These Things Do Not Make Sense
Writing about the Compass Box Flaming Heart earlier caused me to kick around the same train of thought that usually runs through my head when I think about vatted malts. Why the lack of enthusiasm? It can also be difficult to recommend indy bottlings to customers who want something directly from the distillery. What's the problem? Here are some of the usually arguments I hear against certain whiskies in bold, with my counter-response in italics.
I like single malts, not vatted malts, because I want to taste the style of the distillery.
A somewhat valid point, except for the fact that most distillery bottlings are vatted versions of their own whiskies. It's not like Ardbeg 10 is one single ten year old whisky from Ardbeg. It's a blend of different Ardbeg whiskies of various ages, from various types of casks, with various flavor profiles. People go crazy for the Uigeadail, which has some sherry-aged whiskies and some bourbon-aged in the recipe. The flavors of any particular whisky is completely lost in the marriage of the malts. All that matters is the resulting flavor - that's why Bill Lumsden is the creator and Rachel Barrie is the blender. A more accurate snapshot of a distillery can be found in an independent bottling or single barrel expression.
I also don't like independent bottlings because I want to taste the style directly from the distillery.
An argument I could understand would be one that is hestiant to trust the quality of the barrels being bottled. The distillery likely is keeping the better barrels for themself. However, they are not bottling single expressions because they are creating a house style - like Coca-cola or Pepsi. A person who is uninterested in vatted malts because of the lack of purity should therefore be most interested in indy bottlings - they are the purest examples of a distillery's style. It's like getting a movie star without their make up - maybe that's not a good thing, but if you want the red carpet look, then you want the blended or the vatted. If you want to learn about a whisky's character, you need the indy bottlers.