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Independent Bottlers Challenge 2014 Winners

Precision Bottling - We reveal this year’s winners of our prestigious competition

The independent bottling sector provides consumers with an interesting and precise view into their favourite distilleries; the releases can serve to fill in the gaps left by official bottlings. Given the nature of the bottlings, short runs, limited quantities and sometimes unusual years, these are the ephemera of the whisky world; in a glass today and gone tomorrow.

That’s what makes them so desirable to the drinking public, the chance to drink a little bit of history from a distillery you respect and enjoy. There has been much talk of the independents feeling the squeeze from distillery owners in terms of obtaining stock, but, as this challenge shows, the sector is going strong and still coming up with some wonderful expressions.

INDEPENDENT BOTTLER OF THE YEAR

INDEPENDENT BOTTLER
OF THE YEAR

WINNER

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling is unique in that it doesn’t actually mention the distillery. Instead, each distillery is represented by a number. Each bottling is also accompanied with its own unique tasting note to capture your imagination. On the first Friday of every month, they select, bottle and release around 20 casks. There is always something new to discover.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Judging Panel

  • Edward Bates
  • Jonny Beach
  • Mark Connelly
  • Joel Harrison
  • Michael Lord
  • Jonny McCormick
  • Annabel Meikel
  • Neil Ridley
  • Jason Thomson
  • Tim Forbes
  • Billy Abbot
  • Colin Hampden-White

CAMPBELTOWN

12 YEARS & UNDER

BRONZE

Springbank 51.20%

Malts of Scotland

Clementine, chopped walnuts and cherry flapjack on this tawny coloured whisky, which has the clear influence of the cask and its former contents. Plum, orange, date and a balanced vinous influence before a fruity finish. JM

13 – 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

Springbank First Fill Port 51.70%

The Maltman

Treacle, coffee, chocolate cake, rum and raisin ice cream. Rich, dry with sweet sherry. Hazelnutty, soot. Excellent. TF

SILVER

Springbank

Malts of Scotland

BRONZE

SMWS 93.61 CalMac welder’s tea-break

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

SMWS 93.57 Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of this!

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Very nutty, chocolate noisette aromas straight off the bat. Grape and raisin notes, baked apples, old wood, sawdust, old leather. Big resiny notes on the palate, treacle, dusty finish. TF

SILVER

Merchant’s Mahogany Chest

Wemyss Vintage Malts

HIGHLAND

NAS

SILVER

Clynelish Batch 2

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Superb palate. NR

BRONZE

Images of Tain, Mansfield Castle

Malts of Scotland

12 YEARS & UNDER

SILVER

Westport

Malts of Scotland

Stewed rhubarb, simnel cake and cocoa powder leading to a heavy, dense dram. Plum, raisin, dark toffee, molasses and bitter chocolate. Black coffee and burnt tea bread. Any chance of seconds? CHW

BRONZE

SMWS 26.101 An autumn feast at springtime

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

13 – 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

Fettercairn 17 Years Old 1995

Master of Malt

Excellent spice and fruit. NR

SILVER

Deanston Dancing Stag

Robert Graham

BRONZE

Ben Nevis Oloroso Sherry Cask

The Maltman

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection Blair Atholl 25 Years Old

Signatory

Sherry and spice, citrus zest, oak. Sherry and oak palate, more spice. Christmas cake with glacé cherries. BA

SILVER

SMWS 59.48 A sensory journey

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

BRONZE

Golden Cask Ben Nevis

ISLANDS (NON ISLAY)

NO AGE STATEMENT

BRONZE

Highland Park Batch 2

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

This one doesn’t have a very strong nose. Some wax and lemon. On the palate, a touch of smoke can be detected. EB

12 YEARS & UNDER

GOLD

Ledaig 8 Years Old Dramboree 2014

The Whisky Exchange

Smoke and peat, soft spice and marmalade. Citrus and sweetness. Dry on the finish. CHW

SILVER

Isle of Arran

Malts of Scotland

BRONZE

Hunter Laing Hepburn’s Choice Jura

13 - 20 YEARS OLD

SILVER

SMWS 4.189 ‘Cracking!’

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Milk chocolate, hazelnut, earthy notes, nutmeg, cinnamon aromas, damson jam. Strong honey and tinned fruit on palate. Gets sweet with water, dried apricot. TF

BRONZE

Highland Park

Malts of Scotland

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

Highland Park

Malts of Scotland

Now we’re talking! Chestnut, polished leather, sultana, and plum cake. Complex and fruity. Hot, dry and leathery. JM

SILVER

Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection Jura 24 Years Old

Signatory

BRONZE

Highland Park 1985

Mackillop’s Choice

ISLAY

NO AGE STATEMENT

GOLD

Elements of Islay Br5

Light and floral. Fresh fruits, peaches and apples. Sweet fudge, floral flavours. Fresh fruits, balanced, good complexity. CHW

SILVER

Elements of Islay Bw3

BRONZE

Bunnahabhain Batch 2

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

12 YEARS & UNDER

GOLD

Bruichladdich First Fill Sherry

The Maltman

Young, but full of amazing peat. NR

SILVER

SMWS 10.76 Duelling banjos dram

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

BRONZE

Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection Bunnahabhian 10 Years Old

Signatory

13 - 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

SMWS 53.184 Fairground on the beach

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Caramac bars, strong honey, clove, cinnamon, wet turf. Sweet, then wet hay and medicinal notes. Huge phenolic finish. Opens up with water. TF

SILVER

Laphroaig

Malts of Scotland

BRONZE

Golden Cask Bowmore

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

SMWS 3.203 Lavender and parma violets – big time!

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Medicine cabinet aromas, woodsmoke and brine. Lemon and honey Lockets. Dusty, sweet honey and shortbread. TF

SILVER

SMWS 29.154 Camping with M*A*S*H

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

BRONZE

Caol Ila

Malts of Scotland

LOWLAND

12 YEARS & UNDER

BRONZE

Douglas of Drumlanrig Auchentoshan

The nose is initially sweet, salted pears and becomes more peaches and apples in a tupperware box lined with modelling clay. Cream is added to the fruit mix on the palate and it becomes more of a fruit cocktail in sweet juice with a touch of spice. Picnic dessert. ML

13 - 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

Wemyss Vintage Malts Lemon Zest

Wemyss Vintage Malts

Fruity nose of soft spices and fruit cake. Good balance on the palate, a touch woody, but not overpowering at all. CHW

SILVER

Auchentoshan

Malts of Scotland

BRONZE

Auchentoshan 16 Years Old

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

Littlemill

Malts of Scotland

Heavenly sherry, jammy dark fruits, firm oak and beef stock. Tannic with dark red fruits and some wood. Sour plums then mouth-enveloping espresso coffee. JM

SILVER

Strathclyde

Duncan Taylor

BRONZE

SMWS 50.55 High class luxury

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

SPEYSIDE

NO AGE STATEMENT

SILVER

Allt-á-Bhainne Batch 1

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Lemon cake, light spices. Juicy with a pure texture, a surge of alcohol nips the tongue. Lemon, cotton candy, citrus tones, vanilla and sherbet lemons. Sticky. JM

BRONZE

Macduff Batch 1

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Heavyweight with fruitcake, five spice, sherry wood and burnt sugar. Dark chocolate, liquorice and coffee on the palate - NR

Coffee, chocolate orange, butterscotch. Pencil shavings and tannic on tongue. Dry roasted peanuts. Christmas cake - AM

12 YEARS & UNDER

GOLD

The Octave, Miltonduff 8 Years Old

Duncan Taylor

Sherry notes with red apples. Sweet and velvety. Fruit cake. The sweetness returns. Water intensifies. Balanced and lush. ML

SILVER

Tamdhu

Malts of Scotland

Acetone, floor polish, nutmeg and drying woody spices - NR

Orange blossom and pommanders. Honey, sandalwood and exotic fruits. Marzipan and maderia cake. Soft and chewy - AM

BRONZE

SMWS 2.85 Vibrant and tongue-dancing

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Heavyweight with fruitcake, five spice, sherry wood and burnt sugar. Dark chocolate, liquorice and coffee on the palate - NR

Coffee, chocolate orange, butterscotch. Pencil shavings and tannic on tongue. Dry roasted peanuts. Christmas cake - AM

13 - 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

The Octave, Mortlach 16 Years Old

Duncan Taylor

Orange and lime slices in a wooden bowl. Tropical fruits. An alternative yule log. ML

SILVER

Linkwood-Glenlivet 16 Years Old

The Whisky Exchange

BRONZE

Malts of Scotland

Glenrothes

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

SMWS 21.28 Relaxing in a tropical garden

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Dried fruits, old orange peel. Sweet, wood and spice. Floral and honey. Balanced, creamy texture. Turkish delight. CHW

SILVER

SMWS 7.100 Hawaiian holidays

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

BRONZE

Longmorn 21 Years Old

The Single Malts of Scotland

Spice and Bourbon notes, some ginger and clove, underpinned by vanilla sweetness. Good mouthfeel, nutmeg and white pepper with a sweet toffee undertow - PT

GRAIN

NO AGE STATEMENT

BRONZE

Invergordon Batch 2

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Quite odd. Slightly medicinal, mangoes. On the palate those mangoes are still there. I think this one might split the judges. EB

12 YEARS & UNDER

BRONZE

North British, Bourbon Hogshead

Malts of Scotland

A rather pleasant surprise, soft and light with some tropical fruits. Whilst there is no getting away from the high ABV, there is no raw harshness. A good and promising cask, but perhaps bottled too early. EB

13- 20 YEARS OLD

GOLD

Single Cask Lowland Single Grain

The Tweeddale

Warm, exotic spices, honey and lemon. Exciting. Soft, caressing the palate with the same sweet lemon spice mix. A good bartender would have fun with this! EB

BRONZE

North British, Sherry Hogshead

Malts of Scotland

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

Strathmore

Malts of Scotland

Intriguing nose, dark and brooding. Complex. Herbaceous. Soft on the palate. Like the nose, not overly sweet, but lots going on. A real lip smacker. EB

SILVER

The Pearls of Scotland North of Scotland

BRONZE

Douglas Laing Clan Denny Invergordon

Douglas Laing

NON SCOTCH

NO AGE STATEMENT

GOLD

Heartwood Four Corners of Ross

Tropical fruits with vanilla custard on the nose. Confectionery sweetness with a big mouth-filling punch. Water brings forth a more relaxed sweetness with a rewarding creaminess. Crème brûlée in a Glass. JB

BRONZE

Celtic Cask Cuig

12 YEARS & UNDER

GOLD

SMWS 130.1 Dynamic and attractive

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Intriguing candy floss nose, with soft warm oak. It’s hot, but not aggressive. Well balanced oak and fruit. A classic example of a very good, young whisky. EB

SILVER

Celtic Cask Ceathair

BRONZE

Heartwood Convict Redemption

13- 20 YEARS OLD

SILVER

SMWS 131.2 Magic carpet in a sweetie shop

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Elegent red wine notes alongside ripe berries on the nose. The palate has glorious oaky flavours balanced with more berries joined with panettone and orange peel. Dilution improves the mouthfeel giving a sweet creaminess. JB

21 YEARS & OVER

GOLD

Celtic Cask Sé

Lots going on with the nose. Wax, lemon, oak. Really buzzing away. Lots of sappy oak on the palate. Really chewy. EB

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