Is there generally a huge difference in bottlings? Is any one bottling more authentic than the other? How do you know which is the "true" bottling?
I've just recently learned abut independent bottlers and find it interesting.
DC Scotch Chickhttp://www.scotchchix.com
1) Yes there can be a huge difference between bottlings. For example Mortlach F&F is all rich fruit cake and winter warming, but the couple independent Mortlachs I've tried just don't have that lovely Christmassy thing going on.
2) No, IBs are as authentic as OBs. You could even argue that IBs are more authentic because the bottler has selected a single cask rather than blended from the warehouse of casks available to the distiller. And more often they're cask strength and not chill-filtered. But really neither is more authentic than the other.
3) I suppose the "true" bottling would be the OB - that's the flavour that the distillery has decided they want to consistently achieve with each bottle (except when they've released a single cask bottle eg. Balvenie 15 in which case there will be variation). And when people refer to a bottling, eg. Macallan 18 they mean the OB unless they say otherwise.
But I think "true" is misleading because the OB is not more "right" than an IB, and it's not necessarily better. IBs increase your choices. Sometimes the bottles are different ages to the OBs. Sometimes they taste very similar to OBs. I love Caol Ila, but I'd get very bored if I just swapped between the 12 and 18yo, so I tend to have independents as well. And I've had some Caol Ila IBs that beat the pants off the OBs.
So stop playing it safe DC, go get some independents and let us know what you think
[Edited so as not to look a fool, thanks Ganga