Re: The Best Independents
This is a tough question because there are some generally good IBs but even then it pays to test before you buy if possible.
In Canada, we don't have access to such a wide range of IBs; however several are starting to make inroads into the fragmented provincial markets.
I picked DL, DR, GM, Signatory and the SMWS. These are IBs from whom I have several different single malts each and overall i've always liked what I've had. Some have been amazing and some have been only OK, but none have really left me unimpressed. However, that's not the case for all IBs: I generally quite like Bruichladdich (especially their peated whiskies), but for the life of me, I haven't had a bottle from MMD that i've ever wanted to rush out and buy.
And, i totally agree with Wave for his reasons for buying IBs: cask strength!!!
IB pricing is interesting: to get started with IBs, the prices are not neccessarily competitive with standard OBs. However, when the ages get up (or the distillery is rare), the prices can become very competitive: 1970's ardbegs, cask strength, for half or less than OBs. But, you have to be careful: OMC (Douglas Laing) had as overall pretty good selection of Port Ellens but the one released last year (at least in Canada) was good, but not fantastic in my opinion. So, because so many of the bottles are single cask, or at the most, a vatting of only a few casks, there is definitely variation, even on their "standard" products.