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Definition of Independent Distillery?

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Postby lambda » Fri May 05, 2006 10:25 pm

What about "not member of the SWA" ? I think this is one of the reasons Bruichladdich calls itself independent. Companies like glenfarclas and glenmorangie are members of the SWA, while "typical independent distillers", as in they promote themselves as independent, such as bruichladdich, bladnoch and benriach are not as far as I can see.
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Postby The Fachan » Sat May 06, 2006 1:00 am

How can Glenmorangie be looked on as independent when its part of the global LVMH empire

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Postby parvus » Sat May 06, 2006 1:17 am

I think the dictionary defines it best:

Not dependent on or affiliated with a larger or controlling entity and Free from the influence, guidance, or control of another or others. I think most people assume that independent always means small, but as others have pointed out, Glenfiddich is still technically independant.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat May 06, 2006 2:56 am

Outside of small, boutique bottlers (Prichard's rum and bourbon, in Tennessee, for instance), there are two independents in American whiskey distilling -- Buffalo Trace, owned by Sazerac Co., which is closely-held (e.g., it does not issue public stock) and majority-owned by the Goldring family; and Heaven Hill, which is owned entirely by the Shapira family, its founders.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat May 06, 2006 3:56 am

Never mind the SWA thing. An independent distillery is one that owns itself. If you made an organizational chart, it would be the only thing on it.

(And even that's a simplification--the Bruichladdich chart would contain Murray McDavid and maybe some other things, and I'm not sure what would be where. But that's the basic idea.)
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Postby Lawrence » Sat May 06, 2006 4:49 am

I think Parvus has hit the nail on the head (heid? :D )
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat May 06, 2006 8:23 am

Excellent post Parvus,
for me "independent" also means independently run and not a part of a large conglomerate or business empire or entity.
Exactly as your definition shows.

As for Bruichladdich, what influence do Murray McD. have on the business and running of the distillery?
Do they have any controlling 'say' over business decisions / directions, or are they just part of the financial backing?


Although "independent" is often associated with 'small', I guess mainly because much of the drinks trade is controlled or swallowed up (pun intended!) by very large corporate giants who tend to have more financial clout that a single family or privately owned business, this is by no means a 'must'. Glenfiddich is a good example, as is Glenfarclas too.
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Postby Scotty Mc » Sat May 06, 2006 9:30 am

To me, it would be a distillery that is not owned by a multi-national company, ran by private financial backing. However, a truely independent distillery would be one that grows and malts its own barley etc. Everything to be done in-house.
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Postby lambda » Sat May 06, 2006 11:50 am

Well, my reply was based on bruichladdich's reason for not joining the SWA:
We feel our independent status and freedom of expression would be compromised by censorship by the SWA under pressure from its larger members on matters we feel are important to the consumer.

(highlighting is mine)
Clearly, they would not be owned by the SWA in case they join the SWA, so there are apparently several concepts that can be called "independent". My reply was simply to give a definition that fits in C_I's first examples, but given his second reply apparently the definition does not fit with his concept of independence (given the fact there are examples that he apparently considers counterintuitive).
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Postby Lawrence » Sun May 07, 2006 1:50 am

I would have to say Bruichladdich is independant, as is Springbank along with their association with an independant bottler.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun May 07, 2006 3:37 am

I think, lambda, that you are talking about two different kinds of independence. There is independent ownership, and there is the sort of independent attitude that causes Bruichladdich to disdain the SWA.
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Postby Admiral » Wed May 10, 2006 4:48 am

Springbank strikes me as being the most independent distillery.

(The SWA doesn't even recognise Campbeltown as a whisky region anymore! Notice that Springbank isn't part of the SWA??! :wink: )

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu May 11, 2006 1:00 pm

I think the concept is meaningless in the whisky world. A distillery is a distillery is a distillery. All are beholden to shareholders (whether public, private or sole owner in the case of Bladnoch). All have an objective of maximising profit, whatever they may say. All will cease trading if their losses are too great.

In the brewing world, CAMRA invented the term "small independent" as distinct from "national" - and they defined six national groups and painted them to be demons producing bland beer. Eventually legislation came through to restrict big brewing companies, with a result that some of the bigger companies slimmed down and some of the smaller companies fattened up. The terms "national" and "small independent" are now still used, but in ever less meaningful ways.

I guess many people will try to create a definition of independent in the whisky world that includes Bruichladdich but excludes others for reasons that I don't quite understand. If the definition that people choose is membership or otherwise of the SWA then so be it. Ideally, though, distilleries would all agree on definitions and labelling whether or not they were members of the SWA. Personally, I will judge distilleries on their output and, I'm afraid, some of the "independents" probably ought to concentrate just a little more on making their whisky taste nicer.

By the by, the non-members strike me as being a bit like the non union members at work who proudly proclaim their independence, save on the subscriptions, but benefit from the union's collective bargaining for terms, conditions and pay.
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