Although every distillery has its own character – some more than others – sometimes the best way to understand the full scope and power of a distillery’s whisky is through the drams of independent bottlers.
An independent bottler is someone who will purchase casks of whisky from a distillery or cask trader and bottle them under their own label. All the rules are off as soon as that whisky has been removed from (or the bottlers might say “liberated from”) the ownership of the distilleries and their parent companies. The cask management, length of maturation and general treatment is then at the discretion of the bottler and it leads to some fascinating experimentation.
How good is Bunnahabhain’s peated whisky when it’s not just used by blenders? How much flavour is a Clynelish matured is casks so tired that it remains the colour of Sauvignon Blanc? How versatile is Dailuaine, know for being everything to everyone by blenders? How does the textural elegance so sought after by blends like Johnny Walker of Linkwood stand up against sherry casks? How intense is a young, peated Caol Ila?
Fair to say, we’re a little bit fascinated by the possibilities presented by independent bottlings and The Oak Barrel’s shelves are regularly full of them.
This year’s Fair will see a number of expressions on pour from a range of independent bottlers. Some buy whisky young and mature it themselves, others hunt in warehouses for casks really to bottle tomorrow.
Adelphi (One of the world’s highest regarded indie bottlers, with both current and archive expressions)
Berry Brothers & Rudd (As seen with our Australian exclusive expression)
Blackadder (The ones with the bits of cask in the bottle by Robin Tucek)
Gordon & MacPhail (Who hold some of the oldest and most sought after casks in Scotland)
Heartwood (Tasmania’s own indie bottler, Tim Duckett will be in attendance)
The Oak Barrel (With our own “Cask 37” release)
Port Askaig (An Islay label of The Whisky Exchange’s/industry legend Sukhinder Singh)
Rest & Be Thankful (Brand new into Australia from whisky merchants Fox Fitzgerald)
Signatory Vintage (One of Scotland’s most famous names and new into Australia)
The Ten Series (A numbered collection of educational but not necessarily entry-level whiskies from France’s La Maison du Whisky)
Wemyss Malts (A historic Scottish family name turns its attention to award-winning whiskies)
This list doesn’t include the Irish whiskies Hyde and The Irishman, whose ‘official bottlings’ are made up of whiskies from various Irish distilleries and thus can be considered independent bottlers. They’ll have stands at the Fair as well.
The distilleries on our Confirmed Whiskies page refers to the brands which have ‘official’ representation at this year’s Fair, and so distilleries that will appear through independent releases are not on that list.
For curiosities sake, here’s a full list of distilleries, again in alphabetical order.
There’s also one or two vattings of malt whiskies by indies as well as a couple of single malt from distilleries that haven’t been disclosed.
Top image of various casks in one of vGordon & MacPhail’s enviable warehouses.