Most people discover whisky through the Original Bottlings (OB) of the distilleries. This means generally the core range, some batches and the few rare single casks or limited editions. When your whisky journey moves forward, it is generally very interesting to try Independent Bottling (IB) of the distilleries you like. You can even try whisky of distilleries that do not have a core range and are mainly used for blends. Independent bottlings offer deviation from the original distillery taste. A cask that couldn't fit in the classic core range single malt, an experimentation with some finish in a different cask, a ABV that is higher than usual... Loads of reasons can explain why a distillery decides to sell a cask, generally though a broker, even if the whisky in it is very good. That also explains why the independent bottlers are always on the lookout for "the perfect" cask to bottle, either as a single cask or as a blend of a few casks. IB are therefore always in limited quantities, from a few hundred bottles to some thousands for the marriage of casks. In this article we'll present you three independent bottlers which generally provide high quality bottlings.
North Star Spirits (NSS)
North star spirits provide a pretty wide range of bottling, from very affordable blends to very rare, high end bottles. The quality, however, is always there and they put the same effort in choosing casks at lower price tags as choosing premium ones. NSS is a Glasgow based company and has been elected Independent Bottler of the year 2020 at the Scottish Whisky Awards. Their bottles are generally designed according to their main theme: the galaxy. They are already at their 14th series of single casks and also provide more and more blends such as the chaos range from Islay, Spica range, Vega range, etc...
At whisky-hamster you can find all the bottles of NSS right here: https://www.whisky-hamster.com/catalog?selectedBottlers=Xicwi5Fkqy3uk8Qev
but here is also a selection of a few bottles we particularly recommend:
CROFTENGEA 13 YEAR OLD 2007
Croftengea is a heavily peated whisky from the Loch Lomond distillery. Mainly used in blends you can find a few single casks on the market and this one is a great example. A 13-year-old single malt, aged in a refill hogshead, at a very affordable price tag. `
BLENDED GRAIN 1982 36 YEAR OLD SERIES 008
NSS is also very great at bottling old grain blends or single casks. To be able to get a 36-year-old whisky for less than £150 is an extremely good deal and an opportunity not to miss out on. Grain whiskies are too often misunderstood and considered as less good than single malt, but it's a great misconception. They have a different taste profile indeed, but that does not make them bad in any way.
TORMORE 1988 27 YEAR OLD
It is already a rare thing to drink a Tormore, just a few OB, not much more IB, but a Tormore that aged 27 years and got a Madeira finish is even rarer. Only 200 bottles were produced of this masterpiece, bottled at a cask strength of 51.5%.
Adelphi as an independent bottler was created in 1993 by Jamie Walker with the sole goal to bottle very top quality malt whiskies. They have since then fulfilled this goal perfectly. Their bottlings always represent quality and originality. In the recent years they have even opened their own distillery, Ardnamurchan, that started bottling whisky at the end of 2020. You can find various Adelphi bottlings right here: https://www.whisky-hamster.com/catalog?selectedBottlers=CixGxHbkBBugQwQX8. The price range is pretty wide for Adelphi, starting with very affordable blends and going up to the highest end of the spectrum in terms of rarity and price. Here is a little selection of three of their recent bottles.
ADELPHI PRIVATE STOCK BLENDED WHISKY
Let's start the selection with their most affordable bottle, which does not mean it's bad quality. For this ridiculous price tag of around £20 you get a surprisingly nice blend.
THE E&K BY ADELPHI
This cask strength, limited to 800 bottles, is a perfect example of great original whiskies that Adelphi can propose. A fusion of Scotch and Indian whisky that will please the amateurs who like to discover new things in the whisky world, without losing on quality. Perfectly mix Ardmore, Glenrothes and Amrut and you'll get the E&K!
ARDBEG 1976 - 21-YEAR-OLD
This was distilled at the time when Ardbeg still had their own malting floors, almost 50 years ago and bottled in 1997. This is a rarity that has a very hefty price, but owning this is like owning a piece of history!
Wemyss is also this type of independent bottler that can impress you with pretty affordable blends and next to it bottle a very rare single cask of an old Bowmore or Bunnahabhain. Founded in 2005, Wemyss malts is run by a brother and a sister, kin of the Scottish Wemyss family. They have a very great eye / nose / palate to find a great single cask to bottle, but also have a very advanced knowledge in the art of blending and creating wonderful whiskies from various distilleries. Their range is very wide, in price and in the various tastes, but I don't think you can go wrong with any of their bottlings. Hereunder is a selection of 3 specific bottles:
NECTAR GROVE BATCH STRENGTH - 54%
This is a personal favorite. A very affordable blended batch at cask strength and finished in Madeira casks from Portugal. You get a very floral and fruity drink with a high enough ABV not to make it flat. For less than £50 it is a wonderful grab.
LINKWOOD - SUMMER GARLANDS - 1997 - 21-YEAR-OLD
A single cask from Linkwood that was watered down to 46% is a great example of not too expensive, old whisky than Wemyss is capable of bottling. There are only 262 available of this bottle where you can expect a wonderful bouquet of flowers and fruits mixed together in a wonderful pie.
BOWMORE BLACK GOLD - 1989 - 30-YEAR-OLD
How not to end up this selection with a very high end product such a this rare Bowmore. Bottled in 1989, this 30-year-old Islay is something you would probably taste only a few times in your life. This pretty dark coloured whisky is supposed to give you hints of dark fruits, toffee, with a nice smoky feeling as well. A wonderful Bowmore at 50%, with only 175 bottles in circulation.