Indie Bottlers

Independent bottling – what’s all that about? How would we know?

We asked James Angus instead, who put’s it to his wife, who also doesn’t know and puts it back to him to come up with the goods…

The indie bottler

By James Angus

As a few people have messaged me, asking about indie bottles so though it may be beneficial to take a look at them.

You look at this concept at face value and it’s a bit confusing. I gave a brief description to my fantastic wife and she couldn’t fully understand it from a commerce point of view. Something along the lines of….

“So a company makes whisky and then sells it to another company who just bottle it and then they sell it for a much higher price….

Why aren’t the company who makes it selling it for a much higher price?”

And you look at it at face value and that absolutely rings true.

It is a bit of strange one.

So, we can go all the way back in time to see the how what, when and where.

The original Mr Walker was to all intents and purposes an indie bottler and blender. He bought straight from the distillery and bottled under his own label.  Only thing was Mr Walker got so good and made some dollar so he went and bought the Cardhu distillery to protect his supply. Buchanan, Chivas bros, G&M etc etc did the same. Own a shop, bought and labelled booze, make money, protect supply.

In essence the distilleries were there, people bought whisky from them by the cask and sold it under their own label. The original independent bottlers.

Fast forward a number of years and now the indie bottlers are stronger than ever.

The list of brands out there is huge.

Some names are a few friends who have got together and bought a cask that they liked and wanted to share with like minded drinkers. (The boys over at Waxhouse spring to mind and the Dan’s antics.)

Others are extensions of the whisky company policy (or albeit) and have the pick of some very good whisky. (James Eadie run by a former Diageo director and Whisky Works the indie arm of W&M)

Some are huge operations with long standing relationships and contracts with the multinational owners. (Duggie Laing, Berry Bros and Rudd and Duncan Taylor)

Others have done an absolute basic and found some really good cask. Bottled them and keep costs down. Drinkers appreciate their work. (North Star, Whisky Broker, The Sipping Shed, Infrequent flyers, Chapter7 and a long, long list of others).

Something that Indies do exceptionally are blends. Some that come out are just next level brilliant and always worth buying. The other thing they do is put out a bottle at cask or a higher strength at a more wallet friendly price.

Aberlour Abunga-gaga. It’s official cask strength bottle from Aberlour. Nice enough dram, don’t get me wrong. What is wrong is the price. £80+ (it was very reasonable only a few years back and it’s not an £80 bottle). Almost any indie will almost certainly have a similar style bottle available for a good few pounds less. Aultmore from The Sipping Shed was great stuff.

Highland Park. Bored of the 12yo for £25?

Spend a few quid more and buy an indie expression for about £40 and a world of taste difference is right there ready to welcome you but you haven’t had to layout 150+ sheets for the official cask bottle.

Look at almost any bottle marked “Orkney distillery”. Several good examples from North Star and Berry Bros and Rudd.

Want a higher age statement bottle? Don’t want to pay the same money as 2014 BMW 3 series with low mileage that hasn’t been driven by total Jeb-end for it?

Again, look to the indies. A 25+yo bottle from these guys will more than likely be at least half the price compared to the official bottle!

Had three bottles of JW Black?

Want a blend with more minerals to it?

The Indies have you covered! Too many to list but start with Black Bull 12yo and Duggie Laing Scallywag and of course Compass Box!

Different cask maturation? 🤔🤔🤔

Yes, you’re covered on this as well me thinks!

See the long list of bottlers that have found or re-racked casks and then bottled them with great effect.

I’ll give a separate mention to Compass Box as they have progressed from blender to makers of unique gear which is so wide ranging it’s untrue and I’m sure that someone will do a better description than me. Although…. Could someone out there throw me a fucking bone and send me a sample of Tobias and the Angels.

The other thing is that it does do for the distilleries is it keeps the money ticking over for them as they can be bought from new or at various stages of maturation.

Recommended bottles/bottlers from what I’ve drank or are highly recommended by good peeps:

Duggie Laing Scallywag.

Black Bull 12yo.

Berry Bros and Rudd Sherry cask.

Most of the North Star range.

Most of the Chapter7 range.

Dram Mor.

Whisky Broker.

Berry Bros and Rudd Secert Orkney.

Old Perth Sherry cask.

Whisky Baron.

Hyde Irish whiskey rum cask.

Compass Box.

Seb Woolf is developing a good rep quickly.

The Sipping Shed Aultmore.

Artful Dodger.

Some are expensive but you have to pay for nice things but with a little digging around some bottles are out there for under £30.

You are sure to find a new family favourite.

I say family I actually mean yours and you can drop hints of which bottle you actually want.

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