What are independent bottlers?

The original building hosting Gordon and MacPhail

The original building hosting Gordon and MacPhail

Imagine you like whisky, but do not have the desire or funds to set up a distillery of your own. What to do if you’d still like to sell whisky? Enter independent bottlers.

Most distilleries will focus on their core business (either producing spirits for use in blending, or to sell as Single Malt), but will allow third parties to purchase some of their casks. This could be for purely financial reasons (i.e. the indepent bottler is willing to pay very well for a cask of their liking), or because a specific cask’s contents does not meet the distillery standards. In the latter case, this does not mean the cask is of lesser quality (though it very well could be), but the style simply might not be consistent with what the blender is expecting.

Independent bottlers can provide non-typical whisky from a distillery by differentiating with several techniques. As an example, they can choose to provide Cask Strength spirit, rather than diluting, or to provide bottles at different ages than the distillery standards.

The history of independent bottling can be traced back as far the mid 1800s, when Cadenhead’s already are selling and marketing whisky under their own name. Others soon followed suit, but Cadenhead’s and Gordon And MacPhail (initially a grocery company based in Elgin) were the only ones surviving until recent times. In the 1980s, Signntory started selling independent bottles.

List of independent bottlers

Adelphi (Established in 1826, but bottling independently since 1993. Owners of the Ardnamurchan distillery).

Cadenhead’s (World’s oldest independent bottler, owned by J. & A. Mitchell and Co, who also own the Springbank and Glengyle distilleries)

Douglas Laing (Known for their Remarkable Regional Malts series)

Duncan Taylor

Gordon & MacPhail (Known for their Connoisseurs Choice series, and owners of the Benromach distillery)

Hunter Laing (Old malt Cask) and owners of the Ardnahoe distillery.

Ian MacLeod (Chieftan’s bottlings, and owners of Glengoyne and Tamdhu)

Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Rather than using a distillery name, SMWS refers to distilleries by numbers).

Signatory (who own the Edradour distillery)

Specialty Drinks (Responsible for (among others) Port Askaig and Elements of Islay)