Indie spirit

Duncan Taylor is one of the premier independent bottlers in Scotland. – Photos: Duncan Taylor

WHISKY can be an expensive indulgence.

For whisky afficionados who want to experience a variety of expressions, strengths and styles without incurring extensive costs, independent whisky bottlers are a good place to start. Indie bottlers have been around since the 1800s and historically speaking were the epicentre of the whisky industry in its early days.

“If you look at the history of Scotch, the first people to market it were wine merchants. John Walker of Kilmarnock set up his grocer in the early 1800s. He didn’t have a distillery back then — he bought whiskies like an independent bottler, blended it himself and established his brand,” points out Duncan Taylor brand ambassador Fergus Simpson.

A matter of tradition

For many whisky drinkers across the world, however, indie bottlings are still a relatively novel concept. In a nutshell, independent whisky bottlers are bottlers that buy whiskies from distilleries and bottle them themselves but they are also more than that.

Established in 1938, Duncan Taylor is one of the more prominent names in the segment with a wide variety of high quality, accessible selection of whiskies.

“We’re just carrying on this long tradition,” adds Simpson. “We’re part of the whisky ecosystem as we provide a service to the distillers by buying their newly-distilled whisky for a good price and take the risk of maturing it. For them it’s risk free, they make it and sell it to us.”

Originally a cask broker and trading company, Duncan Taylor has developed strong ties with distilleries across Scotland throughout its 86-year history.

Over time these close relationships afforded the company to amass an incredible cask portfolio.

In the 1960s the company was bought by native New Yorker and whisky fanatic, Abe Rosenberg who began acquiring casks from the premium small-batch distilleries. Throughout the years, Rosenberg amassed more than 4,500 casks into the Duncan Taylor portfolio, many of which remain within the company’s collection now.

Extensive collection

The long-standing history, experience and relationships Duncan Taylor has forged provides them an edge in acquiring casks.

“We have contracts to purchase newly distilled whisky and that allows us access to some goodies, shall we say,” says Simpson. “And we have been doing it so long, we’ve collected some lovely casks.”

Today, Duncan Taylor is a global enterprise with an international presence in more than 60 countries and award-winning brands around the world.

Their extensive portfolio includes the Octave range, a pioneering selection of whiskies uniquely matured in Octave casks, and The Tantalus Collection. The latter is one of the most premium and collectible series from Duncan Taylor, containing exceptional single malt and single grain whiskies.

“We just released a 40 Year Old Port Ellen last year and in 2022, we released a 1969 vintage Caperdonich 50 Year Old and a 1969 vintage Kinclaith 51 Year Old,” he adds.

Simpson explains that Duncan Taylor’s approach is not focused on collectors but rather on people who drink and enjoy whisky.

“Like every Scotch whisky, we have to abide by the legal requirements of the industry,” he elaborates.

“For example, the Single Malt we produce has got to have the name of the distillery, either the vintage or the number of years it’s been matured, who bottled it and ‘Product of Scotland’ on it. Because of that consumers will get access to some pretty exquisite whisky.

“That said, we will never achieve the prices the original vintages like the premium brands do. But that also means we are more accessible.”

This article first appeared in Star Biz7 weekly edition.

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