As you might have noticed, we love independent bottling companies here at Whisky Foundation.
We’re mad about them.
We love seeing new independent bottlers getting started and releasing their first expression.
We love to see them bringing a new twist to a whisky that we didn’t think could get any better.
And, of course, we love to see people across the globe take an interest in the world of independent bottling.
(But most of all, we love drinking independent bottlings.)
And, while you can never go wrong with an IB from a classic independent bottling company – Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory Vintage or Maltman – there are independent bottling companies springing up all over the place.
Add this to the fact that independent bottling companies usually like to keep themselves to themselves and you end up with a load of independent bottlers flying under the radar and completely missing the attention of whisky drinkers everywhere (even ones that like to keep up to date with all things IB.)
And so, to remedy that, here are a few independent bottling companies you might have missed along your IB journey so far.
Independent bottling companies you might have missed:
The story of Compass Box is similar to the story of independent bottling; a story of bold decisions, a unique sense of style, and a focus on the craft.
In 2000, John Glazer (who used to be the International Marketing Manager at Johnny Walker, if the name rings a bell), launched Compass Box and travelled straight to London to promote it. Making his way through the pubs and clubs of the capital, he gave out samples of his whisky with a business card that described him as a ‘Whisky Zealot’. (He’d go on to win Whisky Magazine’s Innovator of the Year four times, so he wasn’t wrong…)
From there, John and the Compass Box Team concentrated on creating boutique whiskies with a focus on quality and craft. As such, you’ll find no chill-filtering or E-150 here, thank you very much.
Instead, Compass Box exclusively mature and finish their whiskies in American oak (Glazer is American) to give that distinct sweetness and vanilla notes to the whiskies.
Go on, take a punt at pronouncing that. (No Googling, thank you.)
(OK, I’ll tell you. Weems. It comes from the Gaelic word for the caves which stem from the rocky outcrop on the Firth of Forth on which Wemyss Castle, Wemyss Malt’s ancestral home, sits.)
Although Wemyss Malts was only started in 2005, the Wemyss family have connections with the Scotch industry that date back to the turn of the 19th century when John Haig (founder of Haig’s) built his first distillery on Wemyss land.
We like Wemyss Malts here at Whisky Foundation because of many reasons, but our favourite reason is that they avoid fluffy whisky terms. As they say on their website ‘even for the knowledgeable consumer, much of the malt whisky terminology can be confusing. Our range of hand crafted malts was conceived with the aim of making them more accessible and understandable.’
Their whiskies are pretty much the Ronseal of whiskies – they taste and smell like the name on the bottle.
From Driftwood to Fresh Fruit Sorbet, their cask strength independent bottlings are always bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and free from colouring. (And they’re excellent, too.)
But the level of craftmanship and thought extends beyond the name and the process, it extends right to the barrel. They only use first and second fill casks to make sure that they get the most flavour into the whisky as possible.
If you’re new to independent bottling – or new to whisky tasting – Wemyss are a great place to start.
Blackadder is the older independent bottling company on the list, but also – perhaps – the most interesting.
Founded by Robin Tucek in 1995, Blackadder (named after a Scottish rebel preacher Bishop John Blackadder, not Baldrick’s pal) believe in bottling whiskies in the most natural state possible. Obviously, this means cask strength, non-chill-filtered and free of colouring, but for the Blackadder Raw Cask series, this goes a step further: they are completely unfiltered (without any filtering whatsoever), which means it’s not uncommon to get bits of cask in the bottle.
Now that’s authentic.
Did we miss any? Do you know of an independent bottling company that deserves its moment in the sun? Let us know in the comments and we’ll write about them soon!