One of the greatest and most appealing aspects of being a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the Members’ Rooms in the UK. With two venues in Edinburgh and one in London, the Members’ Rooms are both havens and heaven. They’re the whisky equivalent of entering one of the First Class airline lounges at an airport: Cosy lounges, brilliant food, a comfy fire during winter, knowledgeable and friendly staff, meeting facilities, and – of course – a sensational whisky bar. New and old SMWS whiskies adorn the shelves and they’re great venues to try the latest releases first without necessarily having to buy a whole bottle for yourself.
Of course, whilst that sounds great on paper, the reality is that for members who don’t live near either Edinburgh or London – and particularly for members who live in other countries (not to mention other continents!) – a visit to one of the Members’ Rooms isn’t exactly a stroll around the corner.
The Society started to address this many years ago with the introduction of “Partner Bars”. These were existing third party venues, initially the bars inside high-end hotels, but over the years they’ve branched out to include some very formidable whisky bars, dive bars, restaurants and pubs. Quite simply, the Partner Bars are venues that stock SMWS bottlings which can then be purchased over the bar by the dram. No, you don’t have to be a Society member to be able to buy a dram but, depending on which country/venue you’re in, many Partner Bars offer the drams at discounted prices for Society members. (You simply need to flash your Membership Card).
Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver, Canada, is arguably the most well-stocked and extensive whisky bar in Canada. And whilst whisky-loving folks will obviously focus on the bar, Fets is actually a mighty good restaurant, serving absolutely delicious food. Operating for over 30 years now, the venue is located just outside and east of the CBD. The food menu is “southern inspired” and the whisky menu is…well, it’s huge. The whisky range expanded further in October 2013 when the venue became an SMWS Partner Bar. There are over 800 different whiskies available by the dram, including an unbelievable 180 different SMWS single cask bottlings! And for those whose whisk(e)y flavour preferences sit outside Scotland, there is also a huge range of American whiskies (over four pages’ worth of bourbons, ryes, and craft whiskies on the menu), plus impressive selections from Canada, Japan, Ireland, India, Australia, and more. The bar is also home and host to a large number of whisky tastings, events and product launches that are held throughout the year.