If you're a whisky fan, you've probably seen the term 'independent bottler' thrown around - here, we break down what independent bottlers are, the awesome work they do, and introduce you to a few of our favourites.
Independent Bottlers are not a new thing. They have been around since the Dawn of Whisky (ie: ages). As the name suggests, independent bottlers are businesses that operate separate from distillers - they purchase whisky from larger distillers, then make the whisky their own - they might mature the whisky longer, blend it, move the whisky to a different cask, or just sell it as a single cask. Here's how each process works:
- They might sell the whisky as a Single Cask Whisky. When making a bulk batch of whisky, it is important to the original distiller that each bottle tastes the same - so they will blend all the casks in a huge vat so each resulting bottle tastes the same. In reality, each cask has a unique flavour (depending on the cask it is in, where in warehouse the particular cask is housed etc) - so the independent bottler may choose to bottle directly from the cask (thus the name 'single cask whisky')
- They might take the original cask and mature it in a different climate, or transfer the whisky to a different cask for maturing, resulting in a totally different finish.
- They might create a boutique blend - they may blend multiple whiskies to create a new, unique (often experimental or innovative) whisky blend. This is one of the awesome aspects of independent bottling - they have the freedom to experiment with casks, maturing + blending that the larger distilleries don't - and we think their experiments have amazing results!
Depending on the trade agreement they have with the source distillery, some independent bottlers will credit the original distiller on the label (as with our three favourites below), and some will sell the whisky with no mention of the original distiller.
One of the great aspects of independent bottling is that it allows great whisky to be purchased at a fraction of the original price - as independent bottlers don't have the enormous overheads that distillers do.
Here are some of our favourite whiskies by independent bottlers:
Ben Nevis Aged 16 Years Single Cask Whisky, bottled by Douglas of Drumlanrig
Ben Nevis is one of the oldest distilleries in the world, and they operate with a small boutique team of less than 20. This whisky was distilled and was matured for 16 years in a cold, dark warehouse in Scotland before its bottling in 2015. As the Duke of Buccleuch says, "Enjoy it unhurriedly as it has waited all those many years for you."
Craoi Na Mona 10 Year Old Irish Whisky bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bross & Rudd is literally the oldest family-own spirits merchant in the world, founded all the way back in the late 17th century. They do wonderful single cask + small batch whiskies, and also own the Glenrothes brand.
This particular whisky (pronounced 'Cree-Na-Mona') has gone on quite a journey to end up with us - it originated at the Cooley distillery in the North East of Ireland, where it was double-matured in American Oak casks. After ten years in these casks, the whisky was then shipped to Scotland where it spent five months in heavily-peated casks which previously held Laphroaig.
North British 8 Year Old '0' Single Grain Whisky bottled by La Maison Du Whisky
La Maison Du Whisky is one of the leading French importers + distributors of hard-to-find whiskies since they were founded in the 50's. They started specialising in whisky, and have now expanded to a range of spirits and wines. They have their own store in Paris dedicated entirely to malt whisky (worth dropping in next time you're in Paris!).
This whisky, 0 Single Grain, is part of series "The Ten" that La Maison put together, as a way of gently introducing drinkers to Scottish Whiskies. The ten whiskies are ranked that in order from lightest to strongest, 0-9 (this one is the lightest of the series). The first of the series were matured in refill casks, so they can fully express their floral and fruity character. The later whiskies in the series were aged in peaty or sherry casks, to achieve a stronger, more powerful flavour.
So there you have it! If you'd like to find out more, you can email us at email@example.com an we'd be more than happy to answer your questions!