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Scotch Malt Whisky Society founder to receive lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Whisky Awards

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society founder will receive a prestigious award later this month.

Published: November 7, 2022
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The founder of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SWMS) is to receive a lifetime achievement award for services to Scotch Whisky at a national awards celebration, which takes place later this month.

Pip Hills will be presented with the Dr Jim Swan Award at the 4th annual Scottish Whisky Awards in recognition of his trailblazing efforts to create what is now the world’s largest whisky club with over 35,000 members.

Hills famously started the Society when he drove to Speyside and collected a quarter sherry cask of Glenfarclas which he shared with a few friends.

The friends became a syndicate who bought casks of malt whisky for their own enjoyment and then proceeded to uncover the taste of full-strength, unfiltered whisky straight from the cask.

In 1983, they opened their syndicate to the public and created The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

To house their Society, they bought The Vaults in Leith, which remains home to the SMWS to this day.

Hills retains his card, marked member number 001, and despite leaving the Society in the late 1990s, is widely credited as its entrepreneurial founder for his idea, vision and drive to make the Society a success.

Alan Wolstenholme, Chair of the Judging Panel, commented: "Without Pip's pioneering vision, almost forty years ago, whereby he enabled enthusiasts to participate in sampling single casks of malt whisky from a wide range of distilleries, it is unlikely that today's widely available offering of single malts from an ever-expanding number of distilleries, would exist.

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“His enthusiasm for promoting Single Barrel Malt, the most traditional and highest quality type of Scotch, has helped Scotch Whisky continue to be front and centre as the number one whisky of choice around the world.”

In retirement, Pip Hills is a successful author and regularly speaks at SMWS events.

He has recently spoken for the Society in Paris and plans to travel to the USA next year to deliver a number of speaking engagements as part of the Society’s 40th anniversary in 2023.

Pip Hills said of the award: “Well, it’s rather amusing to be receiving a swanky award when for many years I think I was the most detested man in the whisky industry, for we were expanding at a time when they were declining.

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"However, these days, I am immensely proud of what the Society has achieved in Scotland and around the world.

"In particular, I am impressed by the quality of the staff of the Society: they are smart, knowledgeable and self-confident without being condescending.

"They are warm and friendly and great ambassadors for Scotch Whisky and for Scotland. I look forward to receiving the award and seeing some old friends at the event.”

Pip Hills will accept the award in front of over 300 leaders from the Scottish Whisky industry at the 4th annual Scottish Whisky Awards which takes place on 30 November 2022 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

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This award announcement comes on the same day (7 November) that Pip's first bottle of Glenfarclas goes under the hammer at Whisky Auctioneer.

The 8 Year Old Glenfarclas single malt was distilled in 1975 and matured in a single ex-sherry cask before bottling in August 1983 - the same year as the society's founding.

At the time of writing, the current bid for the bottle was £7,000.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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