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Home ยป What is an independent whisky bottler?

What is an independent whisky bottler?

If you’ve attended whisky events or met whisky enthusiasts that you’ve seen them refer to specific whiskies with the letters IB or OB. What does that mean?

Simply put they refer to ‘Official Bottling as well as Independent Bottling. OB is straightforward to define as they are expressions and bottles that are released by a specific distillery, under their own brand or name.

Independent bottlings, on other on the other hand, are whiskies that were purchased from a distillery owned by another party, and later packaged or sold under the brand name or trademark of the third party.

The longest-running independent bottler in the world is Cadenhead founded around 177 years ago in 1842. Since the time there have been numerous independent bottlers available with a range of brands from major ones such as The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) Douglas Laing and to those run by smaller firms such as That Boutique-y Whisky Company, or even individuals such as Malaysia’s personal Eiling Lim.

Heck it’s even Wholly Spirits is an independent bottler. We have one release from the Tears Of The Still series and we plan to release more releases in the near future.

It’s true that the world of bottlings made by independent distillers may be difficult at times But many of the bottles available are not just excellent whiskies, but also include a bit of whisky’s history.

Here are a few points you need to be aware of about bottlers who are independent.

1.) They don’t produce their own whisky.

In simple terms an independent bottler an entity that buys whisky barrels from a variety of distilleries, mostly time mature whiskies that are at the proper age and bottles them in their own custom-designed labelling and bottles.

A few major bottlers, like for example Gordon & MacPhail (Benromach) own distilleries, but. Douglas Laing has also recently constructed a new distillery near Glasgow.

2.) Each release is distinct and distinctive.

In contrast to official bottlings that typically consist of made up of malts, which produces a whisky that is a particular taste profile the distillery is looking for independent bottlings are distinct and distinct expressions of a specific distillery.

If you’ve tried whisky made from two casks of the same distillery made on the same date and made from the same kind of wood, or perhaps released at the same time it is likely that they will differ significantly from each other because the wood makes sure that every whisky bottle is distinct.

For instance, Eiling Lim, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and SMWS have all produced Bowmore whiskies prior to. However, each of these Bowmores differs in terms of the year and cask, age and taste.

3.) Certain distilleries won’t permit their labels to be included in independent bottlings

Have you ever wondered why you’ll see labels such as Orkney Malt’ or Speyside Malt or ‘Speyside Malt’ on an IB label rather than the distillery’s name? While some distilleries aren’t concerned about their labels on IB bottles however, there are distilleries that do not permit any use of their name on independent labelling labels for bottling.

It’s the reason you don’t often get IB whisky bottlers like Glenfiddich, Balvenie or Glenfarclas These distilleries won’t let their whiskies be sold under a different name than their own.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t whiskies made by these distilleries available. There is the Scotch Malt Whisky Company is known for its whiskies not including that the distillery’s name on the label, and instead the labeling is a specific code instead.

The code is made up in two figures, the second giving the distillery’s name as well as the number of casks that come from the distillery that were taken to be bottled. For example, Cask 7.164 – the number 7 is the Longmorn distillery This is the 164th barrel from the distillery which has been purchased by SMWS.

4.) Certain distilleries “teaspoon” their whiskies

One method that certain distilleries block independent bottlers from listing their whiskies on labels is to ‘teaspoon their casks before transferring their bottles directly to the independent bottlers. This is simply adding 1 teaspoon of a different grain or single malt whisky to the cask so that independent bottlers cannot legally label that whisky as a single malt of the distillery they are selling it to.

5) A few IB whiskies are a part of whisky’s past

Independent bottlings are one of the only ways to taste whiskies that aren’t produced nowadays, particularly from distilleries which no longer exist, such as Port Ellen, Brora, Littlemill, Rosebank and so on. There could be plans to revive a few of these distilleries which have been closed but the whisky that these new distilleries will produce won’t be quite as great as the ones they were in the past.