Most whisky companies are owned by massive multinationals, and that holds true for Scotch, the focus of this site. Some are part of smaller groups. Very few independent distilleries remain. If you’re interested in who controls your whisky, and how close the distillers are to their business practices, this guide is intended to help. Note: it is a work in progress.
If you have a choice between one of these guys and one of the brands below, give the independents the nod. Most of them are pricey, as they aim for niches.
Arran (Arran) – a new-built distillery, which cooperates with Springbank.
J&G Grant – about 150 years in the same family, the Glenfarclas distillery produces a range of fine Speyside whiskies with a sherry finish. Their website is a gold mine of technical information.
Ian MacLeod Distillers: Producers of Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Isle of Skye and Smokehead Scotch. They say they are the 10th largest Whisky distiller; independent for 80 years.
Kilchoman (Islay) – a fairly new artisinal distiller, producing a heavily-charactered single malts. One of the two distilleries in Scotland which perform all the steps to produce whisky on same premises. And they grow their own barley.
Springbank (Cambletown) – Family-owned. Another artisinal distiller who produces kickass malts. Unlike Kilchoman, Springbank is an older distiller resuscitated. This is the other distillery with control over all steps of their whisky-making process, onsite.
Smaller Holding Companies
CL Financial (Trididad) – Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig and Deanston.
Edrington Group – these chaps run Highland Park (Orkney), monster-selling Macallan (Speyside, unofficially), and blends the Famous (and Black) Grouse and (gulp) Cutty Sark. Don’t judge them by Cutty – Highland Park is an excellent all-rounder and The Macallan is well-deserved in its place in sales.
William Grant & Sons – still a family business, they produce Grant’s reserve, the Speyside single malts from Balvenie and Glenfiddich, Tullamore Dew (Irish) and a bunch of other smaller spirit brands.
Diageo – Johnny Walker, Caol Isla, Cardhu, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban Talisker, Bells, Dimple Pinch and a few others besides.
LVMH – Glenmorangie (Highland), Ardbeg (Islay), and a ton of other wines and spirits worldwide. Like Moet and Henessy.
Suntory – Ardmore, Auchentoshan, Bowmore, Glen Garioch, Laphroaig, McClelland’s, Teacher’s (along with many other global spirit brands).
Pernod Ricard – Aberlour, Ballantine’s, (along with Irish whiskies Jameson, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Powers, Redbreast) and a few others.