Independently bottled Scotch whiskies (IBs)—which are produced by Scottish distilleries, then sold to third party bottlers and often marketed as single cask selections—can be a key driver of high-end sales for both on-premise and off-premise operators. Scotland has a wide array of independent Scotch bottlers, which can vary dramatically in size, approach, and availability.
The IB model has its roots in 19th-century blending houses. Traditionally, most distilleries didn’t bottle their whiskies as single malts—with occasional exceptions. Instead, they sold their whiskies to third-party bottlers. The oldest IBs date back to this era, and some continue to purchase new-make spirit and age it in their own warehouses. Other, newer bottlers buy fully matured whisky, sometimes adding an extra finish in their own casks. Distilleries sell their casks for a variety of reasons—sometimes to reduce excess inventory or for a quick cash infusion, especially when the overall Scotch market is on the downswing. At other times, casks are sold because they simply don’t match with the house style. The following list details some of the most important independent Scotch bottlers currently available in the United States.
Key Independent Scotch Bottlers
Adelphi Selection: Named for a 19th-century distillery, the company was founded in 1993 and recently began producing whisky at the new Ardnamurchan distillery in the Western Highlands.. Adelphiselection.com
A.D. Rattray: Established in 1868, the company markets several blended Scotch whisky brands in addition to single cask bottlings. Adrattray.com.
Blackadder: Founded in 1995 and named for Bishop John Blackadder of Scotland, the company focuses on unfiltered single cask releases. Blackadder.com.
Chieftain’s: Along with sister IB Dun Bheagan, the label is part of Ian Macleod Distillers, which also markets the Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Isle of Skye and Smokehead brands. Ianmacleod.com/brands/chieftains.
Douglas Laing: Founded in 1948 by Fred Laing, the company is run by the third generation of the Laing family. In addition to single cask bottlings, it produces the popular Big Peat blended malt and other brands. Douglaslaing.com.
Duncan Taylor: The company, which was founded in 1938, purchases new-make spirit and matures it in its own barrels and warehouses. Duncantaylor.com.
Gordon & MacPhail: Founded in 1895 and based in Elgin in the Scottish Highlands, Gordon & MacPhail is one of the largest independent bottlers. The company purchases new-make spirit from distilleries and matures it in proprietary casks at its own warehouses. It also owns Benromach distillery in Speyside. Gordonandmacphail.com.
Hunter Laing: Founded in 2013 by another descendant of Fred Laing, the company bottles single casks and blended malts under the Old Malt Cask, Old and Rare, and Douglas of Drumlanrig labels. It recently announced plans to build a distillery at Port Askaig on Islay. Hunterlaing.com.
Murray McDavid: Founded by Mark Reynier, Gordon Wright and Simon Coughlin in 1996—who also purchased and re-established Bruichladdich distillery in 2000—the company was acquired by Rémy Cointreau along with Bruichladdich in 2012. The following year, whisky broker Aceo Ltd. purchased Murray McDavid, which is based out of the former Coleburn distillery in Speyside. Murraymcdavid.com
Scotch Malt Whisky Society: The Edinburgh-based group bottles Scotch and international whiskies and sells them directly to members and select on-premise operators. Smws.com.
Single Cask Nation: A membership-based company founded in 2011 in the United States, it bottles whiskies from Scotland, the United States and elsewhere. Singlecasknation.com.
Wemyss Malts: The Wemyss family, which has roots in Scotland dating back to the 1300s, established the company in 2005 in Edinburgh. The family also opened Kingsbarns distillery in Fife in 2014. Wemyssmalts.com.