A guide to whisky Independent Bottlers

Whisky Independent Bottler Guide

Updated June 2023

What are Independent Bottlers?

If you are a whisky drinker, you will be familiar with single malt whisky brands like Balvenie, Dalmore, Macallan, etc. The bottles produced and sold directly by these distilleries are known as Official Bottlings since they are officially from the distillery itself with distillery's name and information plastered on the whisky label.

So what then are Independent Bottlings? These are bottles of whisky that have had their cask  purchased by reputable companies (or sometimes individuals) from the various distilleries and bottled under the brand of the Independent Bottler.

Reputable Independent Bottlers like Cadenhead, Gordon & Macphail and Signatory Vintage have built a huge following for their releases throughout the years.

What is the difference between an Official Bottler vs Independent Bottler

A short summary on the differences

The main difference is that Official Bottlers distill its own whisky and bottle it under the name of the distillery.

Independent Bottlers do not distill its own whisky, they are third party companies (or individuals) that purchase whiskies from distilleries and sell them under their own brand. Independent bottlers can choose to include or exclude the name of the distillery they purchased the whisky from.

In today's market, Official Bottlings are generally sold to the masses with its large volume and  consistency being excellent for the general whisky drinkers and bars.

Independent Bottlings attract a different crowd: whisky enthusiasts or fervent supporters of specific distilleries who may have grown bored of tasting the same whisky will look towards Independent Bottlers for a creative spin on their favorite distilleries!

Official Bottling vs Independent Bottling, which is better?

To put it simply, there is no real answer to which is better, it all comes down to what you prefer.

The difference between OBs & IBs can be simplified down to this:

OBs are produced by large distilleries that strive for consistency with their products. They mix a bunch of casks together and make alterations to achieve the original taste and strength of the bottle.

IBs are usually casks that are handpicked by reputable professionals from large distilleries and bottled only when the desired taste is achieved. This makes IBs unique as there may never be another bottle with the same exact taste profile, once all the bottles of the cask have been sold out its gone for good.

At the end of the day, it depends on your preference! Some prefer sticking with a safe and consistent choice whilst others prefer experimenting and trying out new and unique flavors. That's the wonder of the whisky world, there's always something for someone!

Independent Bottlers' Exclusive and Secret Bottlings

Diving deeper into Independent Bottlers, if you've shopped around for IBs you may have seen a few bottles with undisclosed distillery on the label. The reason for this is because some distilleries prohibit the use of their brand name on any independent bottle labels like Glenfiddich or Glenfarclas. Other distilleries like Glenmorangie are famous for not having any independent expressions.

Independent Bottlers provide a wider range of age statements, allowing drinkers to try out how a whisky tastes like in different points of its maturation stage.

Some Independent Bottlers provide access to distilleries that have already closed or rarely release single malts, this makes it very attractive for whisky enthusiasts as it may be otherwise incredibly expensive or difficult to obtain bottles from closed distilleries.

What is 'Teaspooning' in Whisky Terminology

This is a term you may come across when exploring the world of Independent Bottlings. Teaspooning is when distillers add just a teaspoon of another single malt or grain whisky into the cask before selling to an Independent Bottler. 

This act of teaspooning prevents the Independent Bottler from calling it a single malt whisky and selling it under the official distillery name!

As such, some Independent Bottlers will rename the malt and bottle it under that name.

Some of the famous Teaspooned Malts are:

  • Blairfindy (Glenfarclas)
  • Wardhead (Glenfiddich with a teaspoon of Balvenie)
  • Westport (Glenmorangie with a teaspoon of Glen Moray)
  • Kintail (Macallan)
  • Placemill (Glendronach)

You might be wondering, what are the impacts of teaspooning to a barrel of whisky? In terms of taste there is virtually no effect as a teaspoon of whisky in a standard barrel is so minute and as such has no impact on the overall taste. The only impact is as mentioned, Independent Bottlers won't be able to use the name of the distillery in their branding, thus this act of teaspooning can be seen as a distillery protecting its brand!

Where can I purchase Independent Bottles?

There are a myriad of Independent Bottlings out there to choose from with widely varying price points and age statements.

You can either purchase these from a reputable Independent Bottler like Thompson Bros or Cadenhead directly or go through whisky auction platforms.

These processes may to daunting to some, purchasing a full bottle of whisky that you may not be able to find a review of online given how obscure Independent Bottlings can get might put you off.

Not to worry! If you are in Singapore and are curious to try out Independent Bottlings, you can check out our list of open bottles and try them by the glass. Click HERE to be brought to our whisky tasting excel sheet and browse to your heart's content!

For the adventurous, shop our ever-growing list of Independent Bottlings on our site by clicking on the button below!


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