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The Independent Bottler

It is possible for most anyone with reasonable business acumen, an abundance of patience and determination, after having acquired the necessary licenses, permits, etc. to purchase casks of Scotch Single Malt Whisky. One even has the option of bottling his casks with his own private label and selling the bottles if he has met the lawful stipulations of his particular locale.  The purchaser of bottlings from such private enterprises should be aware of several variables that should be of concern, IF the acquisition of a high quality Scotch single malt is his objective.

The quality of the independent bottling will depend on the original quality of the whisky stock that was purchased and what was done with it during the interim before it was bottled. Obviously, if the independent bottler purchases a high quality cask of whisky and immediately bottles it, or has the distillery to do so, the whisky will remain the same quality whisky that it was when it was purchased. However, if the bottler takes on the responsibility of diluting the whisky to a lower proof, or transports the cask to another location for further maturation, several other factors affecting the character of the whisky come to mind:

  • What was the quality of the water used for diluting the whisky?
  • Was the equipment used for bottling and dilution sanitary?
  • What were the qualifications and level of whisky production experience of the people involved in the independent bottling?
  • What were the quality standards and experience of the bottler?
  • What was the change in maturation environment?
  • What are the quality standards of the independent bottler?

There are other questions that can also be asked in reference to private bottlings, and time will usually provide the answers. Single malt purists tend to prefer their malts as directly from the cask in which it was matured as possible. This may include being bottled at cask strength with no chill-filtration prior to bottling. Properly handled, however, the experienced independent bottler can provide a high quality, and sometimes superior quality whisky, than is available from the whisky producer. Knowledge on the part of the consumer is required to determine the value of such bottlings, however.

There are some excellent independent bottling firms with which I have personal experience.  They include:

Cadenhead -- The oldest existing merchant bottler of Scotch single malts.  They have been in operation since 1842.  They bottle single cask bottlings at cask strength with no chill-filtration.  They include excellent tasting notes with each bottle which gives the purchaser some idea as to the general character of the malt before he purchases the bottle.

Gordon and MacPhail -- When in Elgin, a must visit is the famous Gordon and MacPhail grocery, deli, candy, meat, etc. store and see the outstanding inventory listing of single malts that they offer.  They also have a great inventory of miniatures.  They are located at 58-60 South Street in Elgin.

Additional independent bottlers with which I have had pleasant experiences include:

The Cooper’s Choice
Hart Brothers
Rare Malts
James MacArthur

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society -- In addition to being an independent bottler, this highly respected organization is a “private club.” Though they have been in existence only since 1983, their youth has provided the vigor to propel them into a most select and exclusive connoisseur environment.  The “team tasting” process by which they select the clubs single malts, which they subsequently offer for sale to their membership, is remarkable.  I have had the pleasure of being a taster on one of their official tasting sessions and was most impressed. The SMWS bottles all of the clubs malts as single cask bottlings and at cask strength without chill filtration. They provide detailed, and quite “colorful and creative” tasting notes for each cask of whisky. They use dark green bottles with a number code to identify the distiller of the malt. For instance a “15.6” designation on the bottle would be a Glenfiddich, Cask #6 single malt. The code reference is readily available and is printed below for your convenience.  This is a “must see” (and experience) when in Edinburg. Their headquarters and fabulous quaint bar is located at The Vaults, 87 St. Giles Street, Leith, Edinburg.

Distillery Code Names For 
Scotch Single Malt Whisky Society Bottlings

1.  Glenfarclas
2.  The Glenlivet
3.  Bowmore
4.  Highland Park
5.  Auchentoshan
6. Glen Deveron Macduff
7.   Longmorn
8.   Tamdhu
9.   Glen Grant
10. Bunnahabhain
11. Tomatin
12. Benriach
13. Dalmore
14. Talisker
15. Glenfiddich
16. Glenturret
17. Scapa
18. Inchgower
19. Glen Garioch
20. Inverleven (D)
21. Glenglassaugh 
22. Glenkinchie
23. Bruichladdich
24. The Macallan
25. Rosebank
26. Clynelish
27. Springbank
28. Tullibardine
29. Laphroaig
30. Glenrothes
31. Isle of Jura
32. Edradour
33. Ardbeg
34. Tamnavulin 
35. Glen Moray
36. Benrinnes
37. Cragganmore
38. Caperdonich
39. Linkwood
40. Balvenie
41. Dailuaine
42 Ledaig/Tobermorv
43. Port Ellen (M)
44. Craigellachie
45. Dallas Dhu (C)
46. Glenlossie
47. Benromach
48. Balmenach
49. St. Magdalene (D)
50. Bladnoch
51. Bushmills
52. Old Pulteney
53. Caol Ila
54. Abelour
55. Royal Brackla (C)
56. Coleburn
57. Glen Mhor (D)
58. Strathisla
59. Teaninich
60. Aberfeldy
61. Brora (C)
62. Glenlochy
63. Glentauchers
64. Mannochmore
65. Imperial
66. Ardmore
67. Banff (D)
68. Blair Athol
69. Glen Albyn
70. Balblair
71. Glenburgie
72. Miltonduff
73. Aultmore
74. North Port (C)
75. Glenury
76. Mortlach

77 Glen Ord/Glenordie
78. Ben Nevis
79. Deanston
80. Glen Spey
81. Glen Keith
82. Glencadam
83. Convalmore (C)
84. Glendullan
85. Glen Elgin
86. Glenesk (M)
87. Millburn (D)
88. Speyburn
89. Tomintoul
90. Pittyvaich
91. Dufftown
92. Lochside
93. Glen Scotia
94. Fettercairn
95. Auchroisk
96. Glendronach
97. Littlemill
98. Lomond
99. Glenugie (C)
100. Strathmill
101. Knockando
102. Dalwhinnie
103. Royal Lochnagar
104. Glencraig
105. Tormore
106. Cardhu
107. Glenallachie
108. Allt-a’Bhainne
109.  Mosstowie
110. Oban
111. Lagavulin
112. Inchmurrin
113. Braes of Glenlivet


KEY: (D) Dismantled (M) Maltings Only (N) New Distillery (C) Closed

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