Sitting here at the airport in Edinburgh, waiting for my flight, trying to summarize everything I've learned on this trip into a few short bullet points. Here's what I know now that I didn't before:
- Indie bottlers that own distilleries can trade for some great barrels if their own whisky is a key component for another company's blend
- Up until now, indie bottlers have sent their own casks over the distilleries to be filled, or at worst, selected which type of cask they wanted filled. Because most distilleries are discontinuing this practice, it is IMPOSSIBLE to break into the indie business now. You need to have decades worth of previous stock to compete with these guys.
- Distilleries will sometimes teaspoon their casks (add a wee bit of another distillery's whisky) to prevent indie bottlers from selling the whisky as a pure single malt.
- Indie bottlers have to be very careful when purchasing barrels from the broker market as some can be 4th or 5th fill barrels, rendering the whisky pale, bland, and practically worthless. It might say "Glen Keith 17 hogshead," but it still might look and taste like white dog.
- The U.S. system that only allows for 375ml, 750ml, and 1.75L bottles is preventing everyone here from drinking more whisky, and preventing us from selling more whisky. There are numerous distilleries and bottlers that don't want to deal with a different format just for one market that isn't drinking anywhere near as much as China anyway.
- The type of barrel and the quality of the wood might be more important than just about every other step in the process of making of whisky.
- Small, independent distilleries are so much smaller and hands on than one would think. It's amazing they can supply so many parts of the world.
- Bruichladdich makes so much whisky that no one can collect it all. I love that. Just drink it, guys.
- Campbeltown doesn't have much going on besides Springbank distillery.
- The Spey doesn't look anything like I thought it would. The large distilleries are like factories churning out robots. There is nothing romantic about it.
Maybe I can think of some more later.