If you dive into the world of Scotch Whisky head first and start exploring – eventually you will ram into the Less well-known world of Independent Bottlers.
Independent Bottlers of whisky may not all be very well known, but for a consumer, enthusiast and collector alike the role they play is vital.
On Tuesday, August 8th I ran a Indie Bottle tasting at Kensington Wine Market. Here is the lineup we tasted our way through as a group:
Exclusive to KWM. This 10 year old Miltonduff is part of Gordon & Macphail’s Distillery Label series. It is exclusive to KWM in Calgary, and our Day 8 whisky, in the 2016 Whisky Advent Calendar. It is the closest thing to an official bottling of Miltonduff ever to come to Canada.
Gordon & MacPhail is one of the oldest Independent Bottlers around. Originally founded in 1895 in Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail was originally a grocer and has made a name for itself by bottling many amazing and sometimes old single malts – including the oldest Glen Grant and Mortlachs to every be bottled at 70 and 75 years old respectively.
The company takes sourcing whisky a step beyond many other bottlers by filling their own casks at different distilleries in batches, then ageing it at the distillery warehouses or facilities of their own. Many bottlings such as their Distillery Label line are bottled at 40% or 43% ABV making them a good place to look for well-priced whisky and alternatives to official bottlings.
The Vintage Malt Whisky Company was founded in 1992. It owns The Highlands & Islands Scotch Whisky Company which bottles Finlaggan and Ileach. It also bottles the Cooper’s Choice line – which has recently been releasing some amazing old whisky from closed and demolished distilleries such as Lochside and Garnheath. Much of what they release is bottled at 46% ABV.
The 1972 Family Silver Blend showcases the kind of incredibly unique whisky you can find nowhere else but an independent bottler. This is a one-off single barrel of 480 bottles that happens to be a blend of 3 different distilleries. All of the whisky was distilled in 1972. It was bottled in 2017 and is 44 years of age. The most impressive thing about this bottle is the makeup of the blend. The back label states it is a blend of 60% Grain and 40% Malt whisky from 3 distilleries. The Distilleries in question are Lochside, Garnheath, and Invergordon.
Lochside and Garnheath don’t get many bottlings from anybody these days. The reason for that? They are both long since closed and demolished. Only Invergordon remains producing today.
Cadenhead Glen Moray 25yr KWM Cask
2017 is a landmark year for many reasons. We are celebrating Kensington Wine Market’s 25th Anniversary this year. Canada also turned 150 years young back on July 1st. If you combine those two ages you hit 175 years – which is how old Independent bottler W.M. Cadenhead turns this year. Founded in 1842 in Campbeltown – Cadenhead is the oldest Scottish Independent Bottler.
Owned by the same person that owns the Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries in Campbeltown – they also have probably one of the most eclectic and vast collections of all independent bottlers around.
While Glen Moray was treated a secondary malt by its previous owners up until it was sold to La Martiniquaise in 2008, it has managed to develop a bit of a cult following – especially for indie bottlings. Part of the reason for this seems to be the malt’s ability to become interesting in any barrel you put it in – or least just about every single barrel released by an independent bottler.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society 41.78
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was started in the 1970s as a private scotch club by Pip Hills as a means to bottle single casks for him and some of his friends. It is now the largest Scotch Club in the World which privately bottles single casks of Scotch for its 25,000 plus members through 17 chapters around the world. The Canada chapter of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – or SMWS Canada – was founded just about six years ago by Rob & Kelly Carpenter.
SMWS bottles are available to purchase only by members and are only available through exclusive retailers such as the Kensington Wine Market and partner bars.
SMWS 41.78 – Poker Night Whisky – is the first SMWS bottle exclusive to Canada. Like all SMWS bottlings – the distillery is not listed on the bottle. If you do a little web searching for SMWS codes you will find out that the distillery originally responsible for this cask is Dailuaine.
POKER NIGHT WHISKY
Matured in a 1st fill barrel, this 11 year old Speysider is 60.4%
Flavour profile: Young & spritely
Outturn: 114 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: ”It starts with fresh and prickly aromas of pear drops, beeswax polish, cereals and tonic water. The taste is hot, sweet, spicy and dry – bubble-gum, fragrant honey and tart kiwi fruit. Water really helps to open up and now there’s much more for the nose to enjoy. Pralines, milk chocolate, pine cones, coconut, icing sugar and a hint of lime. The mouthfeel is thicker (creamy) too and the sweet flavours are of Sauternes wine, peach, mango, coconut and light spices. It’s a dram that’s best shared with others.”
Drinking tip: ”With friends around the poker table”
The Whisky Agency is a German Independent Bottler founded by Carsten Ehrlich in 2008. Ehrlich is part of a group that annually runs The Whisky Fair in Limburg, Germany which is considered one of the greatest whisky festival/conventions in the world. Single Cask bottles from the Whisky Agency and other like-minded bottlers such as Maltbarn and Jack Wiebers are typically bottled at cask strength.
Old Malt Cask Glenallachie 24yr
Glenallachie is an interesting distillery to talk about because it was formerly owned by Chivas Bros./Pernod Ricard. Used mostly in blends such as Clan Campbell – this is a distillery that many are not familiar with or possibly have not even heard of. Glenallichie was founded in 1967 and is located in Aberlour, Banffshire which itself is within the region of Speyside.
What makes this distillery worth keeping an eye on is the fact that it was just sold to a group led by Billy Walker. Walker previously lead a group that bought BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh – bringing those three distilleries into prominence with some amazing releases over the past decade.
Old Malt Cask is one of many lines owned and bottled by Hunter Laing. Originally Part of Douglas Laing, Hunter Laing was created when the company’s two brothers split everything in 2013. Much of the Old Malt Cask series is bottled at 50% ABV though there are occasionally cask strength releases as well.
Berry’s Own Caol Ila 1997
A very interesting new 18-year-old single cask Caol Ila, at a good price… exclusively available in Canada from KWM, we don’t expect these to last long. This single cask of Caol Ila, 14/1001, from Berry Brother’s & Rudd has curiously been bottled at 40%, which is unusual for the distillery.
Berry Bros. & Rudd is Great Britain’s oldest Wine Merchant. It was founded in 1698. They have only been bottling single malt for a relatively short period of time though, starting in 2002 with their Berry’s Own line. Though they do release some cask strength offerings, many of their releases are bottled at 46% ABV.
Thank you to everybody in attendance and a big thank you to Cured Delicatessen for providing the food compliment!
Cheers and until next time,