !
Oh ! and you get free delivery to mainland UK as well .....


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Postby bamber » Thu Feb 23, 2006 1:37 am

The bars are great and it's a lot of fun trying their whiskies, but I would never buy a SMWS bottling without trying it first because there are a lot of very average whiskies offered IMO.

Everytime I got to the bar, there's at least one whisky that causes me to smile but one that makes me girn.

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Postby Lawrence » Fri Feb 24, 2006 2:16 am

I grin like an idiot everytime I go in and have booked two rooms in Leith for the night of August 15th and will having an early lunch on the 16th before we make our way to Glasgow airport to pick up the rest of the team. I will post a thread closer to the date and hopefully a number of us can meet up for a few drams.


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Postby WestVanDave » Fri Feb 24, 2006 7:05 am

Lawrence wrote:I grin like an idiot everytime I go in

... and your excuse for the rest of the time is???

Kidding of course - for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting "Sir Lawrence" - there's rarely a frown - often a grin - and even more often a wee dram close at hand...

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Postby Admiral » Sun Feb 26, 2006 11:21 pm

In the same vein as Gordon's reply:

SMWS 40yo Glenfarclas - $385
OB 30yo Glenfarclas - $430
OB 40yo Glenfiddich - $3250

SMWS looks pretty good to me!

And bear in mind that the SMWS offers many whiskies that the other independants don't turn up as regularly.

If you're after whiskies from distilleries that long since closed down, or don't export their OB to your country, or don't even bottle their own malt, then the SMWS stands head and shoulders above the rest.


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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Mar 09, 2006 10:05 pm

When I was still in the UK I would have voted "Yes".
But since moving to Germany and being forced to deal with the "foreign" arm of SMWS I have cancelled my membership purely because of lack of support and service.

They couldn't even get the magazine to me on a regular basis.

So sorry SMWS, in this poll you get a firm "No" from me.

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Paul A Jellis
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Postby Paul A Jellis » Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:20 pm

My vote must be no, otherwise I would have joined!



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Postby Admiral » Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:57 pm

Did you join the SMWS to receive a magazine or to enjoy their whiskies? :wink:

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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:36 am

without the magazine communication I had no communication or any idea of what was on offer!

It was a case of pay your membership and goodbye, you don't exist any more.

I spoke directly to SMWS in Edinburgh who said they had received a few similar complaints, but there was nothing they could do. Living outside the UK they were not allowed to deal with me directly, I had to deal with the SMWS via Holland.


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Postby Alec » Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:38 pm

I like SMWS alot. I'm lucky that I can go to the London bar frequently, also I really like trying particular distilleries like Clynelish, Ardmore etc. I think they offer great value for money, but only if you can go regularly to one of their bars. Wouldn't miss them, and but a lot of their bottles. For example I like a lot of their Linkwood offerings, which you wouldn't necessarily appreciate without access to their casks. Steep, but pays with regular tastings.

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Postby patrick dicaprio » Wed Mar 22, 2006 9:25 pm

it really depends on how often you buy. i am a member but havent bought a bottle in a while. in the past though i have gone through periods when i drank their whisky exclusively. so the answer is it depends. honestly though if you look at what you get it is probably not worth it unless you are relatively serious about whisky appreciation unless you live in an area with few to no good shops around.


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