An introduction to… Independent whisky bottlers
What does it mean? How does it work? Let us explain…
If you’re new to the world of whisky, or even if you’ve dipped a few toes in and know your way around a bit, the concept of ‘independent bottlers’ can be a bit confusing.
When you buy whisky, most of it – in whatever shape and form it’s in – will be bottled by the people that produce it (known as an ‘original bottling’). However, that’s not always the case.
An independent bottler – like Chapter 7 – doesn’t own their own distillery, and doesn’t make their own whisky. But they bottle whisky which they’ve hunted out from various distilleries, usually under their own brand name. They’re basically like the ultimate whisky treasure hunters.
Independent bottlers will only usually bottle a single cask, so there’s no bulk buying happening here. They won’t usually add any colour to the whisky, or chill filter it (a process to remove ‘haze’ and residue from whisky), and it’s usually a higher alcohol strength (ABV).
The cool thing about independent bottlers is that they’re usually on the hunt for hard to find, rare stuff, and it’s usually at the more premium end of the whisky spectrum.
Some distilleries will allow an independent bottler to use their name on the bottle, whereas others ask independent bottlers to keep it secret because the process is out of their control. These are known as... ‘Secret Bottlings’. That makes tasting these whiskies even more exciting though, as through various clues in the taste of the whisky, you can sometimes work out which distillery a whisky has come from – although that is not an easy task!
Chapter 7's 2020 bottlings
One such independent bottler is Chapter 7. They hunt out whiskies and bottle those that are ‘extraordinary’. I mean, is there a cooler job?
They started out in 2014 bottling single casks from Scotland’s lesser known distilleries. They find those malts that are the backbones of famous blends but are only known to a select few in the know (told you independent bottlers are like whisky treasure hunters).
They uncover and find malts from Scotland and Ireland, as well as grain whiskies from Scotland, and they’ve recently started blending malts too, which is a whole other part of the whisky world.
The whiskies Chapter 7 decides to bottle are not driven by what sells faster. They like to experiment, surprise, and also take risks finding some atypical whiskies. Where’s the fun in keeping things the same right? Especially in the incredibly exciting world of whisky.
Chapter 7 bottles whiskies from single casks and also sometimes creates small batches with two to five casks. They’re one of the ones who keep things cask strength, don’t chill-filter, or add any colour. So the whisky is the whisky, as it came out the barrel.