I think my single malt learning and exploration trail was similar to most people's. I started out with the official bottlings and moved to independant bottlings and always compared the two. The IB's were usually but not always from a single cask that had been bottled at less than cask strength, either 46% or even 40% to stretch the amount of bottles on offer.
I think what finally did it for me was our Club tasting of the OB Strathisla 12 and the Murray McDavid Mission Strathisla 1976. I felt that the 12 year was simply a better whisky (by a long shot) and the Club rated them the same.
Since then I've gone back to the OB's, the Glen Garioch 10, 15 & 21 (a strange tasting whisky, like mint but full of flavour), Glenfarclas 10 & 15, Aberlour 10 & a'bunadh, Longmorn 15, Laphroaig (with the wretched addition of E-150), the Bruichladdich 10 and Full Strength, the Caol Ila 18 etc etc. They all seem to have more flavour and seem a much better value for the money. The exception to the rule has been the offerings from the SMWS.
Has anybody else had a similar experience?
I was at the Speyside whisky festivals where a couple of Diageo's malts were up for vertical tastings.
Some bottlings of Clynelish were better than the standard while all of the Linkwoods had something to recommend each of them.
The other determining factor is price. It's worth checking out independent bottlings of Flora and Fauna stuff because you can pick up a bargain, especially when the standard bottling is 10 or 12 years old.
It perhaps reflects the confidence in the product held by some of the bigger boys that there are very few Highland Parks and Lagavulins for example available as independent bottlings.
Secondly, you mentioned getting into independents but recently gravitating back to OB´s. I think your movement to independents was where many of us ventured. But have you ever pondered that perhaps, the distilleries took notice of where everybody went and were forced to make products that could attract back wandering souls like your once lost self?
As always what I say is just my opinion, but personally I think the independent craze was the best thing that ever happened to the industry, in that it made distilleries stop taking for granted that they could simply sell their whisky because the name on the bottle was XXX!
Most OBs are vattings (single malts since they're from one distillery but still vattings) of more casks than most IBs own from one distillery. This gives it a different character than IB vattings of a few casks and much different with a single cask vs. vattings. Most OBs aren't available in single cask form but those that are available have been good in my experience.
I don't think you can say, in general, that one is better than the other. Stating the obvious, they are merely different.
For example, the Old Malt Cask have bottled some absolute beauties, but then the 20yo sherry cask Tactical (a Talisker) they bottled was absolutely atrocious and was reviewed & scored accordingly.
I think the advantage and bonus for malt drinkers like us is that you're offered an alternative expression. If you absolutely love one particular malt, say Talisker, then if it wasn't for the IB's, you'd only ever get to enjoy the Classic Malt 10yo.
We need to embrace the variety that the IB's offer and be thankful that they allow us to explore our favourite distilleries in more detail.
As an aside though, I have noticed that many of the IB's tend to cost more than perhaps they should - possibly introducing a notion of "superiority" and/or elitism. I know a few malt "afficionados" who don't seem to get excited unless their malt came from an IB. Which is a pity.
But I take your point....in a vatting of many casks, the good casks can rescue the inferior input provided by some less-than-good casks. Whereas the single cask can only stand or fall on its own merits.
And I agree wholeheartedly with your earlier comment about the SMWS offerings - they have been absolutely stellar. I suspect this is chiefly to do with the product being both (a) non chill-filtered, and (b) at the strength it was straight out of the cask. Both of these attributes combine to let the whisky shine & burst with flavour.
(b) at the strength it was straight out of the cask. Both of these attributes combine to let the whisky shine & burst with flavour.
I have to agree with you here on the cask strenght point you made... Often I have a single cask, cask strenght malt wich is really nice to drink at the strong ABV.
But with water it would water down *really* fast. At ~ 40 to 45% it lost all its power and had too much water.
Sometimes I wonder if sometimes selling as a cask strenght single malt is also a way to get rid of such casks.
Otherwise without reopening the htread we had before on OB's versus IB's, I love the diversity the IB's offer, and there are quite a bunch of high quality companies that offer excellent IB's!
So it's not that I disagree with your point Lawrence or am saying that IBs are any better, I must how ever emphasize that IBs have played an important role in what I have been able to experience. I do tend to believe the unfiltered product is more expressive than a filtered one, and I hate caramel (as a whisky additive).
I could be wrong in my thinking but I also feel that some of these OB cask strength offerings, can be attributed to or perhaps are a direct response to the IB craze & its ensuing influence. Which I find many of the CS to be excellent overall values as well!
i just opened a bottle of sig 15yo laphroaig sherry that's just plain weird -- sweet and rubbery! i love laphroaig and was intruiged by the bottle and presentation and will soon crack open a bottle of the official 10yo CS along with another corker, an 11 yo sig laphroiag port finish, kind of a vertical (or zig zag if you prefer) of the three.
i think that the previous poster was right on about the craze of current distillery CS, which i personally prefer, if only for a texture standpoint over the neater (chained) watered versions more commonly available. i consider an independent to be a snapshot of a cask, an example, rather than a platonic ideal of what a whisky is. after all, the OB vatting can have a number of vattings available to the blender, which may improve the consistency of the product. after all, the distillery sets the framework of flavor and proof, going for a consistent product/profit rather than an expression in the snapshot sense.
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