In my first entry on this blog I wrote about the rise of ‘investment’ grade whiskies but today I wanted to touch on the already highly debated trend in whisky and that is the No Age Statement (NAS) trend. Many distilleries are finding it hard to keep up with the growing worldwide demand for whisky so they are opting to drop age statements from their range of whiskies. For those that don’t know when a distillery puts an age statement on the bottle, by law, it must be the age of the youngest whisky in there. So there could be 15, 20, or 25 year old whisky in a bottle of XYZ 12 year old but none of those other age statements can be on the bottle. It must be the youngest age. So when companies decide to drop the age statement it gives them free range to mix young and old whisky and by doing so allows them to better keep up with demand. No longer are they handcuffed by having to wait X amount of years before putting out their whisky. Now this seems like a good idea, especially for the distilleries, but is it really a good trend for whisky in general?
It is true that older doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes leaving the whisky in the cask for too long actually has negative effects on it. So just because some thing is 30 or 35 years old doesn’t mean it will be better than a whisky that is 12 or 15 years old. But what older whisky does do is justify its price. Every year it’s sitting in the cask it is costing the distilleries money so when it finally is bottled the price usually is justified. The problem I see with the NAS trend is it allows companies to mix some older whisky with relatively young inexpensive whisky and still charge the same you would a 25+ year old whisky. And whisky is a business plain and simple. It’s all about money. The same way the garment industry found away to save huge amounts of money by manufacturing overseas the whisky industry has found away to save huge amounts of money by selling young, under-matured whisky for rather larger sums of money under the guise of NAS. Perhaps it is the cynic in me but I don’t see the execs at Macallan saying “Replacing our age stated whiskies for NAS whiskies is what’s best for the consumer” Macallan’s new 1824 series is replacing their 10, 12 and I believe 18 year old whiskies. The ‘Rolls Royce’ of single malts can’t keep up with the demand after they depleted their stocks of older whiskies by flooding the growing asian market. So now they have decided to drop age statements all together yet are still charging the same, if not more, as the age stated whiskies. We know this was done because of limited supplies, so we know it’s younger whisky in the bottles, yet Macallan still have the brass to try to sell a story about how color is more important than age. If that were true we should have seen the 1824 series years if not decades ago.
Now Macallan aren’t the only ones taking advantage of this trend. Many distilleries out there are putting out young whisky with a claim of it being double or triple matured. For some reason these companies have it in there heads that young whisky aged in 2 or 3 different wine barrels somehow justifies a $100+ price tag. I may sound a bit harsh to the young whiskies and not all young whiskies are bad, some are even great. It’s the sneakiness and the misdirection of the companies on consumers that bothers me. Just be honest with why you are going NAS and don’t bite the hand that feeds you with insulting prices. Unfortunately as I said earlier it is all about money and this is a trend I don’t see stopping or reversing any time soon.