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Issue 43 - Independent spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 43
October 2004


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Independent spirit

Independent bottlers have driven innovation in the industry. But what future do they have? Ian Wisniewski investigates

Alongside a few pioneers such as The Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet, private bottlers were instrumental in helping to develop the malt
whisky market.

During the 1980s, for example, various malts were only available from independent bottlers. But with more distilleries releasing a broader range of expressions, the market has completely changed. So, what are the current prospects for independent bottlers?

But first let's define independent bottlers as meaning anyone releasing malts under a brand name, while also stipulating the distillery of origin (distinct from companies bottling under a brand name with no mention of a distillery). A more literal definition could include owning a bottling
line, which applies to a minority such as Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory, Ian Macleod and Douglas Laing.

A few independent bottlers, including Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas Laing and Ian Macleod, purchase new make spirit aged either at the distillery or a distillery's centralised warehousing. It's effectively a case of renting warehouse space during maturation.

Extensive malt fillings, originally intended to provide a good selection of malts for use in blends, have provided independent bottlers such as Ian Macleod Distillers and Douglas Laing with a broad range of stock.

“We've got 70,000-80,000 casks to choose from, that's the reason we became independent bottlers, and we started bottling Chieftain's Choice for Japan in the 1970s,” says Leonard Russell of Ian Macleod, which was formed ...

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