Whisky investment is, as we’ve discussed, a relatively new type of investment. Bottles were all always available to drinkers but casks weren’t always readily traded. When it comes to casks, a large part of the industry is run by companies known as independent bottlers. With the biggest in Scotland, the IB (independent bottler) industry goes back decades to a time when whisky wasn’t anywhere near as popular as it is today. So, what is an independent bottler and what does this mean for you? Let’s find out.
Independent Bottlers 101
Put simply, independent bottlers were born through close ties to distilleries. Using these relationships, IBs began purchasing full casks of whisky from distilleries and moving it to their own warehouses. The goal was to start bottle brands of their own, with liquid from numerous distilleries. These bottlers only purchase the finest casks, as the quality goes hand in hand with this brand they have created. After purchasing large numbers of casks, these are left to mature before finally being bottled under the independent bottler’s brand and released to distributors and sellers in different markets.
Nowadays, the biggest and most popular IB brands include Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory, Samaroli, Cadenheads, and many more. Each brand has its own unique bottle design and feel, and tends to focus on certain brands, ages, and flavour profiles. The main appeal of independent bottlings is the vast variety of expressions and flavours that can be found. As single cask releases, each and every bottling will be different, which keeps fans coming back for more. Many bottlers are now large enough to purchase their own warehouses where they are able to move the liquid into different types of wood for unique finishes, which further adds to the myriad of available expressions.
Beyond flavour, the price of IB releases compared to official distillery bottlings (OBs) is much lower, thus making the expressions more accessible and drinkable. Official bottlings are more widely collected, especially the rarer, older expressions. OBs are the expressions that always reach record-breaking prices, but in recent years certain independent bottlers have grown, and through marketing and branding, have built very fanatic fan bases.
What This Mean For Cask Buyers
The progression of independent bottling brands means that today it’s easier than ever to start your own range of whisky bottles. Across the US, Europe, and Asia casks are bottled for bars, restaurants, companies, and even special events.
For cask owners, the fastest and safest strategy to exit their investment is, usually, to sell one their casks, which are now much older and much more valuable. However, should cask owners choose to bottle their cask, the process of labeling, bottling, and shipping is easy and transparent due to the growth of the IB industry. Beyond this, fun, creative labels and ranges are growing in popularity and thus, the concept it not unknown to drinkers the world over.
Independent bottlings were once shunned, but with the growth and progression of the whisky industry, the future is bright for IBs and the time to bottle your own cask isn’t far off.