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Independant Bottlings...

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Independant Bottlings...

Postby SteveZZZ » Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:27 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm still fairly new to the single malt scene, but thanks to the help I've gotten online, I know a whole lot more than I did a few months ago. Something that seems fairly uniquie to scotch is the idea of independant bottlings, and I'm not sure what to think of them. Are there certain brands that are significantly better? I've read a lot of good things about Signatory, and was lucky enough to pick up their 27yo Macallan bottling yesterday. What about others? My local shop has a few other interesting bottlings, one being a ~25 year old Highland Park (don't remember the exact details) that's been tempting me the last few visits. So when it comes to the independant bottlings, are there certain brands I should seek out or avoid, or is it pretty safe to try anything that sounds good? My malt collection is still rather small, so I'd rather not risk wasting money to try something when I could buy 2 or more bottles that would really help fill in my collection.

Steve
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Postby BruceCrichton » Sun Oct 26, 2003 9:36 am

Signatory are especially good.

Their range and prices are excellent. I've seen a 1978 Dallas Dhu (24 yr) for £40.

My friend has the palest whisky I've ever seen (1991 Rosebank 12 yr old) which cost him £22 - £8 cheaper than the standard bottling.
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Sun Oct 26, 2003 2:41 pm

Next is my personal feelings on independents.

For me, the world of Malt is all about discovery and trying out new malts. There are only a few bottles I would keep buying each time they get emptied here.

As such, after a few years or so you'll find out what taste and general direction of malt you like, and you have tasted most of the OB's out there. As OB's are kept fairly even over the years by blending seperate barrels to get a consistent taste, the discovery element is lost.

This is where independents come into focus. As most of them release unique batches, you will have a abundant choice of new bottles to try out. Distilleries often experiemnt with new wood finishes, and ofcourse, each barrel is unique as well.

I've tasted quite a few Laphroaigs over the time, but at the Pot Still Festival in Holland a week ago I had the chance to taste a portwood Laphroaig which will be released by Signatory any time soon (was going to be bottled around now). It was remarkable! I'm not to sure if you would get to taste such malts without independants being around.

Independents are much more geared towards people who are well introduced into the world of malts as well. As such, often they are not chill filtered, and at cask strenght too. All bonusses for those who like their malt as pure as possible.
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Postby Lawrence » Sun Oct 26, 2003 7:33 pm

Try the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America, you will not be disappointed by the quality of the malts and their uniquness.

http://www.smwsa.com/links.html
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Postby mickblueeyes » Mon Oct 27, 2003 2:52 pm

Here is a segment of an article I wrote for the shop I work at.

For many years, the majority of a distillery’s production was sold to blenders such as J&B, Dewars or Johnny Walker. Often, distilleries would sell their entire production, leaving bottling up to third party merchants. Grocers and spirits merchants would develop house blends by blending whiskies from various distilleries and bottling it under their house label. Sometimes they would sell it as unblended single malt, one of the only ways to get single malt years ago. It is from this tradition that independent bottlings arose. Wealthy individuals, grocers or merchants would purchase casks of raw spirit, age it to their personal specifications and then bottle it under their own private label—an independent bottling.


So what makes an independent bottling different from a distillery bottling?



First, almost all independent bottlings come from a single cask. This allows for a very singular, unblended taste to be experienced, which can be a positive or a negative. In order to produce a superior product, you must begin with a superior product. Not all whiskies are created equal. If the bottler has been mindful of this and chosen exemplary casks, a treat is in store, but like all spirits, occasionally there is a less than fantastic bottle that makes it to market.



Secondly, independent bottlings offer a unique glance at age. Frequently, independent bottlers will age whisky at non-standard ages found in the distillery expressions. For instance, Aberlour’s distillery offers a readily available 10, 15 and 21 year; various independent bottlers may offer Aberlour in 8, 12, 16, 18 and 25 year old expressions. If you are serious about single malt, this allows you to have a more in depth glance at a brand throughout its “lifespan” and to more accurately depict the house style and profile of a particular distillery.



Thirdly, there is the question of filtration. Some independent bottlers employ both primary filtration (to remove particulate matter) and chill-filtration (for aesthetics), however, most do not. Some do not filter at all, as is evidenced by the flecks and particulate matter floating about the whisky (a wonderful find!). Most often, the independent bottler will forego chill-filtration, which allows the whisky to retain more character and flavor. Interaction with oak over several years, dissolves tannins, vanillin and many other components into the whisky: an intricate part of flavor, which may be lost if chill filtered.



Fourthly, many independent bottlers either leave the whiskies at natural, cask strength, or have a line specifically dedicated to cask strength whiskies. For the connoisseur, cask strength whisky is a delight! The raw intensity of cask strength whisky often outmatches its weaker and subtler counterparts. It also has the added benefit of not becoming over diluted when water is added to open the nose, as can often happen with lower proof whiskies.



Finally, independent bottlings offer a great deal more to the collector than run-of-the-mill distillery bottlings. By their very nature (being single cask), independent bottlings are typically limited editions comprised of no more than four or five hundred bottles. For the collector of rare and hard-to-find whiskies, this may be a more feasible avenue than searching out distillery bottlings. While a 40 year old Highland Park or a 25 year old Rosebank distillery bottling may be cause for a second mortgage, a similar bottling can probably be had at a much more reasonable price through an independent bottler.



So the advantages of independent bottlings are clear: whisky in its natural state, unfiltered, often at cask strength, from a single barrel, at unique ages and on a limited basis. What more could you ask of a whisky?



Some of the more prominent independent bottlers include: Murray McDavid, Signatory, Blackadder, Hart Brothers, Gordon & McPhail, Adelphi, Glenhaven and Old Malt Cask. Additionally, there is a members-only whisky society that has private bottlings done exclusively for members: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

If you have any questions about the Society, email me, as I am the Director for East Tennessee.
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Postby peatreek1 » Mon Oct 27, 2003 6:26 pm

One cannot argue that there is a certain "exclusivity" for want of a better word associated with independent bottlings, which is certainly desirable from a collectors point of view and provides some snob appeal, but from an objective point of view, it is hard to make the case that IB whiskies are in general superior to OB whiskies in terms of taste. With whisky perception is often more important than reality. A single-barrel, cask-strength, old whisky tend to be held to much higher esteem that a standard 12 year official bottling because of its cost and rarity, not because it tastes better.

From my own experiences, if find both the IB and OB whisky available now to generally be of high quality. If have been most often dissapointed with some expensive old IB bottlings, which were grossly overprived relative to their quality.
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Postby mickblueeyes » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:21 am

I both agree and disagree peatreek. My only point was that by thier very nature, being typically single cask and limited bottlings, IB tend to arouse the collector more than the typically available malts.

As far as taste goes, as I pointed out, independent bottlings are not always superior. While on many occasions I have found IB better than OB, there have been many occasions where I have found the opposite to be true. As a general rule of thumb, I prefer OB to IB with regard to taste.

However, IB do play an important role in the Scotch world. Without them we would pay a fortune to taste Dallas Dhu, Port Ellen or Caol Ila, malts hard to find (at least in the US) in OB.
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Tue Oct 28, 2003 8:52 am

One cannot argue that there is a certain "exclusivity" for want of a better word associated with independent bottlings, which is certainly desirable from a collectors point of view and provides some snob appeal, but from an objective point of view, it is hard to make the case that IB whiskies are in general superior to OB whiskies in terms of taste.


I dont see any "exlusivity" or "superiority" in IB's over OB's or the other way around. For me they are justa great way to see a distillery from another side then just the OB's. Laphroaig is evry known for its strong medicinal taste, but many IB's I tasted lately are really different from that character, more toffee/fudge like. And this is what appeals to me in IB's, they are a supply of new tastes that will never stop (I hope).

If have been most often dissapointed with some expensive old IB bottlings, which were grossly overprived relative to their quality.


This is true, some IB's are over-priced. I'm not so sure where the costs are going to however. As it could very well be the case that the producer is asking a lot for the barrel already. Maybe someone has insight for us on the backgrounds of this?

As far as taste goes, as I pointed out, independent bottlings are not always superior. While on many occasions I have found IB better than OB, there have been many occasions where I have found the opposite to be true. As a general rule of thumb, I prefer OB to IB with regard to taste.


Again, for me they are just another possible choice, it has nothing to do with superiority. And some independant bottlers are really making nice prices. Signatory is one example that generally has very nice quality for a very decent price. Once you became familiar with the OB's its wonderfull to have the oppurtunity to widen your spectrum with IB's in my opinion. And ofcourse at times a OB will be better then a IB or the other way around, but some OB's are better then other OB's too. To speak of IB's in this way is simplyfying things way to much.
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Postby mxmcat » Mon Nov 24, 2003 1:39 am

For me none are better than the others but I buy more IB because, they are often less expensive than OB (exemple, a Bowmore 1972 CS Signatory at 215€ and the same in official : 540€ : not so many difference in taste but in price :shock: ...).
By that way, IB give us the opportunity to taste whiskies we could not buy if they were O B : this is especialy for vintages and single cask that are, IB or OB, allways differents from one to one.

About the Laphroaig Port Pipe : it is a 6 monthes finish in fresh port pipe and the first release was wonderfull. I tasted the second rel. but cask strength and it's not easy to make a comparison but tasted good too.

P.S. : sorry for my bad english.
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