Scotch 101: What is NAS?

If you’re new to the modern whisky/scotch market, you might be confused to read about the term “NAS”, even if you know that it stands for “No Age Statement”. How can a whisky have no age? Why does the term matter, and why does it seem to cause such controversy in online discussions? Let’s dive in a little bit.

First, know that NAS is just a new term for an old concept. Labeling laws in most whisky-producing countries specify that if an age statement appears on a bottle of spirits, that number must reflect the age of the youngest component in the bottle. You can’t combine 10 year-old whisky and 30 year-old whisky and claim a “30” on the label. This is a consumer protection regulation that was created in the middle of the 20th century (in many parts of the world) to combat misleading labels. During and immediately after Prohibition in the United States, for example, the fraudulent labeling of illicit (and later legal) alcohol was rampant. Still, only a few types of products actually required an age statement (such as American straight whisky aged under 4 years), and as the vast majority of products available in the 1900s were blended products, many did not carry a number at all, leaning instead on vague marketing terms such as “Very Old” or “Ancient”.

In fact, it wasn’t until the so-called “whisky loch” of the 1960s, when a drop in demand caused a vast buildup of ever-increasing-in-age barreled whisky in Scotland (hence the image of a “lake” of whisky), that desperate producers began pushing the advanced barrel age of their products to distinguish them in a market flooded with cheap and trendy vodkas and gins. This eventually created a consumer perception that aged whisky was better whisky, and that there must be a direct correlation between age and quality (there was, after all, a measurable correlation between age and price). The concurrent marketing push that created the single malt category (nearly all malt created in Scotland was used for blending until this point) further gave credence to the idea that an age statement (as well as the name of the distillery of origin) was a mark of quality.

Fast-forward to the early 20-teens, when scotch whisky producers finally began getting what they’d been asking for: demand. A confluence of Internet social media, the growth of the kind of hipster-ism that values authenticity and legacy in products, and relatively low prices left over from the whisky loch created a global frenzy for aged brown spirits. Seemingly overnight, the industry went from dumping barrels of older Lagavulin into batches of the 16 year-old because Diageo had no market for old distinctive casks, to finding their stocks stretched so thin that store shelves were staying bare for weeks or months between deliveries. Those old barrels suddenly found a home as producers discovered they could sell anything with a recognizable distillery name and an age statement. There’s the rub: with all of those old whisky loch stocks eaten up, and not enough mature whisky in the warehouse to bottle a brand’s standard age-stated lineup, producers found themselves with a Catch-22. If they met demand by releasing younger whisky, they’d have to lower the age statements. After all the marketing work and consumer re-education of the 1960s, this seemed like brand suicide. If, however, they stuck to the stated age statements, they’d be unable to capitalize on the whisky craze when the shelves went bare, which was unacceptable to shareholders. The answer was obvious: drop the age statement altogether.

Whisky producers were clever about this, however. Knowing that modern whisky consumers were a sensitive, trend-driven bunch with the Information Age at their fingertips (and after seeing what happened when even minor changes were attempted), they looked to turn a negative into a marketing positive. Re-write the narrative: release a special-edition, limited-run concoction with an obscure Gaelic name and a somewhat relevant backstory, and say it was created by the semi-celebrity house “master blender”. Claim that this special blend required some younger whisky to be mixed with the older stuff, and explain away the lack of an age statement. However you feel about this, it turns out to have been a genius move, and was quickly copied by just about everybody in the industry. Some brands even began replacing their standard lineup with NAS stand-ins.

Now, before you take to the streets with picket signs demonizing NAS, realize that the approach is not all smoke and mirrors. Just as a hammer can be used to build a house or commit a violent crime, NAS can be used as a tool for the creation of a whisky that is better than the numeric sum of its parts. Two shining examples of this are Aberlour a’bunadh and Ardbeg Corryvreckan. These are both outstanding distilleries and prove that you can make a better whisky by carefully combining the vibrancy and potency of young whisky with the mellowing concentrated sophistication of old whisky. The a’bunadh is a better sherry bomb for that vein of bright fresh red fruit running through it, just as the Corryvreckan is better for the tart, youthful peat that balances the settled, round, mature Ardbeg. One cannot claim that either of these is an attempt to stretch stocks because they are both bottled at (or near) cask strength. If these companies were just looking at the bottom line and cutting corners, they could have easily released 50% more cases by bottling at the minimum of 40% ABV and keeping the Gaelic name (and probably the price).

Here’s the problem: The advent and proliferation of NAS, while not inherently an evil thing, removes information that was previously available for customers to make informed choices. Because of NAS, it is now somewhat harder to pick a bottle, untasted, from a shelf and have a reasonable expectation of the quality of its contents based on the label. Without an age statement to go by, you might pick up a gem like a’bunadh or Corryvreckan, or you might end up with a dud like Talisker Storm. NAS forces customers to either become better informed or to take a higher risk at the register. A downside, no doubt, but a historically unavoidable consequence of the burgeoning popularity of our favorite spirit.

One last note, because this always comes up. The aging of whisky in oak, in general, makes it better. The relationship is not linear, however. The improvement from 1 year to 3 years is amazing (indeed, it turns “malt spirit” into whisky). The improvement from 10 years to 15 years is somewhat reliable. The improvement from 20 years to 40 years is by no means certain. Many an old bottle of whisky has turned out to be a sludgy, over-oaked blandfest not even remotely worth the tax dollars it took to keep that barrel on premises for so many years. Similarly, some types of whiskies are arguably better at younger ages: many bourbons become undrinkable after the 15 to 20 year mark due to the use of new oak and hot warehouse conditions. Peated whiskies often lose a significant degree of smokey potency after the 16 to 18 year mark (becoming different, not necessarily worse). The use of some finishing barrels (still wet with their previous contents) can completely mask the subtleties of a malt whisky if left to age for more than a year or two.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that while I prefer age statements to NAS labels, I can appreciate the market forces that brought us to this point. In the ideal fantasy world in my mind, all whiskies would have a detailed chart on the back of the bottle, showing every component in the blend/vatting, including the exact barrel provenance, warehouse location, barley strain, percentage of volume, and age of each. Producers who failed to reveal this information would be shamed out of the market, and legal oversight would penalize those without records to verify and support the published data. Alas, this is not the world we live in, so instead I taste NAS whiskies alongside their age-stated brethren, and I report back to you, dear reader, so that you can make a more informed choice.

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52 thoughts on “Scotch 101: What is NAS?

  1. Bravo, wise SN-leader. Bravo, indeed. This is the most thoughtful, informative, well-researched and poignant piece on the NAS topic I have seen to date. I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion and support thereof. While, as you state, it is mostly market forces that have combined together to bring us to whiskey era that we currently find ourselves in. Most consumers I know have embraced this golden age of whiskey that is upon us, and adapt their purchasing decisions accordingly, NAS and all. However, there remain a small (but loud) subset among us who simply stand around clinging to the past and searching for someone to blame the ‘atrocity’ that is NAS. Do I blame the producer for dare releasing NAS? How about the consumer that buys it? Well, if you are someone who just doesn’t feel comfortable without assigning blame to someone, then I’d suggest point that old craggily finger at the outdated laws and regulations that deny the producer from being completely transparent about exactly what’s in that bottle. (See Compass Box controversy.) If laws were modified to allow for such openness and honesty, I suspect we would find ourselves on the fast track toward the whiskey utopia that SN beautifully articulates in his closing remarks.

    1. DJ sez: “I’d suggest point that old craggily finger at the outdated laws and regulations that deny the producer from being completely transparent about exactly what’s in that bottle.”

      I disagree. The premise of that idea is that all these NAS bottles actually ARE chock-full of old whisky that those darn regulations just don’t let the producers tell us about. Codswallop. I know there are a few exceptions where the whisky really was a blend of young & old, but I very much doubt that’s the case for most NAS stuff on the shelves today, including a’bunadh, Oogie, Corryvreckan, and anything else beyond Compass Box’s nicer releases.

      We should all assume that NAS = “too young to sell well if stated.”

      1. For what it’s worth, I used to hold this opinion as well. Then I tasted a Willett 2 year-old rye and a 2 year-old Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt, both of which were, in their own ways, magical and both of which I would score higher than the majority of 10- and 15- year-old bourbons and single malts that I’ve tried. What this taught me is that “young” and “bad” are not always synonymous. The other thing it taught me is that if a producer puts a low number on the bottle, they will necessarily scare away consumers who hold that erroneous supposition. They conclude, and not incorrectly, that it’s better to withhold the low number than to “stand for something” and lose revenue. Neither the Willett nor the Cut Spike are exactly household names, and my guess is that the number probably hurt both of them (although if I remember correctly, the age on the Willett bottling was in small print). Another good example are the whiskies from Kilchoman. Some are NAS and some have vintage years on them, but due to the age of the distillery itself you can usually deduce the approximate age (within a year or so) of all of them. I would categorically say that whiskies from Kilchoman are better than Islay whiskies of twice (or even thrice) their age. Yet how many people have looked at 4- or 5- or 6 year-old whisky from Kilchoman and thought “young-ass whisky for $60?! No thanks!”. Their loss.

        1. Noob, what opinion from my post are you disagreeing with?

          I’m saying that most NAS whiskies are probably NOT chock-full of unstated old whisky. I didn’t say anything about “young = bad.”

          You seem to be saying that some young whisky is good. Sure, but how does that matter to what we’re talking about here?

          1. I was reacting to the line “We should all assume that NAS = “too young to sell well if stated.”” — this implies that “young” is an inherently bad thing that must be covered up, and that most NAS are “too” young to be good. Maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, but people who comment using terms like that on this blog are usually arguing against young whisky in NAS bottles from a quality standpoint. (The argument is usually “NAS whiskies have to be bad because young whisky is in them”.) Forgive me if I’ve misread the tone of your comment.

            My counter-argument was intended to be twofold: 1) That there are examples of truly great whiskies at the extreme (young) end of the age spectrum, and 2) That producers of “young and good” whisky are prodded by the market to hide the number exactly because of opinions like “NAS = “too young to sell well if stated.”” If the prevailing wisdom of whisky geekdom and the single-malt crowd at large was “Bring on the young whisky!”, there would probably be little hesitation from the producers to put low numbers on bottles. That’s clearly not the case.

          2. Yes, you’re putting words in my mouth. I’m denying the claim that most NAS whiskies contain a lot of old whisky.

            In the vast majority of cases, I’m sure NAS labeling is an indication that the whisky contains whisky so young that the seller is afraid it wouldn’t sell if stated.

            None of that is a comment on the quality of young whisky.

          3. Now you’re putting words in my mouth. Nowhere did I claim that “most” NAS whisky contains “a lot” of old whisky. I’m sure you’re right that in the majority (probably even the “vast” majority) of cases, NAS releases contain whisky that the company deems is “too young” to warrant a number on the label. The fact that the industry has trained people to believe that anything under 10 is “too young” means that smart marketing people know where the line is, and they are indeed afraid that the products wouldn’t sell if the number is lower than that.

    2. What you’ve actually embraced, with NAS, is the ridiculous idea that the industry “decides” where and when age matters to the product you’re buying… with a labeling choice – and it’s complete illogical bullshit.

      And sure, blame it on the regulations – the idea that producers’ “hands are tied” – except that, as John Glaser and Compass Box found out, the big players don’t actually want those regulations reformed:

      ‘What we have been informed of since we kicked off the transparency campaign was that, through the SWA, the industry if you will has communicated that there’s no desire to effect any change in the law at this time,’ says Glaser. ‘They view the law as “fit for purpose”, in their words.’

      The SWA, it should be said, only acts in expression of the will of the broader Scotch whisky industry, or of the vast majority of it (Compass Box and Bruichladdich, another champion of transparency, are two of the few companies that aren’t members).

      And it should also be pointed out that not everyone in Scotch whisky was either contrary or indifferent to the Compass Box stance.

      ‘There were some people in the industry, some companies in the industry which did agree with us that there is some need for change – so the feeling was not unanimous by any means,’ says Glaser. ‘But there is no appetite at the moment for change.’” – https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/in-depth/11234/compass-box-ends-transparency-drive-for-now/

  2. Desperate time, desperate measures? No.
    I welcome the changes we are experiencing in the whisky market over the last decade(s). And yes, it has turned into a hipster driven & media dominated era but not all that shines is gold and neither is all that doesn’t dirt. It “simply” requires some expertise, nowadays perhaps more than back in the day. And by some, I do mean some. On one hand, the media greatly impacts on our consumer behaviour, on the other it offers “broad ways” to information. With some compassion toward the choice, by informing oneself ahead of visiting the store we are somewhat easily enabled to differ between the gems and duds.

    I think the current situation is beneficial for all whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs. It offers, even more, variation enables the market to continuously grow into new heights and diversities.

    @theschotchnoob I happen to really like your posts. Is there any newsletter I can enrol to get updates on your posts? I couldn’t find any. If so, you have my mail and may include me.

    Slainte!

  3. Noob, what’s your source for a’bunadh and Corryvreckan containing significant amounts of older whisky?

    1. I don’t believe I claimed they contained “significant” amounts of older whisky. Being NAS, there’s no way of knowing whether a claim like “blended from barrels ranging from 5 to 25 years old” – an uncited statement from Wikipedia that is repeated regularly on the Internet (like this) – means a teaspoon of 25 and the rest 5 years old, or not. The above uncited claim, (probably from old Aberlour marketing materials or perhaps tour guide script) combined with my own conclusions after tasting and reviewing several different batches, lead me to believe that a’bunadh is composed of both young and old Aberlour (How old? How much? Your guess is as good as mine). I reached this conclusion after experiencing young independent sherried malts as well as old sherried malts. The a’bunadh tastes to me like a combination of both: vibrant red fruits combined with sticky-toffee, resinous dried jammy fruits, the whole without a “grassy” or vegetal component that I usually associate with “too young” malt whisky. As for Corryvreckan, that seems to be an assumption on my part with no basis in fact or fiction. It’s based on the knowledge that Uigeadail was previously a vatting of old (pre-LVMH 1970s old) Ardbeg with younger malt from the new administration. Internet consensus (plus public statements from Dr. Bill Lumsden) has it that the batches have been comprised of progressively younger malt, which corresponds to a noticeably decreasing reception among online reviewers over time. I assumed (probably/possibly incorrectly) that Corryvreckan being more expensive than Uigeadail meant it had a similar (“old” plus young) makeup. Let’s say I’m wrong and it’s all 6 year-old Ardbeg. Given: A) It tastes like heaven and is my #1 favorite peated dram, and B) Lagavulin 12 year and 8 year bottlings are far more expensive (and tend to sell out limited releases) than the 16 year, all of which have age statements, we can conclude that aside from our own gnawing curiosity the actual age of these “successful” NAS bottlings simply does not matter, as long as you like the taste. <– This is a statement of opinion. Feel free to disagree.

      1. The good thing about the concept of “significance” is that something is either insignificant or significant. If it’s insignificant, then we can forget about it. If it’s significant, then it’s worth our attention. Because you claim that Corryvreckan and A’bunadh contain “the mellowing concentrated sophistication of old whisky,” it must be a significant ingredient.

        And sounds like your basis for claiming these older components is (a) unsubstantiated Wikipedia blurbs + your taste, and (b) Corryvreckan’s price. Do I have that right?

        1. That’s correct. I’d love to link you to an official fact sheet with age information for the components, but that rarely exists in the whisky world. Even when there are generally-accepted (by the Internet) data points about certain products which are not derived from officially-published documents, they tend to be from tour guides, audio interviews with distillery managers, second-hand rumors from journalists getting “off the record” statements, and the like. Such is the nature of this particular hobby, and writing about it. I long ago decided that I’d rather share rumor and informed deduction about the products I discuss on this blog than stick rigidly to multiple-cited primary sources. If I did that, you all would be reading rote reformulations of official PR statements and bottle labels (which, as you know, contain precious little pertinent information). As I’ve said before, I’m writing a blog, and I do the best job I can. I am not a book author or paid journalist, and I am not writing for peer-reviewed medical journals. I write because people seem to like reading my opinions, and I spend time (more time than is reasonable for the advertising incoming it brings in) researching to get as many verifiable facts as I can find about these products. That this does not meet the expectations of some of my readers is beyond my ability to rectify.

          1. I believe, as a blogger, that I do my best to do exactly that. I use language such as “puportedly…”, “the Internet has deduced that…”, and “according to rumor…” all over this site. If I followed every speculative statement with a full disclaimer, the prose would become unwieldy very quickly, and so I use uncertain language when I am uncertain about something. Sometimes, I’m sure I accidentally neglect to do so. I will repeat: This is a blog. I am a blogger. I am an amateur by definition, a noob by my own admission. If this site is not up to your journalistic standards, then I invite you to instead read one that is, or start your own!

          2. I’m not denying that you (sometimes? usually?) label your speculations as such. I don’t follow you closely enough to know.

            What’s in front of me, though, is your current NAS article that makes a point of saying that Corryvreckan and A’bunadh contain “the mellowing concentrated sophistication of old whisky.” So I guess you can do better, is what I’m saying.

            This blog is good enough to be worth critiquing. (The garbage, you just ignore.) I worry that Jeff might be right that you’re too willing to pass of sketchy age info as truth.

  4. Noob, can you explain the following idea more?
    “NAS forces customers to either become better informed or to take a higher risk at the register.”

    I get that choice B = “buy the NAS thing without knowing anything about it.” But what does choice A mean? How can you become better informed on something about which there is no information?

    I think the choice, really, is to either (A) take your money elsewhere or (B) to take a higher risk at the register. And the more we do B, the more NAS we’ll have on our shelves.

    1. By “become better informed” (and yes perhaps the word ‘informed’ is a bit of a stretch… ‘well-advised’ might have been more apropos) I mean getting recommendations from peers and print or online reviews from reviewers that you generally agree with and trust. Preferably several, since taste is so subjective. I think that if you agree with a certain reviewer on their take on Age Statement whiskies that you’ve both tasted, you will likely also agree with their take on NAS whiskies, as taste is more important than numbers. When I say “taste is more important than numbers” I’m thinking about a 21 year-old Cragganmore that I absolutely loathed, which I tasted at the same time as the NAS Distiller’s Edition of the same, and which I enjoyed. Similarly, I very much disliked both times I tasted the Yamazaki 12 year-old, while I gave the NAS Nikka From The Barrel a “Must Try” when I tasted it.

      1. Oh, I’m supposed to trust the reviews – from people who don’t know, or won’t say, that age’s effects on whisky aren’t suspended by an uniformative label?

        “I’m thinking about a 21 year-old Cragganmore that I absolutely loathed, which I tasted at the same time as the NAS Distiller’s Edition of the same, and which I enjoyed.”

        So the NAS was better than the 21 because you didn’t know the age of it, or did simply not knowing the age of the NAS supposedly mean that its age magically didn’t matter to how it tasted? If it was twice, or half, as old, it would have tasted the same,? If an age statement was put on the NAS and the label was ripped off the 21, what would that say about NAS – except that it’s all smoke and mirrors? You’re confusing what you simply don’t know with what doesn’t matter.

        There are some good whiskies that are NAS – but none of them are good whiskies BECAUSE they’re NAS (again, you’re not putting the whisky through any process, you’re just concealing its age). Relative quality, no matter how judged, is not any justification for someone not knowing what they’re buying. No matter how subjective taste is, age matters to HOW a whisky tastes, which is why whisky is aged in the first place. It’s what all the warehouses are about.

        By the way, I don’t know of any Cragganmore Distiller’s Edition that’s truly NAS – in fact, I think that all the OBs have both distilled and bottled dates. Any info on this and who bottled that whisky?

        1. I gotta agree with Jeff here. NAS is a label type, not a whisky type.

          So I guess what you’re saying, Noob, is that because NAS whiskies tell you less about themselves that age-stated whiskies, we have to rely on reviewers to a greater extent to get an idea of what we might be buying. Right? I suppose I agree with that IF YOU’RE GOING TO BUY A NAS WHISKY. But let us add that this sucks. And let us further add that the choice to buy elsewhere is only on the table—right on front.

          1. The first is semantics.

            Definition of type
            1 a : a particular kind, class, or group
            b : something distinguishable as a variety

            NAS can be both a “type” of label as well as a “type” of whisky. Just as “peated” is a type of whisky, and so are “chill-filtered”, “vintage”, and “sherried”.

            To the second point, I agree. In fact, I believe that I, in the above article, spelled out my ideal world which precluded the necessity of NAS. I don’t like that we have NAS whiskies in the market, but I understand why we do. I dislike not knowing more about the whiskies before (or after) buying them, but that does not stop me from feeling a duty to review them and a curiosity about them. As I’ve said to Jeff in the past, it would do absolutely nobody any good if I boycotted NAS whiskies and stopped reviewing them. Then there would be even less information (even if that information is purely subjective opinion) in the world about these products. My influence is not so great that I have any illusions about my blog’s ability to deter any significant number of people from buying NAS whiskies. Even if I did, as I’ve also said to Jeff in the past, I would rather live in a world where Corryvreckan and a’bunadh exist than a world where strict close-minded traditionalism forces all whiskies to have a stated age, and that stated age must be high. If you have any suggestions about how to have both (all whiskies age-stated, and Corryvreckan and other NAS gems exist), by all means share it. Current market forces do NOT support that, alas.

            To the last point, (don’t buy them if you don’t like the idea of NAS), I also agree. As I’ve said before, if you don’t like NAS then vote with your wallet. Everyone who feels that way is also welcome to come here to the comments section and crusade alongside Jeff for all the good it will do.

          2. But “peated,” “chill-filtered”, “vintage”, and “sherried” are all intrinsic qualities of the whisky. NAS is just a decision about what to print on the label.

            I don’t see any way in which that’s the same kinda thing.

          3. Again, semantics. “Whiskies that print the town of origin on the label” can be a type. Some whiskies are members of that type, and some are not. Can you organize a store’s shelves such that all NAS whiskies are on one set of shelves, and all age-stated whiskies are on another set of shelves? Yes? Then one can say that “NAS” is a type.

          4. That’s silly.
            Next, should we debate whisky in tubes versus whisky in boxes?
            You could certainly discuss the relative merits of those packaging choices, but it wouldn’t be a discussion of the whiskies themselves.

            NAS is a label type, not a whisky type.

            This point comes up in every NAS discussion because NAS defenders too often cite the quality of certain NAS-labeled whiskies as a point in favor of this labeling phenomena. But the seller’s decision to withhold that info doesn’t change the whisky.

          5. And yet we are debating the relative merits of whiskies labelled “NAS” versus whiskies labelled with an age statement. The liquid inside is not changed by the presence or lack of an age statement, but the PRODUCT differs, and is a useful classification. Once bottled and labelled and given a product identifier (barcode) and marketed as such, the fact that it is NAS becomes intrinsic to the PRODUCT. THIS vatting of whiskies has THIS name and IS NOT labelled with an age statement THAT whisky has a different name and IS labelled with an age statement. Technically, the label color and the packaging format (tube, box) are also intrinsic parts of the product, but we don’t discuss their relative merits because we don’t care about those things. We care about whether there’s an age on the label or not, just like we care about the price which is also intrinsic to the PRODUCT but has no bearing on the liquid inside the bottle. The very fact that you can say “Don’t spend your money on NAS whiskies” means that they are a type of product that you are advocating against purchasing. For the purposes of our discussion, that’s what matters. As I said originally, this is just semantics.

          6. Talk about semantics; by that definition, whiskies with green labels are a “type of whisky”. At most, NAS can be called a kind, class, group or variety of whisky LABEL, as what makes it NAS literally reflects nothing about the product inside.

          7. I just want to know how people like the Noob, who supposedly prefer age statements to NAS (and why is a good question!) , think that age statements will endure while they’re busy supporting NAS – and anyone who’s actually trying to keep the age information the Noob actually PREFERS is part of a “crusade” that the Noob won’t join?

          8. As I said above, the reason that I (and Jeff) emphasize that NAS is a label type, not a whisky type, is that NAS discussions to-often stray into “but Oogie or whatever is good” territory, which is irrelevant.

            Some NAS tastes good, some taste bad—that’s irrelevant to whether we should support this labeling choice, oppose it, or not give a hoot.

          9. “If you have any suggestions about how to have both (all whiskies age-stated, and Corryvreckan and other NAS gems exist), by all means share it. Current market forces do NOT support that, alas.”

            I’d love to see Ardbeg come out and start age-stating Corryvreckan and everything else. I imagine anyone buying that kind of stuff understands what they’re buying, so I doubt the (presumably young) age statement would really surprise anyone. It seems Ardbeg are afraid to ever try that, though, so we probably won’t get to see what the market forces actually look like.

          10. While I do object to the argument that “there are some good NAS” somehow justifies removing age statements (as if uninformative labels somehow “made” the whiskies good, that they somehow aren’t a product OF their concealed age or wouldn’t be the same WITH age statements), my primary problem with classifying NAS as a “type” of whisky is mostly related to something else.

            I can’t make (accurate) age statement whiskies out of thin air from sealed bottles at home, but I CAN make all the NAS I want by just peeling labels and doing literally nothing to the whisky itself. Any “type” of whisky that I can make at home, from a sealed and completed product, isn’t, to me, really any more a “type” of whisky than saying Laphroaig and Ardbeg are a “type” of whisky simply because they both use green glass, or that Ardbeg and Ardmore are a “type” of whisky because they both start with the letter “a”.

          11. “If you have any suggestions about how to have both (all whiskies age-stated, and Corryvreckan and other NAS gems exist), by all means share it. Current market forces do NOT support that, alas.”

            Ah, so the idea is that Corryvreckan, et al, COULDN’T survive as age-stated whiskies, even though Octomore survives (and sells out) as a 5 and costs more in most markets? Strict closed mindedness is a terrible thing, but it’s not me that’s guilty of it.

  5. “Now, before you take to the streets with picket signs demonizing NAS, realize that the approach is not all smoke and mirrors. Just as a hammer can be used to build a house or commit a violent crime, NAS can be used as a tool for the creation of a whisky that is better than the numeric sum of its parts”.

    Well, sorry, that’s bullshit – there is no whisky that can be made without an age statement that can’t be made with one. Further, there’s no evidence that any whisky is “more that the sum of its parts” instead of JUST the sum of its parts, even if those parts are concealed. People are confusing what they don’t know, or simply aren’t told, with magic and sentimentality.

    “A downside, no doubt, but a historically unavoidable consequence of the burgeoning popularity of our favorite spirit.”

    Sorry, also bullshit – industry “pressures” aren’t “forcing” ANYONE to “unavoidably” remove age information from anything ; it’s only a very conscious industry choice to convince the very naive that the age of what they’re drinking doesn’t matter. Does it really “have to be this way”, just because Nick Morgan says that Diageo is “running out of numbers”?

    “Morgan believes the trend for dropping age statements is partly down to “the relentless drive for innovation in the single malt category where every week there have to be new offerings”. He adds: “Frankly it’s less about running out of stock, than running out of numbers. The only one yet to appear on a label is unlucky 13.” He also quotes a recent poll of 25-45-year-old whisky drinkers that contradicts the Chivas research. “Consumers are now telling us that the key driver to purchasing whisky is flavour (60%), whilst only 3% mention age.” And yet with the notable exception of Talisker Storm, most of Diageo’s malts still come with an age attached.” – https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2014/07/will-consumers-embrace-no-age-statement-scotch/2/

    Give me a break.

    It’s true that age isn’t the equivalent to quality (however defined), but age is ONE OF THE PRIMARY REASONS a whisky is what it becomes. Age doesn’t matter to whisky? Regardless of how you define quality, name me a whisky that could have its age cut in half or doubled and that would remain the same. Rip any label off a bottle you have at home. You’ve just made it NAS. Now, does that mean that its age magically doesn’t matter anymore? Surprisingly enough, age isn’t made magically “irrelevant” when producers leave it off at the distillery either.

    The above being the case:

    NAS is NOT a “type of whisky”, because it doesn’t reflect a production process; it reflects a label information choice. NAS is NOT the same as multivintaging, which is why the idea that anyone “needs” NAS as a “tool” to make a’bunadh or Corryvreckan is utterly ridiculous.

    NAS IS smoke and mirrors because its essential message is that “age doesn’t matter with this whisky, but it somehow does matter with that whisky over there, depending upon the label applied”. It’s simply nonsense and contradicts the reality, and physics, of cask maturation.

    If you’re really interested in informing consumers, please don’t spread this manure, much less as some kind of “Scotch 101″ basic instruction.

    Further, and quite obviously, this nonsense – no matter its “time-honoured” history – won’t go away by people knuckling under to it. Wake up! The people who want more product information WILL NOT get it by settling for less. Wake up, and boycott NAS!

    In closing, I don’t think you can review NAS products without essentially promoting them, but what I actually object to is your persistently making up ages for NAS products. By the same token, I’m not interested in anyone making up ABVs either.

    1. To anyone reading this who is wondering why I am not responding to Jeff, I stopped engaging with him on this topic some time ago, as we end up arguing in circles. I also don’t appreciate his regular use of ad-hominem attacks against me. I continue to allow him to comment on the blog because I don’t believe in censoring views that differ from my own.

      1. No, the real reason you’re not “engaging” with me is that I simply have points that you, and indeed no industry spokesperson, can answer on this topic. You simply don’t have a leg to stand on, and we both know it, or you wouldn’t be afraid to debate. Your problem is you came to teach about NAS and were schooled instead. If you supposedly know so much about NAS, show me where I’m wrong.

        1. I gotta agree with Jeff again.

          He makes the same argument all the time, so it’s easy to know his position. What, Noob, do you say in response?

          And where’s the ad hominem attack? He challenges your points and objects to the ages you ascribe to non-age-stated whiskies, but I haven’t seen anything ad hominem.

          1. I stopped wasting hours of my life arguing with Jeff during this exchange. I first encountered his aggressive, accusatory tone in this exchange. You may both conclude that I’m some sort of industry shill, and you’re welcome to your opinion. I’m done talking about it, as I feel that I’ve made my points and said everything I need to say. Everyone is welcome to disagree with me, as you like. Even better, start your own blog!

          2. I didn’t see any ad hominem attack either – the Noob’s problem is simply that he doesn’t really have any answers to my points.

            The Noob stopped wasting time losing arguments with me… mostly because he previously spent a lot of time losing arguments with me. It’s quite understandable, but to pretend that he won’t debate now out of some resort to “taking the high road” is just transparently self-serving.

            Anyway, the above points simply don’t have industry-friendly answers, which is why no one can come up with any – and the Noob knows better than anyone what counterpoints he doesn’t have.

  6. Noob, you said this:
    “The use of some finishing barrels (still wet with their previous contents) can completely mask the subtleties of a malt whisky if left to age for more than a year or two.”

    Do you have any examples of that? It seems to me like the truth is actually the opposite (or something close to it). Most people rag on short finishes that seem designed to do nothing more than sop up some of that wet stuff still in the wood, while full maturations seem to perform a lot better.

    1. Sure. Note that both ends of the spectrum exist: I have tasted sherry-finished (and even 100% sherry-aged) malts that had barely any sherry characteristics at all. This is likely due to the use of worn-out refill sherry casks (the damn things are expensive, so distilleries tend to reuse them despite the diminishing returns), but could also be due to insufficient finishing time. First, an example of a whisky that needs only 2 years (citation) in oloroso and PX casks to become downright rich in sherry character: Glenmorangie Lasanta (age: 12 years). I personally consider the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition to be “over-finished” in PX sherry. I also thought Glenmorangie’s Private Edition (usually very good whiskies) Artein was ruined by its Sassicaia finish, which dominated the subtle malt with ugly grappa flavors. There’s also the Teeling Small Batch Irish whiskey, which was drowned in a rum cask. There may be other examples but this is, of course, a matter of subjective taste. A cursory Googling found some reviews of Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or (Sauternes finish), Angel’s Envy Bourbon (port finish) and Rye (rum finish) that people decried for being too sweet and cloying due to their finishes. I think these are all well-balanced as “dessert” whiskies, but there you go.

      1. Roger that. So your examples of whiskies that spent too much time in the wet barrels are Lagavulin DE, Glenmo Artein, and Teeling Small Batch.

        Of those, I’ve had only Teeling, so I don’t have much to say about them. Generally, though, I tend to think that it can’t take all that long to soak the previous cask contents out of the wet wood. How long can that “soak-up” period really take—a couple weeks? (I’m 100% speculating here.) After that, the flavored spirit is just maturing in the wood. So, I tend to be skeptical of claims that a whisky spent “too long” in the weird barrels. Most reviews of something like Longrow Red Port or Port Charlotte CC:01 include some comment like “I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the previous cask contents didn’t overwhelm the spirit after all those years.” Which, to repeat myself, doesn’t seem to make any sense because it seems unlikely that much more of those previous cask contents are really still seeping out of the cask in year 6 or whatever.

        1. That may be. I believe that the effects that various casks have upon their contents is subject to many variables and exists on a spectrum. Perhaps someone out in the world has used a mass-spectrometer to analyze whisky samples from dozens of cask types over dozens of years as they age… but I’ve never seen the results of such research (that would be an incredible read, if it existed!). Until then, it’s all conjecture. I think some finishes are insufficient, and some are overly heavy. I don’t think there’s an exact correlation between time and intensity of finish-effect. I think some casks can have a too-heavy effect after very little time, while some casks can have a too-light effect despite a lot of time, and everything in between.

  7. In hopes this brings closure to this downright silly dialogue debating semantics, I think we can all agree that NAS whisky can properly be described as a distinct “CATEGORY” of whisky. If you have a problem with that, I invite you to take it up with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Ardbeg Ugy was officially awarded the 2017 “Best distillers’ single malt scotch in the No Age Statement category”…I can’t seem to find who won the best green label category.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/best-whiskeys-from-the-san-francisco-world-spirits-competition-2017-5/#tomatin-36-year-old-single-malt-scotch-19

    1. Yeah, but Nick Morgan says that one of the reasons for NAS is that people are “running out of numbers”, too (see above) so reading something somewhere doesn’t make it so.

      The point wasn’t that there is a green label “category”; the point is that there COULD be if NAS is supposedly “defined” as a category. If NAS was actually “ageless whisky” as opposed to simply aged whisky with its age concealed, then it might be a category. As it is, you can take a sealed bottle of HP 12, black out the age statement and “make” it NAS while doing NOTHING to the product contents and, along with another bottle of the EXACT same whisky with its age statement intact, have the two bottles entered in two different competition “categories” – with the ONLY difference between them being their labels.

      By the same token, you could colour the labels on both bottles green and win the theoretical “gold medal” for green-labeled whiskies and, again, while doing nothing to the contents. This demonstrates that NAS is a type of label, not a type – or category – of whisky.

    2. I think I detect a note of pleasant irony in DJ’s comment here about the “silly” semantics debate, so I will enjoy the notion of closing the book on it by switching to the ironclad term “category” instead. Problem solved! :)

        1. Sorry, tried to cancel comment but hit the wrong button. Anyway, yeah, to try to argue that NAS is any kind of designation of whisky, as opposed to one of labeling, falls flat on its face; any designation that’s “created” AFTER a product is both bottled and sealed is, pretty obviously, only is a matter of labeling. An age statement reflects the minimum age of the product within, while NAS only reflects what someone somewhere doesn’t want to disclose.

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