When I was at the Speyside festival recently, we had a couple of vertical tastings comparing proprietory bottlings with some independent bottlings of Linkwood and Clynelish.
The differences between the bottlings was truly staggering.
Indies allow you to taste your malt at a certain vintage, at cask strength, without chilfiltration and from just one cask.
couldn't agree more , the one example i would use is Caol Ila , the 15yo F&F was pretty naff in my eyes , then when they brought the "Hidden Malts" range out they were very disappointing . What gives me this opinion of the distillery bottlings ? The SMWS ones !
I havn't had a bad SMWS Caol Ila , from the young 7yo's through the 10/11yo's to the 20yo's , they've all been stunning .
The Signatory and Cadenhead bottlings have been better than the O.B.'s as well .
Long live I.B.'s !
If the people behind IB's make good selection, then they will notice that in their sales. If you look at people from G&M, Cadenhead, Signatory, Murray McDavid, Hartbrothers etc they let us taste some whiskies from renowned distilleries you could probably never taste, if it wasn't for them. I think that the IB's play a very important role in the whisky world, because some stuff will never be bottled by the distillery and probably would end up in a blend ( what a waste ).
I believe that every person here on this forum has his or hers own preferences regarding the IB's. I believe that some of you here walk a way with the SMWS bottles, to be honest I never got the chance to taste one of their editions simply because I'm not a member. My personal prferences of IB's are Cadenhead, Signatory, Hart Brothers to name but a few. The nicest thing of IB's is that you let them all select a Rosebank you'll get different Rosebank whiskies. One will probably select multiple casks and blend them, while the other select some casks and bottle them by the cask
The only thing now is, that some distilleries got to their senses and realize now that there is a market for single cask bottles and other special vintages etc. So they preserve now a lot of their older and special stock. What happens is that these special OB's are becoming more expensiver then the IB's will ask for. Anotherthing is that in the end a lot of IB's will suffer because they are not able to get their hands on older and reasonable stock. So in order to secure their stock they start to buy distilleries and if I'm correct G&M was the first IB to buy a distillery, the Benromach to be exactly and others slowly followed.
No, I'm glad that I had the chance meet some IB's and if it wasn't for them we couldn't taste that exceptional Rosebank or that beautiful Caol Ila or this rare Macallan wich probably endend up in the FG blend anyway. So a big HURRAY is on its place I guess don't you agree?
For what's it worth my words about the IB's on what eightball started in the beginning of this topic,
Put on by Matt Page, site admin
Thanks for the link- they were an interesting read as you said. Another question I had and had and answered it myself is about the broker. "Who buys the whisky?" I had heard of a broker but I didn't know what he did! MJ states "A central figure in the whisky trade is the broker, who buys quantities of malt in cask to sell on to blenders." As we know, most whisky is shipped for blending. However, "Sometimes, he may sell to an independent bottler, who will then lable the whisky with the name of the distillery where it was made."
1. Why should any produce be sold by a distillery to an Independent Bottler? The only reason which comes to mind is inadequate marketing muscle. Else, I would presume there is a margin to be made by bottling and see no reason why one should leave that on the table.
Given that most companies have their own blends to peddle, it is understandable that some of the stuff has to make its way there.
But why sell to an independent bottler who will sell under your own brand name, thereby implying inherent demand for the malt?
2. At what stage of the process does the IB step in and buy? I have, for instance, sampled a Mortlach signatory bottling which was casked in sherry butt. Presumably, the sherry casking would have been carried out by the independent bottler? What about chill filtration?
I get most of my supplies from Duty Free and have almost always consumed official bottlings.
Here's my take on your points:
1. Money. Distillers need money. And the fact that they canæt use all their own malt. To make the taste of the whisky as stable as possible some casks can't be used in a specific bottling (i.e. Mortlach 16). The solution is to roll the cask back in storage to make an older edition (hopefully) or to sell the cask to brokers/independents.
There is still a marked for the buying and selling of whiskies for blending purposes. Since most recepies are old and seldom change much. The big distillers exchange casks rather then sell them.
As for the brand name thing. Not all distilleries allow that. You will not find IB's with the names Lagavulin, Talisker, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie etc etc on them. Some simply don't sell to independant, and the stuff they sell for blending is added a few drops of another malt - so that it's no longer a single malt. Others sell, but denies the use of the name. Some of these are easy to spot: Tactical for the Isle of Skye (guess which distillery).
2. IB's get in at all stages. Some come with their own casks to be filled and then take these casks back 'home', or rent space for them at the distillery. Others buy casks of new make (i.e. SMWS) and store them at the distillery, And then you have thos who purchase stored casks the distillery it self doesn't need for some reason or another.
As for chillfiltration - some do and some don't. Those who don't tend to mention it on the lable.
Just polished off a Provenance (Douglas Laing) Mortlach from 1992 which was 46% and unchilfiltered as opposed to Diageo's Chilfitered 16 yr at 43%. The OB is very heavily sherried and the Provenance was bourbon casked and very pale with a chewy vanilla flavour.
Try Diageo's Talisker at 10yr and then try the Highlands and Islands Scotch Whisky company's Black Cuillin 8yr Hebridean Island malt.
You would never know that the two are from the same distillery and I am a big fan of the Talisker. The Black Cuillin is the kind of thing that could win converts to that malt who had previously found Talisker too fierce for them.
For the OB's that produce a standard malt year after year, i.e. a Glen Bagpipe 12yo, for each bottling run the distillery will continually vat a number of casks across various vintages so as to get a consistency in flavour from year to year. In other words, if you bought Glen Bagpipe 12yo last year and enjoyed it, they want you to buy Glen Bagpipe 12yo next year and enjoy it equally - they want their malt to taste the same from year to year.
Independents are fantastic, because they provide that variety. Until very recently, many distilleries only offered one expression of their malt. If this was your favourite malt (i.e. Lagavulin 16yo), then you could only ever try one expression of your favourite malt. I always found this a bit frustrating. (I used to say to myself, "If this malt is so bloody good, why do they only bottle one version of it?") It's fantastic that IB's can then provide that variety and give us alternative expressions of our favourite (and not so favourite) malts.
Single casks in particular demonstrate to us just how much a one-off cask can differ from the official bottling vatted and produced by the distillery.
(This is the very reason the SMWS came about....a bunch of friends bought a single cask from Glenfarclas and noted how much it differed from the OB).
The only sad thing about independent bottlings is that - by their nature - they don't provide that same consistency from year to year. So if you really enjoy their bottling (particularly if it is just a once-off single cask) then once it's gone.....it's gone!
On the other hand, I suspect the vattings are smaller, thus making it more possible to come up with a "dodgy" bottle or two as a consumer. Also I have to factor in the higher prices charged by the IB's.
Is it worth it? My take on it is that the big value comes from buying something not widely available, and paying a mark-up for it. If I can buy an OB 10yr Ardbeg for $75 cdn or 10yr Talisker for $65 it doesn't make sence to me to spash out for $90 for an IB of 11 yr Ardbeg, or $99 for a 10yr Imperial.
Just my take on things. The prices by-and-large charged by IB's is enough of a disincentive to me making it not worth it.
Your points are quite valid, but we mustn't tar all the independents with the same brush......
The Connoisseurs Choice range from Gordon & MacPhail is almost always very good value.
(Recent example....their 12yo Caol Ila is considerably cheaper than the OB 12yo). (Well, at least in this country, anyway! )
I have come across an iteresting specimen. It is called "Raw Cask" and it is quite interesting. Blackadder puts some out and it is whisky taken directly from the cask.
Don't be confused with raw cask and cask strength. Raw Cask comes straight from the barrel. Oils and fats are still present.
There are even wood chips in bottles! I have had a bottle some time ago and although I didn't like it too much it kind of grew on me.
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