Monday, February 26, 2018

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover - Independent Bottlers - Part #2

Indie Bottler; Maltbarn. 9yrs Bruichladdich bottling
Independent bottlers or Indie Bottlers are simply put, companies that select and buy "source" casks of whisky directly from whisky distilleries - mostly Scotch and Irish distilleries - bottle and marketed the whisk(e)y under their company brand name. In contrast to the American so-called NDP's, the independent bottlers almost always state the original distillery's name and the age of the whisky. A lot of the independent bottlers focus on Single Casks, bottled at Cask Strength or at a general “high” ABV. Very often using the non-chill filtering method and often doesn’t add E155a caramel coloring to “their” whisky.

Some Indie Bottlers select and bottle the whisky as it is, others age the whisky furthered in their own warehouses, and some double mature/cask finish selected casks in ex-sherry, port, wine or other alternative casks

Other Indie Bottlers got their own master blender, who are marrying/blending different casks together to create their own preferred style of whisky, as we know it from Douglas Laing and their Remarkable Malt Series.

Indie Bottler; Chapter 7. Peatside 2009. 6yrs.
Though the Indie Bottlers are highly informative about the content of the bottle - a lot of information’s are usually found on the bottle itself or further details can be found on their websites – a part of the whiskies that are bottled by indie bottlers are marketed without the identification of the source distillery. The distiller is unnamed because the distilleries who produced the whisky, only want their name associated with whisky marketed by themselves. Those bottlings are referred to as “undisclosed” or "secret" whiskies, and the bottler will give these whiskies a name on its own. Another method to protect the distillery name is the so-called tea-spooning method, where a single tea spoon of another malt is being added to the cask, so the cask no longer can be called a single cask or single malt, and the distillery’s name or rather names stay undisclosed.

Some independent bottlers leave clues to the whiskies origins. Strongly indicating who the whisky is sourced from, without breaking their contract agreement. For example, The Maltman’s Hazelgrove. Not really that hard to guess, where that cask came from… nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more

The infographics on Douglas Laing's Old Particular botteling
Some Indie Bottlers offers their consumers all the information’s regarding their whiskies as they possibly can, without breaking the current law. I’m well aware that most people “just” wants’ to enjoy their whisky, and that’s essentially what whisky is all about, but I’m a bit of a whisk(e)y geek and I loves every dirty little details that I can possibly get my hands on, regarding the whiskies that are being poured into my glass.  

If it wasn't for Indie Bottlers we wouldn't be able to taste whiskies like, for example, Strathmill that doesn't have any official bottles, and do not market any brands themselves, but only exist to "serve" blended whiskies. Another thrilling fact about the Indie Bottlers is, that some of the older Indie Bottlers like Signatory, Hart Brothers and finally the oldest Indie Bottler in the game; Gordon & McPhail, have stocked up on and are/have released several bottlings from closed distilleries like Little Mill, Brora and Port Ellen just to name a few.

Indie Bottler; TBWC. 2yrs Rye From St. George & NYDC.
Under the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, it became unlawful for Single Malt Scotch Whisky (only Single Malts – not blends) to be exported from Scotland other than in a bottle labelled for retail sale.

5.1 As it is illegal to mature Scotch Whisky outside Scotland, Regulation 7 also makes it illegal with immediate effect (as from 23 November 2009) to export any type of Scotch Whisky in an oak or other wooden cask. It is permitted to continue to export Scotch Whisky in bulk using inert containers such as appropriate plastic drums or steel containers.

5.2 However, Regulation 7 makes it illegal as from 23 November 2012 for Single Malt Scotch Whisky to be exported from Scotland other than in a bottle labelled for retail sale.

This regulation act put an end to the non-Scottish located Indie Bottlers opportunity to bottle Single Malt whisky in their own facilities outside Scotland.

Article & Photos by: Hasse Berg