The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a society for those who appreciate Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Funny that! Check out Single Malt Whisky.
In the early 1980's, a group of friends got together and bought a cask of whisky from a distillery (Glenfarclas to be specific). Many distilleries will let you do this - it helps them fund the initial outlay of the whisky production, and you then pay them to bottle it and can keep the proceeds from the sale. In theory it can be a reasonable investment.
They then waited a few more years, and bottled it at cask strength. Most whiskies, by the time they're ready for bottling, are around 57% alcohol by volume. They are then chill filtered (chilled to near freezing, filtered and brought back up to temperature again, to remove larger particulates) and diluted to between 40% and 46% alcohol by volume. They did neither of these processes.
Of course, they added (distilled) water before drinking it - much as drinking 57% alcohol may be "hard", it totally numbs your nose and tongue, and is a waste of time. But they could add as much or as little water as they wanted. And with it being non chill-filtered, the whisky had a better "mouth feel".
So that's how it started.
Now, the SMWS buys casks from over 100 distilleries. Rather than bottling them at the standard age, they may bottle them earlier or later than the standard. They may finish them in different casks (eg sherry casks) or play around with them in other ways. This means they produce whiskies which while often have similarities to the standard production from the distillery, they are all unique. A cask will give between 150 and 600 bottles (depending on the age and the type of cask) and once the production is sold out, that's it. Another case from the same distillery won't be exactly the same. (Standard bottlings from a distillery are a mix of multiple casks to ensure a consistent product).
To buy SMWS whisky, you have to be a member. Then, between 4 and 6 times a year, you get sent their latest Tasting Notes for the new bottlings. These are written by a panel of tasters from all professions and contain some... interesting... descriptions of the whisky. My advice is to take them with a very small pinch of salt!
The whisky isn't cheap - the cheapest bottles are around £35 (although being cask strength, it goes a long way), and they go up to £100. This is a lot to spend without trying it first! However, there is a solution to this. The society has three members' rooms (two in Edinburgh and one in London) where members can sit down, relax, read the paper, and drink SMWS whisky by the dram.
The society also does a range of merchandise - hip flasks, ties etc.
If you're into single malt whisky, this can take your enjoyment to a new level. Check out http://www.smws.com.