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  1. #1
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    So now that I've gone through a few rounds of the major scotch distilleries' standard bottlings, my interest is starting to turn towards offerings by independent bottlers like Chieftan, Signatory, Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas & Hunter Laing, Samaroli, SMWS, etc.,

    Have you guys had much experience with IB's? Do some IB's have better barrels from certain distilleries due to some personal or business arrangements? Or is it all a crapshoot?

    Any info to help me get an overview of the landscape would be very instructive & appreciated.
    Last edited by ChainWhip; 06-29-2013 at 16:39.
    ¡Geaux Tigers! - ¡Visca el Barça!

    "Really though, my hands are sore. The tool was doing it's thing with a flex hose." -Barrel_Proof

  2. #2
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    Independent Bottlers

    I have a very limited experience (and nearly zero knowledge) but all of the Signatory cask strength releases I've had have been amazing. I'm also interested to hear what comes out in this thread.

  3. #3
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    It's a crap shoot. 30 years ago my answer would have been different because surplus production had put some really good stuff in the hands of the independents but when the single malt movement took off that supply line dried up. Years ago when entire distillery's production went into blends the private bottlers were the only source for, say, a Mortlach or Linkwood, but now that so many malts are being bottled as singles the role of independents has been largely supplanted.

    Another matter is one of identity. Mortlach requires a first fill Sherry cask to bring out it's best but there is nothing to prevent an independent from using a third fill American Oak barrel which imparts a different character altogether. Or store it in an enormous worn out old hogshead for 16 years and sell it labeled (legally) as 16 year old Mortlach but it will taste nothing like the distillery expression and will cost a good deal more.

    I got interested in the independents about 20 years ago and bought some that were very good and some that were shoddy though all were expensive. The lesson I learned is a major distillery with bulging warehouses can vat away an off barrel but the independents with their small stocks have to bottle and sell what they have no matter how the barrel turned out.
    Last edited by squire; 06-29-2013 at 17:15.

  4. #4
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    Damn... Squire is dropping that knowledge!

    I've dabbled, but it really is a crap shoot. I bought a few just so I could try some stuff from shuttered distilleries like Port Ellen, Brora, and Rosebank, but they are all just decent whiskeys. The ones I have experience with are G&M (Cask series and Connoisseurs Choice) and the Signatory Cask Strength range. I bought a bottle from K&L last year that was from a company called Exclusive Malts, and that one was pretty good.

  5. #5
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    Thanks guys. Maybe the way to go is to find a store / buyer you trust the same way one would in the single-barrel bourbon selections.

    It was interesting reading the KLWines blog of their Scotland trip - pretty much echoes what Squire said regarding the availability of IB casks.
    ¡Geaux Tigers! - ¡Visca el Barça!

    "Really though, my hands are sore. The tool was doing it's thing with a flex hose." -Barrel_Proof

  6. #6
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    Quote Originally Posted by ChainWhip View Post
    Thanks guys. Maybe the way to go is to find a store / buyer you trust the same way one would in the single-barrel bourbon selections.
    Absolutely - find a whisky monger whose has a good track record of cask selection and that your tastes align with - you can impulse buy with more confidence and with single barrel selections, it is really the only way you'll ever really know short of getting a taste before you buy.
    Mark

  7. #7
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    It's a crap shoot. 30 years ago my answer would have been different because surplus production had put some really good stuff in the hands of the independents but when the single malt movement took off that supply line dried up. Years ago when entire distillery's production went into blends the private bottlers were the only source for, say, a Mortlach or Linkwood, but now that so many malts are being bottled as singles the role of independents has been largely supplanted.

    Another matter is one of identity. Mortlach requires a first fill Sherry cask to bring out it's best but there is nothing to prevent an independent from using a third fill American Oak barrel which imparts a different character altogether. Or store it in an enormous worn out old hogshead for 16 years and sell it labeled (legally) as 16 year old Mortlach but it will taste nothing like the distillery expression and will cost a good deal more.

    I got interested in the independents about 20 years ago and bought some that were very good and some that were shoddy though all were expensive. The lesson I learned is a major distillery with bulging warehouses can vat away an off barrel but the independents with their small stocks have to bottle and sell what they have no matter how the barrel turned out.
    Absolutely true on all counts.
    Never buy an independent bottling of anything without trying a sample or getting a recommendation of someone whose taste you trust. Even the most reputable of IB's will occasionally put out average to mediocre stuff at relatively high prices.

  8. #8
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    Great points all around. I've had the privilege of dipping into a lot of IBs in the last couple of years, and there is quite a bit of variation. G&M and Chieftains have both underwhelmed consistently, Murray McDavid can be hit or miss, Signatory and Douglas of Drumlanrig are generally solid, BlackAdder is just cool as hell with the huge chunks of floating char in the bottle though it can be truly raw uncut, Exclusive Malts, Samaroli and SMWS are nothing but stellar, IMHO. Never had an Old Malt IB. Try before buy always for all the reasons noted above. Obviously this will be a tall order for the Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank, Teaninich crowd. I can pull up a stool in Amherst, MA and compare a Signatory Port Ellen to a Douglas of Drumlanrig Port Ellen if I've got $70 to drop. Not necessarily easy on the wallet exploring this side of the SMS world.

  9. #9
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    Re: Independent Bottlers

    I'll second @wryguy - taste yourself or rely on someone whose taste you trust before dropping big money. The inexpensive G&Ms are "interesting", but IBs can very expensive very quickly. I second the recommendation of the Black Adders - the Smoking Islay is very, very tasty. And the SMWSA is a good place to regularly get interesting single cask bottlings. As is Single Cask Nation. I would also recommend trying to attend one of the whisky festivals - WhiskyFest, WhiskyLive or the SMWSA Whisky Extravaganza. Also find the bars in your area, Seattle has some and I assume Portland as well, that carry IBs. And I'll second @squire - the IB landscape is changing with the massive growth in high end whiskies. What was true of a brand 5, 10, 15 years ago may no longer be true given the challenges of sourcing quality casks.

 

 

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