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15 Independent Whisky Bottlers to Discover

Updated: Mar 29

Independent whisky bottlers

Independent bottlers are often overlooked in the world of whisky. When blended whiskies first emerged in the 1800s, many were produced and sold at grocery stores and merchant houses, some of which have since become well-known brands. Names like John Walker, James Gordon, John Alexander MacPhail, William Cadenhead, and John Dewar started out in family-owned stores, creating and selling their own whisky blends from barrels. During that time, tea, coffee, wine, and whisky were the most profitable assets for many grocers, leading some to become exclusive whisky and spirits merchants with bonding warehouses.


Although these companies started small, some expanded into distilling and owning distilleries, such as John Walker. Others focused on blending and bottling whiskies sourced from other distilleries for financial reasons or their vision for the company's future solely as independent bottlers.


When single malts emerged in the 1960s, many independent bottlers were at the forefront of bottling whiskies from multiple distilleries, laying the groundwork for many brands that now bottle single malts. These early releases served as a testing ground for the demand for malt whiskies when the distilleries were not interested in bottling them. Although most distilleries survive because they are essential components in blends, many distillery names might have been long forgotten without independent bottlers.


In the 21st century, the high demand for whisky led to the establishment of multiple independent bottlers offering blends, grain whiskies, and single cask and small batch single malt releases—often bottled at cask strength, which might not be available from the distillery itself. Some also purchase young or unaged spirits from the distillery and age them in their chosen casks, adding their unique touch to the whisky.


In recent years, many companies aspiring to own a whisky distillery have started their journey by selling independently bottled spirits to raise funds. Whether they continue to bottle other distilleries' spirits after releasing their whisky remains to be seen.


This article has compiled information about 15 independent bottlers, from the oldest wine and spirits merchants to some of the newest entries in the category. We hope you enjoy digging!



 

Berry Bros & Rudd


As the UK's oldest wine and spirits merchant, the London-based Berry Bros & Rudd started as a grocer in 1698, established by a widow named Bourne. She set up shop across from St. James's Palace, which in that year became the official principal residence of the monarch. In 1760, the firm first supplied the British Royal Family under George III.


It wasn't until 1810 that a man named George Berry took over the family business, and Berry's name first appeared outside the shop. Berry shifted the company's focus from tea and coffee to wine, and in 1845, his two sons took over the business, hence the name Berry Brothers. By the end of the 19th century, the company became an exclusively wine and spirits merchant.


Berry Bros & Rudd London

Image by Berry Bros & Rudd


Hugh Rudd, a wine merchant returning from war, joined Berry Bros. in 1920. When Prohibition was established in America, Berry Bros.'s products became in great demand in the Bahamas, a popular stop for smugglers. Berry's first independently bottled all-malt whiskies appeared in the 1920s, as did the Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky, launched in 1923, with an iconic label designed by Scottish artist James McBey. In the 1930s, the company also introduced the St. James's blend for the US market.


In the 1940s, Berry Bros & Co. became a limited company, and due to the crucial role Hugh Rudd played in the company, it was renamed Berry Bros. & Rudd Ltd. The independent bottling side of the business experienced a surge in the number of single malt bottlings in the 1970s.


From 2010 to 2017, Berry Brothers 'borrowed' the Glenrothes distillery and single malt brand from The Edrington Group.


The company continues to bottle whiskies, cognac, rum, and gin under the Berry Bros & Rudd label. The huge independently bottled whisky selection includes single malts and blends, as well as rye and grain, from all over the world. The line underwent a rebranding in 2021, which introduced a new glass shape, tweaked, easier-to-read labels, and a core line of blended malt bottlings with colour-assigned labels.


Indie Bottlers Berry Bros & Rudd whiskies

Images by Berry Bros & Rudd



 

Cadenhead's


Scotland's oldest independent bottler, Cadenhead's, was established in 1842 in Aberdeen by a vintner and distillery agent, Mr George Duncan. The booming Wine & Spirit Merchants became a family business when Duncan was joined a little over ten years later by his poet brother-in-law, William Cadenhead. Working first as a travelling salesman for the company, Cadenhead took over the business in 1858 and renamed it after himself.


Indie Bottlers William Cadenhead

Image by Cadenhead's


Cadenhead ran a lucrative business but passed away in 1904, leaving the company to his nephew, Robert W. Duthie. Duthie was a vigorous advertiser who focused on single malt whiskies and rums, setting up campaigns at social events. He also developed Cadenhead's brand whiskies, the deluxe blend Putachieside and The Hielanman.


With the struggles caused by the Great Depression, William Cadenhead's Limited fell on hard times. In 1931, on his way to a bank, Duthie was run over by a tram. He left no heirs to pass along the business to, and his two sisters decided to give the reins to a long-time employee, Miss Ann Oliver. Unfortunately, Miss Oliver made multiple lousy business decisions, and the vast company stock of whiskies was ultimately sold through Christie's in 1972 in London. The auction lasted two days and was the biggest of its kind at the time, with a 167-page catalogue.


What was left at the company, its premises and a large stock of glass bottles was purchased by Mr Hedley Wright, the owner of J&A Mitchell. As the owner of Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, Wright desperately needed glass bottles, which were becoming more challenging to get a hold of at the time. He had acquired Cadenhead's because of the bottles but never received them. The premises in Aberdeen were sold, and the company headquarters moved to Campbeltown. Since then, Cadenhead's has established shops in Edinburgh and London.


Some of Cadenhead's most famous bottlings were released in the 1980s in dumpy black bottles and the first Longrow whiskies from Springbank distillery. The company continues to bottle single malts, blends, rums, and Old Raj gin.


Indie Bottlers Cadenhead's whiskies

Images by Cadenhead's / The Whisky Exchange



 

Gordon & MacPhail


Gordon & MacPhail was established in 1895 in Elgin, at the heart of Speyside, by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail as a grocery store dealing with tea, coffee, wines, and whisky. Shortly after it opened, John Urquhart joined the company as an apprentice.


Urquhart developed a strong interest in Speyside whiskies, learning the craft of selecting, purchasing, and maturing them. When he became a senior partner in 1915, he devoted more time to making the business a renowned whisky purveyor, purchasing casks of single malts and new make spirits from various Speyside whisky distilleries.


In 1933, George Urquhart, the second generation of the family, took over the business. In 1940, Gordon & MacPhail purchased casks from The Glenlivet distillery, which would eventually be bottled as some of the oldest whiskies in the world. During the war years, the company survived by selling large quantities of stock, filled into casks during the 1930s and '40s, to the US.


Indie Bottlers Gordon & MacPhail History in pictures

Images by Gordon & MacPhail - John, George & Ian Urquhart


In 1967, George was joined by his eldest son, Ian Urquhart. A year later, in 1968, George played a pivotal role in lifting the image and popularity of single malts by creating the now-legendary Connoisseurs Choice range. At a time when many distilleries didn't bottle their own single malts, Gordon & MacPhail led the way by bottling unofficial official single malts from distilleries like Glen Grant and Mortlach. George also travelled extensively around Scotland, acquiring whiskies to be matured in his own casks.



Ian was appointed as the managing director of Gordon & MacPhail in 1990. The company moved its headquarters from above the shop in Elgin to custom-built offices and duty-paid warehouses named George House on Boroughbriggs Road. Under Ian's guidance, the company achieved its dream of owning and operating its first distillery when it acquired Benromach distillery in 1993. It took five years of renovations to reopen the distillery in 1998.


Gordon & MacPhail is still owned and operated by members of the Urquhart family - now in its fourth generation - but the company's corporate agenda is changing. The second G&M distillery, The Cairn, was opened in October 2022. Only two months later, the company announced that it would stop purchasing whiskies from other producers and focus on its own distillates from the two distilleries. This change may take time to notice by consumers regarding the independent bottlings of G&M. The company will continue to bottle the ten years' worth of stock it owns, which were distilled at other distilleries.


The famous bottlings from G&M include some of the oldest whiskies ever bottled - Glenlivet 1940 70yo Generations (released in 2011), Glenlivet 1943 70yo Private Collection (bottled in 2013), Glen Grant 1948 72yo (released in 2020), Mortlach 1939 75yo Generations (bottled 2015) and Glenlivet 80yo The Generations (released in 2021).

Indie Bottlers Gordon & MacPhail whiskies

Images by Gordon & MacPhail



 

Duncan Taylor


Duncan Taylor & Co. was established 1938 in Glasgow as a cask broker and trading company. In the 1960s, Abe Rosenberg, a native of New York who had made his fortune importing J&B Scotch to America just after World War II, bought the Scottish-owned Duncan Taylor & Co. He began storing casks purchased from premium distilleries and established the brand with multiple bottlings of single malt, blended, and grain whiskies. During Rosenberg's reign, he filled the warehouses with 4,500 casks of whisky, which later became extremely valuable.


The company's modern history starts in 2002 when Euan Shand, an ex-employee of the Glendronach distillery, acquired the firm and its stocks of whisky and moved the company to his hometown of Huntly in Aberdeenshire. He also resurrected the 1864-introduced brand of Black Bull whisky in 2009.


Duncan Taylor releases a wide range of whisky bottlings and a limited amount of rum and gin. From The Octave and Dimensions series to The Rarest and the namesake blends, the independent bottler ensures there is a whisky for every occasion.


Indie Bottlers Duncan Taylor whiskies

Images by Duncan Taylor



 

Douglas Laing


Established in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, Douglas Laing & Co. has a long-standing tradition of maturing, blending, and bottling whiskies. The Laing family runs the independent company, now in its third generation. Its impressive portfolio includes ranges such as Old Particular, XOP, Provenance, Double Barrel, and Premier Barrel, as well as regional blended malts like Timorous Beastie and Big Peat.


Indie Bottlers Douglas Laing whiskies

Images by Douglas Laing

 

Hunter Laing


In 2013, Stewart Hunter Laing separated from Douglas Laing & Co. when he and his brother Fred decided to divide the company's stock and go their separate ways. Stewart introduced his own range of whiskies, including Old & Rare, The Old Malt Cask, The First Editions, Hepburn's Choice, and Distiller's Art single-cask single malts. Additionally, he launched The Sovereign series dedicated to bottling single-grain whiskies. The company also bottles a range of rums under the Kill Devil label.


Indie Bottlers Hunter Laing whiskies

Images by Hunter Laing



 

Signatory Vintage


Signatory was founded by Andrew and Brian Symington in 1988 as an independent bottler of single malt and grain whiskies. The company is well-known for its Cask Strength Collection, bottled in glass decanters, and the Un-chillfiltered range, bottled at 46%. Signatory offers a wide variety of bottlings at any given time.


The company also bottles Hogshead Blended Malt whisky, which first appeared in the early 2010s, reportedly made with around 30% Islay malt.


Since 2002, the company has owned the old title-holder of 'Scotland's smallest distillery', Edradour in Perthshire. The distillery used to be Scotland's smallest. However, since the distillery's takeover from Pernod Ricard, the company has bottled multiple unofficial official bottlings of Edradour under the Signatory label, which can be confusing.


Indie Bottlers Signatory Vintage whiskies

Images by Signatory Vintage



 

Adelphi


The Adelphi independent bottler traces its origins back to 1826 when Charles and David Grey established the Loch Katrine Adelphi distillery in Glasgow. In 1880, the distillery came under the ownership of Walker & Co, which stopped producing malt whisky in 1907 and instead installed Coffey stills to make grain whisky. The distillery was eventually demolished in 1971 to make way for Glasgow Central Mosque.


Fast-forward to 1993, when Jamie Walker, the great-grandson of Archibald Walker, revived the Adelphi name by creating an independent whisky bottling company. Just ten years later, Keith Falconer and Donald Houston were so impressed by what they saw at the Adelphi warehouses that they bought the company. Alex Bruce, a descendant of Andrew Usher, who is credited with creating blended whiskies, joined the team at Adelphi and worked vigorously to build the brand name among whisky enthusiasts.


Adelphi opened its Ardnamurchan distillery in Argyll, Scotland, in 2014 and released the first bottling of aged spirit in 2016.


Over its 30-year journey, Adelphi has bottled various single malts, blends and some rums. One of its most notable releases is The Glover world blend whisky fusion series, launched in 2015 and named after the Scottish samurai Thomas Blake Glover. In 2023, the company also launched a blended Scottish whisky called MacLean's Nose.


Independent bottler Adelphi Selection whiskies

Images by Adelphi



 

That Boutique-y Whisky Company


Sister company to Master of Malt and Maverick Drinks, That Boutique-y Whisky Co was established in 2012 by Atom Brands as one of its independent bottling ranges. It is dedicated to bottling whiskies in 50cl bottles from all over the world. The range includes single malts, blended malts, blended and grain whiskies, ryes, and bourbons.


As a versatile independent bottler that offers whiskies wrapped in cartoon-inspired artwork labels, the repertoire also includes a small-batch core range of 70cl bottlings —launched in September 2023.

Indie Bottlers That Boutique-y Whisky Company range

Images by That Boutique-y Whisky Co

 

Malts of Scotland


Malts of Scotland was founded in 2009 by German whisky entrepreneur and Keeper of the Quaich Thomas Ewers. The company bottles single-cask whiskies under multiple sub-labels, including Amazing Casks, Angel's Choice, Range 46, Malts of India, and Malts of Ireland. Malts of Scotland also offers three bottlings under its Basic Line: 10-year-old Peat, 15-year-old Sherry, and 18-year-old Classic.

Indie Bottlers Malts of Scotland whisky range

Images by Malts of Scotland



 

Thompson Brothers


Thompson Brothers Phil and Simon established their small Dornoch distillery in 2016 in the old fire station at the back of Dornoch Castle Hotel. In September 2023, they were granted planning permission to build a purpose-built distillery extension on site, simply called Dornoch South. As a side hustle, the distillery also produces gin.


In addition to distilling, Thompson Brothers has also worked as an independent whisky bottler since 2013. Initially trading as Philip & Simon Thompson, the company has released single-cask single malts, grain whiskies, and blended malts and rums.


Indie Bottlers Thompson Brothers whiskies

Images by Thompson Bros

 

Gleann Mor Spirits Company


Derek Mair established the Scottish Gleann Mor independent bottler in Edinburgh in the Leith area of Edinburgh in 2015 by Derek Mair. The company first operated from Mair's home kitchen, but soon, Gleann Mor acquired a production facility with a stillhouse. Even though the company produces multiple gin and rum brands, including the Leith spirits range and Farkin gin, they also bottle multiple whisky lines, including Rare Find single-cask expressions and Whisky Row blended whiskies.

Indie bottlers Gleann Mor Spirits Company whiskies

Images by Gleann Mor Spirits Co



 

Elixir Distillers


Elixir Distillers was established in 2017, following its predecessor, Speciality Drinks' first independent bottlings, launch in 2005. The company was founded by brothers Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, who created the well-known whisky and spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange in 1999. In 2022, Elixir Distillers became its own entity after Pernod Ricard acquired all its sister companies, including The Whisky Exchange, Whisky.auction, and Speciality Brands.


Currently, Elixir Distillers' portfolio includes various whisky ranges, from the single cask series Single Malts of Scotland (first launched in 2005) to small-batch releases of Elements of Islay (launched in 2006) and Port Askaig (introduced in 2009), as well as Highland Nectar whisky liquor and the Macbeth series. Past releases include innovatively labelled London Whisky Show bottlings and the exquisite Geisha series dedicated to Japanese Karuizawa whiskies. The company benefits from having an in-house graphic designer, Raj Chavda, to design labels for the abundance of releases.


In 2022, Elixir Distillers acquired its first operational distillery, Tormore, from Pernod Ricard. The newly built Portintruan distillery on Islay is set to open for business in 2024.


Indie Bottlers Elixir Distillers whiskies

Images by Elixir Distillers



 

Morrison Distillers


The Aberargie distillery was opened by Morrison Distillers in 2017. They also offer bottlings of Mac-Talla Islay single malt, Old Perth blended malt, and whisky liquor Bruadar. The company is owned by Brian and Jamie Morrison, who took over the sole ownership of Morrison & Mackay in 2019. This company was founded in 2014 and is the successor of John Murray & Co., founded in 1982. Based in Fife, the company's independent bottling arm offers single cask single malt whiskies under the Carn Mor label, which was rebranded in 2020.

Indie Bottlers Morrison Distillers whiskies

Images by Morrison Distillers

 

Decadent Drinks


Based in Perth, Decadent Drinks was established in 2019 as an independent bottler by Angus MacRaild - known for his satirical whisky site, Whisky Sponge, which he started in 2013. The company bottles whisky under the Whisky Sponge name, extending to other spirits categories with Cognac Sponge and Rum Sponge.


Decadent Drinks offers a range of whiskies from single-cask and small-batch single malts and grains to blended malts and blends, mainly sourced from Scotland. Despite its relatively short existence, the company has released an impressive number of bottlings, including its Notable Age Statement bottlings.


The company prides itself on its witty product descriptions and labelling, which feature the sponge mascot. MacRaild believes that many people take the image of whisky too seriously, and the company's approach reflects this sentiment.


Indie Bottlers Decadent Drinks Whisky Sponge whiskies

Images by Decadent Drinks

 

Thank you for reading The Whisky Ardvark. Make sure to check out our other informative articles listed below.



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