Skip to content
Home » Understanding Independent Whisky Bottlers

Understanding Independent Whisky Bottlers

If you’ve attended whisky-related events or been around whisky enthusiasts that you’ve been told that specific whiskies as “OB” or “IB”. What are those terms?

In simple terms they refer to ‘Official Bottling and Independent Bottling’. OB is straightforward to define as they are expressions and bottles that are released by a specific distillery with its very own brand name or trademark.

Independent bottlings on the other on the other hand, are whiskies that were purchased from a distillery through an unrelated third party, and then released or sold under the brand name or trademark of the third party.

The most renowned independent bottler of all time is Cadenhead founded around 177 years ago, in 1842. Since the time there have been numerous independent bottlers available that range from the big ones such as The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) Douglas Laing and to smaller firms such as That Boutique-y Whisky Company, or even individuals such as Malaysia’s personal Eiling Lim.

Heck you could even Wholly Spirits is an independent bottler. We have one bottle of the Tears Of The Still series and we plan to release more releases in the near future.

It’s true that the world of bottlings made by independent distillers may be difficult at times However, many of the bottles available are not just excellent whiskies, but also have a piece of whisky’s past.

Here are a few points you need to be aware of about independent whisky bottlers

1.) They don’t create their own whisky.

In simple terms an independent bottler an organization that purchases whisky casks from various distilleries, mostly time mature whiskies that are in good condition and bottle them with their own custom-designed labelling and bottles.

A few major bottlers, like for example Gordon & MacPhail (Benromach) own distilleries, but. Douglas Laing has also recently constructed a distillery in Glasgow.

2.) Each release is different and unique

In contrast to official bottlings that are typically made up of malts, which creates a whisky which has a certain taste profile the distillery is looking for independent bottlings are distinct and distinctive expressions of a specific distillery.

If you’ve tried whisky from two casks at the same distillery made on the same date and made from the same kind of wood, or perhaps aged at the same time most likely, they’d differ from one others, as the wood makes sure that every whisky bottle is distinct.

For instance, Eiling Lim, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and SMWS have all produced Bowmore whiskies prior to. However, each of these Bowmores differs in terms of the year the cask, age and flavor.

3.) Some distilleries aren’t able to allow their brand names to be used on independent bottlings

Have you ever wondered why it is that you’ll find labels like “Orkney Malt” or “Speyside Malt in an IB label, instead of the name of the distillery? While some distilleries aren’t concerned about their labels on IB bottles however, there are distilleries that do not permit any use of their brand’s name on independent labelling labels for bottling.

This is why you rarely find any IB whisky bottler like Glenfiddich, Balvenie or Glenfarclas The distilleries will not let their whiskies be sold under any other name apart from their own.

It’s not that there aren’t whiskies produced by these distilleries available. There is the Scotch Malt Whisky Company is known for its whiskies not mention of names of distilleries on labels and instead the labeling is a specific code instead.

The code consists consist of 2 numbers the second giving the distillery’s name and the second indicating the number of casks of that distillery which were stored and bottled. For example, Cask 7.164 – the number 7 is the Longmorn distillery This is the 164th barrel from the distillery which has been purchased by SMWS.

4.) Certain distilleries “teaspoon” their whiskies

One method that certain distilleries stop independent bottlers from listing their whiskies on labels is to ‘teaspoon their casks prior to selling the bottles to bottlers who are independent. This is simply adding 1 teaspoon of a different grain or single malt whisky to the cask so that independent bottlers aren’t legally able to call that whisky as a single malt of the distillery in question.

5) A few IB whiskies are a part of whisky’s past

Independent bottlings are another of the options to sample whiskies that aren’t being made nowadays, particularly from distilleries that no more exist, such as Port Ellen, Brora, Littlemill, Rosebank and so on. There could be plans to revive a few of these distilleries that have closed however, the whisky that these new distilleries make won’t be as good as what they once were.