tollickd wrote:Are bottles matured for the full time at the distillery before being sent to the independent bottler?
I assume you're referring to casks and not 'bottles'. As Ganga has speculated, those casks can be stored either at the distillery (or at an alternative site - please read further on* - prior to being shipped to an independent bottler for some further ageing or for immediate bottling) or (usually in the case of an independent bottler dealing in significantly larger quantities of whisky and owning the warehousing capacity to do so, such as Gordon & MacPhail) at the premises of an outside concern.
*Note that most distilleries do not have extensive enough space to mature all of their malt whisky production on site. Furthermore, the bulk (with notable exceptions) of production from malt whisky distilleries is destined for utilization in blends. Therefore, many distilleries or their parent companies employ off-site warehousing locations as well.
tollickd wrote:Do they send back the casks once empty?
As far as I am aware, both the whisky and the cask(s) it's stored in become the property of the independent bottler once sale has been finalized. However, this would not preclude said independent bottler from reselling the cask(s) back to the distillery or its parent company afterward.
Most of the big independents have their own cask inventory and their own warehouses. But not all. Some independents buy casked whisky. Some cask it themselves. Some warehouse it themselves, while a few lease space at the distilleries. Some buy it at the time they have it bottled. I'm sure I've heard of examples of each.
ZacRob76 wrote:...I swear it drinks like a young Laphroaig...
You're certainly not the only individual to have mentioned a Laphroaig connection. Witness the following by one Ernie Ayres:
"If I had to speculate, I would say that this is low grade, maybe even very young Laphroaig."
However, Mr. Ayres then goes on to say:
"This is not nearly as complex or peaty as other Islay whiskies, but a very good introduction to someone that may have rejected a smokier scotch in the past."
The inherent contradiction of these two statements (I would think a young Laphroaig would likely display a greater intensity of marine and peat) leads me to believe that Laphroaig is NOT the source.
Bowmore could represent the next logical alternative. However, with two lines of Islay whiskies already emanating from the owners (Bowmore proper and McClelland's), not to mention the medium phenolic levels employed for that site's malt, I'm somewhat doubtful.
Bruichladdich is a slight possibility. But I think Bunnahabhain might be a better bet, given it has (in recent times) utilized more heavily peated malt only in rare instances.
Have you tasted any of the 12-year old Bunnahabhain from Burn Stewart? A direct comparison between that whisky and MacGavin's would be enlightening.
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