The world of whisky can be confusing. With a plethora of different styles to try, varying interpretations from countries around the globe, and a rich history spanning hundreds of years of production, understanding what’s on offer is no simple feat. We, the team at Grain & Glass, do our best to demystify this enigmatic spirit, so you can find the whisky you love.

On your whisky journey, you may have come across the term “independently bottled” whisky; you may also have scratched your head as you wondered what on earth it is. Fear not, dear reader, today we’ll unpack the mysterious world of independently bottled whisky and why it should be high on your list of whiskies to try.

What is an Independent Whisky Bottler?

Whisky is a cask-aged spirit: we produce a clear spirit from a grain mash at a distillery and then fill a wooden cask with it. Over time, this clear spirit inherits the flavours of the cask, including any residual liquid locked-up in the wood if the cask we’re utilising has been used to hold other drinks before. For instance, a sherry cask matured whisky will take on the flavours and aromas from oak, but also any traces of sherry that reside in the wood. The particular rules around this process may differ between countries, but generally the concept is the same.

When creating a whisky, the vast majority of production time will be tied up in the maturation stage. In Scotland, the minimum period for cask maturation is three years, with most whiskies being aged far beyond this! A lot can change over this time, and, for various reasons, the distillery may decide to sell some of these maturing casks rather than bottle the contents themselves. In such a case, distilleries may sell the casks in question to another company who will either continue to mature the spirit or bottle it: this is our independent bottler.

An independent bottler is a company that doesn’t necessarily own a distillery or blend spirits but will buy casks of whisky, bottle them and sell them under their own branding. This can often be a source of confusion for those unfamiliar with the whisky world, as these bottlings may state the name of the original distillery from which the spirit was sourced but are labelled with unfamiliar branding.

Why Would I Buy Independently Bottled Whisky Over Distillery Bottlings?

Most distilleries have a clear vision and style that they adhere to. This makes for beautifully crafted whisky, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see what another team of passionate whisky enthusiasts could create with the same spirit? This is the bread and butter of independent bottling. Perhaps an independent bottler may choose to age the spirit for longer, perhaps they’ll transfer the liquid into a completely different style of cask for further maturation, or maybe they’ll release the whisky as a single cask bottling with only a couple of hundred bottles ever to be produced. Independent bottlers take casks from both large producers famous for their single malts and untypical distilleries that are rarely in the public eye, then create something unique and fascinating to expand the market and, ultimately, produce whisky we love.

Where Can I Try More Independently Bottled Whisky?

The team at Grain & Glass have been educating about whisky for over a decade. Through guided whisky tastings, our bar in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and our Whisky Birmingham festival, we’ve helped thousands become proud whisky lovers. As the appetite for whisky has grown, we’ve decided to start a brand-new festival in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter.

The Independent Whisky Market is a new whisky festival focusing on independently bottled whisky and passionate independent creators involved in the whisky scene. This exciting new festival offers attendees the opportunity to try interesting and often rare whiskies in a hidden gallery space. A ticket to the festival grants attendees access to sample all the fantastic whisky onsite, with representatives from the independent brands to explain the fascinating stories of how their whiskies came to be. If you find a whisky you love, you can buy a bottle to take home.

To find out more about The Independent Whisky Market in 2022, click here. Join us for the first ever instance of this exciting new festival.

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