When The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was formed in 1983, the whisky industry may have been dominated by men – but it was women who helped to establish the Society and ensure its growth and prosperity. Yeap, you read that right 😉
Amongst them, let’s focus on Anne Dana – The society’s first managing director
When Anne Dana first set eyes on The Vaults in Leith, it was a derelict building in an off-the-beaten-track location. As an interior designer, Anne didn’t waste any time setting about the challenge of transforming the historic but decrepit building into The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s headquarters. But that’s not all she took on board.
As work on the Members’ Rooms progressed, Anne started researching the whisky industry, finding out where the Society could source single casks, how to bottle and package the whisky, and working out who would be interested in buying it.
“There was a small group of people at first, and I suggested that each of us should come up with 10 other names, and that would give us the beginning of what would become The Scotch Malt Whisky Society,” says Anne. “Once we got those names we sent out membership cards and told them what whisky we’d be able to offer, starting with four casks in late 1983. It just exploded from there.”
While The Vaults was undergoing its transformation, Anne threw herself into her whisky-related research.
“I said to the directors, you know, I can’t just be sitting here, I’m quite an industrious person. So, I started reading up, tasting and exploring the whole whisky world. I began visiting distilleries, building up connections and found the people working in the industry to be generous and helpful. They didn’t necessarily want a really good cask to be tipped in with everything else, so we came away with some very high-quality casks.”
After the SMWS was up and running, Anne became its first managing director, building up the membership and establishing the first tasting room at The Vaults, while continuing not only to source the Society’s single casks, but to start laying down stock for the future.
“I suggested that we start leaving our stock to mature, because I thought we’d sold some of our whiskies too early,” she says. “That’s when we started to lay down our own spirit and choose the barrels that it would be put in. It was a very interesting and exciting time.”
Anne Dana ran The Scotch Malt Whisky Society until 1990.