Costco Macallan and the Fate of the Independents

Like many others strolling the Costco aisles in the past year, I have also seen a $60 Macallan 18. Of course, it was not The Macallan 18 (this costs about $150). The liquor came from the Macallan distillery, but the bottler was a company called Kirkland.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a great article on how this arrangement came to be, republished in its entirety on Kevin Erskine’s excellent The Scotch Blog. It goes a long way towards explaining the role of independent bottlers, who began as blenders but effectively created the single malt market.

It also explains why you may find a Coal Ila bottled and distributed by someone other than the distiller. While original distillery bottles are usually the best bet, WSJ author Eric Felten vouches for the quality of at least some secondary bottlers.

An interesting discussion on the merits of the Kirkland Signature Macallan 18 compared to the original can be found on the Whisky Guild’s site. Verdict: Different, but not bad at all.

Still, it looks like the days of the Kirkland Macallan may be numbered. Independents are now facing a squeeze as the value of single malt brands is fully realized, Felten argues. The circle is now complete as some independents, such as Gordon and McPhail are acquiring their own distilleries and shutting out other independents who want to tap into their excess capacity.

~ by whisky1 on August 17, 2008.

One Response to “Costco Macallan and the Fate of the Independents”

  1. […] use in blends, and to independent bottlers, a practice that continues to this day. For example, a Kirkland Macallan is available at Costco for big discounts, at about $60 a bottle for an 18 year old compared to $150 for a distillery […]

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