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Unfathomably New Independent Bottler


In the broaden world of whisky, how could it only involve the typical types that we know: Single malt, Blended malt or new world whisky! In fact, there are a number of independent bottlers deserve to be noticeable, as their limited produced spirits have a striking quality. Once you browse the ranking from Whisky Base, the top eight positions are occupied by the spirits of independent bottlers. It was a pleasant opportunity for Malt & Spirits to interview with a young but experienced independent bottler─Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd, as purpose to understand its philosophy about whisky.    




WL: WineLuxe  AL: Andrew Laing



WL: Can you briefly state the background of Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd?

AL: Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd was formed in 2013 after the demerger and restructuring of our old family whisky business, started by my grandfather in the 1940s. We specialise in producing premium blended whiskies and have close relationships with many of Scotland's distilleries allowing us to source supplies of new spirit from them. Our whisky stocks of both grain and single malt whiskies range across all of Scotland's regions, and some of the whisky in our warehouses dates back to the early 1960s. In addition to creating blended whiskies we also specialise in exclusive single cask bottlings - typically described as "independent bottlings".


WL: Your company is a great effort that has been built up with three generations, what are the advantages to cooperate with the family members?

AL: It's great to be a small family company for several reasons. From a personal point of view it means I have the pleasure of working with my brother Scott and our father. It means we can take decisions quickly as well, without having to consult too many people, and also I think our customers appreciate working with a family company. 



WL: Why does the popularity of independent bottler sweep the world in recent years?

AL: Independent bottlers have been around for a long time but I think with single malt's popularity increasing so much in the past 15-20 years, more people have been turning to independent bottlings to try more exclusive and unusual bottlings from distilleries they already know and they otherwise wouldn't get a chance to try. The internet has also helped us because people have access to knowledge and information on whisky so much more readily, and it encourages them to explore the whisky world more and more which therefore benefits more niche producers. 



WL: The selection of barrel is usually considered as a main factor to influence the characteristic of whisky in the final stage. What are your criteria for choosing the right barrel? 

AL: We have learned through experience which distillates from various distilleries work best with Sherry casks and which with ex-bourbon casks. After that it's a case of giving the whisky long enough in the wood to mature and then deciding, by sampling the casks fairly regularly, when is the perfect time to bottle a particular whisky. A very tough job as you can imagine!


WL: Can you tell us a little about your history & partnership with vomFASS? 

AL: As a family we have known and gotten on well with vomFASS for many years and enjoy a good commercial as well as personal relationship with them. They have very high standards when it comes to quality and always demand the best, as do Hunter Laing, so we work well together. They're also a family company so we have that in common. We supply both single cask bottlings as well as exclusive blends and we're pleased to have such a good ongoing partnership. 



WL: Would you mind to introduce some signature product you produce for vomFASS and what makes them special?

AL: We supply vom Fass with several products but one which stands out for me is the "Cragabus - Blended Islay Malt Whisky". It's a vatting of whiskies from several of Islay's iconic distilleries and is beautifully rich and smoky - every time I taste it I am immediately transported to that magical whisky island!



在威士忌的浩瀚世界裏,又豈只有我們熟識的單一純麥、調和或新世界出產威士忌!其實還有不少獨立瓶裝商(Independent Bottlers)值得讓人注目,即使它們的產量不多,但品質往往不容忽視。只要在Whisky Base的排行內,頭八位都是獨立瓶裝商的作品。Malt & Spirits有幸訪問一間年輕但擁有資深經驗的獨立瓶裝商,藉此了解它的經營背景。



WL: WineLuxe  AL: Andrew Laing


WL:你可以簡單介紹Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd的背景嗎?

AL: 早在一九四零年代我祖父已經開始經營家族威士忌生意,經過多年的經營模式後再把業務分拆和重組,並在二零一三年成立現在的Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd。Hunter Laing主要釀造高品質調和威士忌,由於公司與大部分蘇格蘭蒸餾酒廠關係密切,讓我們能從它們尋找不少新酒供應。我們的穀物威士忌和單一威士忌均遍佈蘇格蘭所有地區,當中有些珍釀在一九六零前期已經在我們倉庫存藏。除了釀造調和威士忌,我們公司還專門推出獨家單桶酒款,通常會俗稱獨立瓶裝酒款。



WL: 你們公司是由家族三代成員共同創立的努力成果,與家人共事會為公司帶來甚麼優勝之處?

AL: 作為家族公司我認為是一件非常美好的事情,有數個原因可以解釋,從個人觀點來看很滿意與父親和弟弟Scott一起工作,這樣大家可以共同迅速地作出決定,不需要顧慮太多人的意見。同時我認為顧客十分欣賞與家族公司共事。



WL: 為何近年獨立瓶裝商的知名度與日俱增,甚至聲名遍佈全球?

 AL:獨立瓶裝商早已存在一段頗長時間,我想由於單一純麥威士忌的知名度早已在過去十五至二十年其間極度增長,所以很多人轉往嚐試獨立瓶裝商的產品。這情況讓品嚐威士忌人士可以從一些他們早已知道的酒廠品嚐到的獨家和不常見的酒類,否則他們不會有機會能感受其風味。互聯網同樣對我們有幫助,基於網民可以透過這平台獲得有關威士忌的知識和知訊,還可以被鼓勵探索更多有關威士忌的世界,從而令到更多針對性生產商(niche producers)獲得好處。



WL: 選桶對於釀造威士忌後期的風格影響往往作出關鍵作用,你們在選擇適合的酒桶有甚麼準則呢?

 AL: 從多年釀造經驗中學習後,我們在眾多蒸餾酒廠分析那一種蒸餾物可以與雪莉桶,或與前波旁酒桶完美混合,作為讓威士忌長時間浸在橡木裏陳釀,發揮最佳風格的過程。再其後從所有木桶中經常抽出樣品來測檢,決定何時為特定威士忌入瓶的最佳時機。這是一項你可以想像極之艱辛的工作!



WL: 可以了解有關你們公司與vom FASS的合作事宜嗎?

AL: 我們早已與vom Fass認識,並且雙方合作非常愉快,不論工作還是朋友性質都能保持多年友好關係。vom Fass與Hunter Laing一樣都是在保持質量方面有非常高的標準,在工作態度上同時力求完美,所以我們合作十分順利。vom Fass都是家族公司,我們同時供應單一桶裝威士忌酒款和獨家調和威士忌酒款,所以我們很高興有這麼好的持續合作夥伴關係。


WL: 請你為vomFASS介紹一些經典產品,同時可否指出它們特別之處?

AL: 我們為vom Fass供應數款不同的精選威士忌,但對我而言Cragabus - Blended Islay Malt Whisky是一瓶顯著的作品,這調和麥芽威士忌是由幾個來自Islay經典酒廠的作品的混合釀成品,品質細緻濃郁和充滿難忘的煙燻香氣,每次品嚐後都好像進入奇幻的威士忌樂園!