Yeah I am weary of Independent bottlings. I bottle a 14yr old Ben Nevis that was from a Independent I didn't care for it at all. I have shared a Ben Nevis before and knew that the bottle I bought didn't taste close to the one I bought, so I went and talk to the shop that was ******* the Independent Bottlings and they told me the Bottler like to RE-cask them and add their own twist to make it more they style. Which is fine but something I kinda stay away now.
Another tip for newbs is don't be scared to add water to your dram. A few drops will really open up some whiskys and anything over 50% really should have a water added to it, to bring it down a little bit and take the nip off it. I understand that some say NO WAY but if you new to scotch and are trying to explore everything, tend I say it something worth a try. A few drop, maybe a teaspoon even if its really high ABV. Some whiskys will breakdown and fade quick with water(no doubt) but some will take water and really open up and shine. You never know to you try.