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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) was established as a private members' club in 1983 by a group of friends and whisky enthusiasts. After moving into the Vaults in Leith (former home of J G Thomson), the group bottled their first whisky, labelled 1.1., a 1975 Glenfarclas.

From there the Society grew and began to release monthly bottlings, focusing on single cask expressions bottled at cask strength, each identified only by their code and tasting notes. In 1995, founder Philip 'Pip' Hill resigned as director.

The Society opened two more venues in London and Edinburgh, and was purchased by Glenmorangie in 2004. The labels and bottles were redesigned in 2008 to mark the 25th anniversary of the club, but the code system still remained (though it is now widely known which numbers refer to which distilleries). While still focusing on Scotch whisky, SMWS also bottles rum, Cognac, Armagnac, bourbon and other spirits. It was purchased by a consortium of investors in 2015.

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