Whisky Magazine Issue 106
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Ian Wisniewskiis a freelance journalist writing about spirits, particularly malt whisky and vodka. He contributes to various publications, has written several books on spirits, and gives regular talks and tutored tastings. He frequently visits distilleries, particularly in Scotland, spending as much time as possible discussing the production process
Isn't choice a wonderful thing, and we've never had so much. But it's still not enough.
As soon as we've tried a new release and shared our (authoritative) opinion, we can't help asking: what's next? Fortunately we never have long to wait, as distilleries are continually extending their portfolios with a selection of younger, older and middle-aged bottlings, showcasing a range of cask influences.
How things have changed. Until the 1980s so few distilleries released their own malts that independent bottlers were the main providers of choice. Gradually more distilleries got into DIY, and these proprietary bottlings now dominate the market, leaving independent bottlers in a very different place.
So, what are the options for an independent bottler to stay in the game? The obvious strategy is not duplicating what distilleries offer. But this doesn't mean coming up with ‘odd' numbers to avoid the usual denominations of 12, 15, 18 Years Old, and so on. In fact, there's no problem with numerical duplication, so long as there's some other differentiation.
A distillery bottling for example is usually blended from various casks in order to provide a consistent character every time, which the majority of consumers want. Meanwhile, independent bottlers offer various single cask bottlings that showcase the individuality of a particular cask, and for connoisseurs differences are more desirable than consistency.
Single cask status is usually accompanied by other essential credentials,...