Before the 1970s only a dozen distilleries bottled their own whiskies while all other distilleries used independent bottlers.
Independent bottling companies have expanded the whisky market greatly by making a larger selection of products available. These companies buy casks from the distilleries or send them empty casks to be filled and stored and then carefully choose when to bottle and release them.
Thanks to independent bottlings you now have a product that has all the original distillery character but that is also completely unique. The independent bottler may release whiskies at a different age to that of the original distillery's whiskies or finish the spirit in a different cask, therefore creating a unique whisky. Sometimes, the independent bottlers will only buy a single cask which leads to a very limited quantity of final bottles.
Generally, these bottlings offer good value by being priced similarly or cheaper than the original distillery bottlings and it is an excellent way to try different or rarer whisky.
Know what you are getting
The majority of distilleries will be named on the independent bottlings, along with the age or year of distillation and other information such as which cask the spirit has been matured or finished in. If it is a limited bottling, it will also show the number of bottles available. There are a few distilleries that insist that their name does not appear on independent bottlings and in these cases, the bottles can be labelled with the region of production which will still give you an indication of what to expect from the whisky.