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.

Share This!

116 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.

          12. Not sure how you read it, but to me it looks like he gave the NAS a’bunadh an 88 and the age-stated independent Aberlour a 65. Granted, a random choice to compare (an OB sherry cask vs. an independent Sauternes cask), but the point is he appears to have really enjoyed the a’bunadh… something most whisky writers (professional and amateur – like me- alike) have been saying for years. In other words, if it tastes as good as a’bunadh, it doesn’t matter that it’s missing an age statement. He’s not exactly refuting the notion that “knowing that A’bunadh is the perfect excuse for all NAS-goers. You know, NAS can’t be bad since A’bunadh (used to be Uigeadail) is good. Right…” Apparently… it is right.

          13. Well, of course: A’bunadh isn’t the whisky it is because of its age; it’s the whisky it is because somebody decided to conceal its age. If the paying customer was told what was in it, it wouldn’t be NEARLY as good; around here, that’s just Whisky 101. Even though NAS is NOT the same as blending or multivintaging, A’bunadh simply could NOT be made without access to the “tool” of hiding its age by way of NAS.

  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.

  8. So here’s what I don’t understand.

    Why do people who dislike NAS whisky give a damn?

    Are you caught in some dystopian hellscape where in Macallan 18 is no longer available to you? Has Balvenie 21 Portwood become more rare than the tritium and has Norman Osbourne stockpiled it all? Are you completely incapable of buying the whisky you like?

    The answer is no. You are not. You have all the whisky you could ever want at your fingertips and if you feel like you don’t, you’re either A. a drunk, or B. an overly entitled asshole.

    If you don’t like NAS whisky, don’t buy it. I happen to enjoy NAS whiskies because I like trying a bunch of the same variations from the same distilleries to try and pick out trends and patterns from each of the distilleries. I keep a bottle of each of the 6 whisky regions on my shelf for the hell of it, and to try and appreciate the differences between them, it’s the same thing with the NAS releases.

    One of these days I’m going to try the Oban 14, 18, Little Bay, and Distillers Edition next to each other and then compare them to other Highlands. Then I’m going to pass out.

    I already did it with the Glenmo line and it was a BLAST and these types of fun evenings for me don’t exist without NAS scotch, so I happen to like it. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s cool. I just don’t see the point in ragging on the idea. Yes, you’re gonna get burnt a few times but if you’re spending $50-100 on a bottle of booze and you didn’t enjoy it, you can probably hashtag that experience with #firstworldproblems.

    I thought this was a great article and not “illogical bullshit” as parts of it have been labeled. Personally, I’m glad His Noobness goes out of his way to put all this stuff out on the internet for us to read (for free) and gives us a framework to explore. And while most of the time this results in a pleasant discussion over a drink (see what I did there?) there’s always That Guy who has to come in and be That Guy.

    Hey Noob – keep up the good work. Hey Scotland, keep doing what you do.

    1. Sure, Yay Noob! Yay Scotland! But if all you got out of what I wrote is that I “hate NAS whisky”, then you either missed my points or just ignored them, maybe based on what you think you can infer about my whisky consumption and/or budget. If you’re planning on becoming a professional psychic, don’t give up the day job yet.

      Given that ANY complaint about scotch could be dismissed as “first-world problems”, I’m not sure if your take on whisky is enthusiastic or just simplistic.

      For what it’s worth, I’m not “ungrateful” to the Noob – I’m thankful for the venue and the opportunity to debate this issue (even if the Noob himself avoids debating me). For what it’s worth, I admire his belief in free speech, but I wouldn’t advocate censorship either, so that part’s really a wash.

      Like a few others, you object to my calling NAS marketing “illogical bullshit”, but can’t come up with any real counter argument either – hell, I’d even be interested in any real argument that NAS IS even a “type” of whisky because if, during one of your wilder evenings, you run out of NAS products, you can always instantly make some more by tearing the labels off of whatever you still have left. Congratulations! – you’ve just become an NAS “producer”!

      What a lot of people have bought into with NAS is the utter nonsense that they “had” to give up age information in order to get better/cheaper/multivintaged expressions and it was a false bargain from the get-go – there’s simply NO whisky that can be made without an age statement that can’t be made with one. What’s more, if anything, NAS probably resulted in you paying MORE for what you got than the market would otherwise command if age information was provided. What do you think the going rate is, per ounce, on 6-8 year-old product these days? We’ll honestly never know, given that much of it is probably hiding behind NAS labels… but I certainly believe that there’s a lot of it being sold at the very inflated rates that NAS helps to make possible in the first place. If anyone has convinced you that NAS is largely a delivery system for cheaper older whisky as opposed to more expensive younger whisky, you’ve been taken.

      Thanks for coming out and, if it’s any consolation, your “defense” of NAS, although completely unconvincing to me, STILL makes more sense than Nick Morgan claiming it’s about “running out of numbers” – so there may be a place for you at Diageo.

      1. Jeff, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. I’ve read through a bunch of your responses to the Noob and, just to remove any doubt, you’re That Guy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but when you and Ol’ Jas show up on a thread, everybody else seems to leave, including the Noob.

        This isn’t because people are overwhelmed and dumbfounded by your superior intellect/debate skills/palate, it’s because nobody wants to deal with yet another internet troll, especially on a website forum, the point of which is being unpretentious in a very pretentious world.

        I get it. You want more transparency as a consumer. You want to know exactly what you’re buying and everything about it. I don’t think you hate NAS scotch, I think you hate the idea of it. I also think that you think that consumer demand for what you feel is an inferior product is driving up the prices for everybody. I actually see your point here. I don’t necessarily agree with it’s entirety, nor do I think it’s worth writing some of the stuff you write over it.

        I also think that that you don’t get to dictate to everybody what’s “good” and what’s not, particularly when it comes to value. Taste is subjective…it always has been and it’s always going be. People value different tastes based on such a variety of different factors, some of which are intensely sentimental, that when you tear into preference based almost entirely on economics and consumer transparency, you tear into a part of the person’s life experience. I think this is why the Noob does his rating system the way he does…there are very few that are “Avoid!” and quite a few that are “Try before buy”. I assume he does this, in part, because the Noob recognized a long time ago that people’s taste is affected by more than just peat, smoke, and minerals in the water.

        When you come thundering in with inflammatory comments (and you do), you’re not just insulting what the Noob has thoughtfully posted, you might also be insulting what people consider a very personal part of their their own experience.

        You can even see it in the Noob’s writing…he’s becoming more cautious about reviewing NAS scotch because (I think) he’s not overly interested in a huge debate.

        So consider toning down the wording of your Anti-NAS Crusade. It would lead to more enjoyable discussion. More people would actually read what you think and try to absorb it.

        Or don’t. It’s the internet. Nobody does.

        In the interest of an Olive Branch, I tried like hell to taste the difference between an Oban 14 and an Oban 18. It was a long, ardous, painful effort, which I feel should have been more throughly recognized by world agencies.

        I honest to God couldn’t taste the difference. Can you? I’m not saying this to be snarky or to imply you can’t, I’m honestly curious. I wouldn’t ever consider my palate to be the most refined…but I am curious about the characteristics you could tease out between the two if you could.

        1. Hi Jon,

          Thanks for your candour. Here’s some of mine.

          Whether they’re dumbfounded or not, people DON’T have an answer to these points; it’s their problem but, instead of acknowledging that, the problem must be with the messenger. I understand if people feel insulted by being told that some of what they write/think about whisky is just sheer nonsense; in my opinion they should be far more concerned that they evidently can’t defend some of the nonsensical things that they write/think about whisky.

          As far as I’m concerned, my popularity isn’t so much determined by my approach as by other people’s lack of reason. That I’m “that guy” to a bunch of people who can’t teach me about whisky should be more of a concern to them than, trust me, it will ever be for me. As for “tearing into people’s life experience”, I won’t humour people’s nonsense on the basis that I have no violin to play for them. I’m largely done with the school of “typing makes it so” with regard to whisky commentary because far too much nonsense has acquired currency in that fashion; legitimate views have legitimate defenses.

          Your comment “I also think that that you don’t get to dictate to everybody what’s “good” and what’s not, particularly when it comes to value. Taste is subjective…it always has been and it’s always going be” demonstrates that you don’t really understand my position. I don’t care WHAT anyone calls any particular whisky – good, bad, or indifferent – my point is that age matters to the result in the glass, regardless of the adjective someone applies to it afterward. You call some 12 good, someone else calls it bad – THAT’S the debatable part – what ISN’T debatable is that it IS the whisky it is, in large part, because of its age and, were its age changed, it would be a different whisky and eligible for a new round of subjective adjectives.

          On that note, in terms of irritation, I’m tired of being told that some people not caring about age information, either at the distillery or elsewhere, is the equivalent of age not mattering to whisky, and that they don’t see the difference between the two; the first you DO get to decide, the second you don’t because cask physics and reality already “decided” to the contrary for you. Age simply matters to whisky regardless of who knows it, or acknowledges it, or not – the reality of that is the reason that whisky is aged in the first place.

          On the Oban 16 vs. 18 question, I may or may not be able to tell two years difference. Maybe Jim Murray could where I could not. The real issue between you, myself and Murray, however, is how many of us will acknowledge that age is a primary contributor TO whisky character and how many will claim that the impact of age is magically label/marketing dependent? Do you think you could tell the difference if one was an 8 and the other a 36? I might well have a good shot at that one.

          Cheers!

          1. Thank you for your candor.

            So.

            A reason NAS whisky requires (yes, requires) no age applied to it. You keep asking for one and so I will try to provide one.

            Let me say on the front end, that age vs no age really doesn’t affect my decision to buy a bottle of booze. I like to try a bunch of different stuff, which is why the NAS explosion has been alot of fun for me.

            But you (I think) want an example of why no age statement is, in fact, appropriate.

            My example and point here may very well be flawed because I don’t have a thorough knowledge of bottling and labeling laws. It is my understanding that the minimum age allowed in an age statement is the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. It is also my understanding that a spirit must be aged, in oak, at least three years, in Scotland, to call it scotch.

            Now. If you make a blend and add one drop of 3 year old whisky to a blend, the rest of which is 18 years old, it is against the law to call it anything other than a 3 year old bottle of whisky. You have your age statement, but do you really know anything about the bottle or what you’re about to drink? Can you really make an accurate assumption about the character of the whisky based on that information brought to you by a 3 year age statement?

            You said “There’s simply NO whisky that can be made without an age statement that can’t be made with one.” Well, yeah, but to what end? To what point and purpose? Just because you have an age statement doesn’t necessarily give you extra information or leg up on a good buying decision on the above example. All you know is that there’s a bit of 3 year old whisky in there.

            Further, where do you stop on demanding disclosure? It’s not fair to ask the distilleries to fully disclose everything that goes into the bottle. I mean, Coca-Cola isn’t going to give you their formula and haven’t for 100 years. You can’t have the formula for Corryvrecken either, for the same reasons. Because at some point, the distilleries have rights.

            I understand that I am fully immersed in a slippery slope logical fallacy, but I don’t particularly care. If you don’t care that some of things you write are offensive to the Noob, I don’t care if I used a logical fallacy (which I actually think isn’t unreasonable, but whatevs)

            Some of it is over priced, sure enough. I put that down to my assumption that the people blending it don’t often get it right on the first try. How much whisky was wasted coming up with Glenmo Milsean (which I happened to like). Opened it on Valentine’s Day with my wife, who also liked it, and we thought it tasted like chocolate covered cherries on the finish but, you know, alcoholic.

            I digress. Sorry. How much was wasted, or would have been wasted if that Milsean turned out to be truly lousy? This gets factored into the end price. I’m not mad about it.

            You have said on another thread “Wake up and boycott NAS whisky!”

            No. I will not. I’ll keep trying them because I enjoy it. One characteristic I have that you likely do not is that I like to “collect” bottles and try to open and enjoy bottles based on where I am (this is going to sound incredibly mellowdramatic) in life at that time. It’s a good excuse as any to try something new and see what they did differently, because why not?

            For example, I like to woodwork. I am currently in the middle of a project using three different species of wood. What better time to open a bottle of Auchentoshan Three Wood (which I actually didn’t care for). This is fun for me and it might be fun for other people and it makes my whisky experience more fun.

            And if you’re not having fun while you’re drinking, brah, you’re doing it wrong.

          2. Thanks for the response, Jon.

            “Now. If you make a blend and add one drop of 3 year old whisky to a blend, the rest of which is 18 years old, it is against the law to call it anything other than a 3 year old bottle of whisky. You have your age statement, but do you really know anything about the bottle or what you’re about to drink?”.

            The real questions are why is anybody teaspooning 3 year old into 18 year old and, beyond the obvious propaganda value, is this really happening at all except as a stunt?

            As I responded to John (http://scotchnoob.com/2017/06/01/whisky-infographic/#comments):

            “Otherwise, do you expect brilliant blends to put 3 year on the bottle when less than 1% of the offering is composed of 3 year old whiskey?” – the idea that any significant number of “brilliant blends” contain, but have less than 1%, 3-year-old whisky, much less that they are “brilliant” BECAUSE of less than 1% 3-year-old content, is pure unadulterated fantasy; Compass Box went out of its way to make a stunt bottle with Three Year Old Deluxe, but it says nothing about blends or whisky as a whole. Sure, age statements COULD be improved on in terms of age information, but NAS denies the influence of age – selectively, point blank and altogether – so which is the least accurate?

            As I’ve also recently said elsewhere, if anyone has convinced them that NAS is largely a delivery system for cheaper older whisky as opposed to more expensive younger whisky, they’ve been taken. I agree with the theoretical, and practical, benefits of mulitvintaging but, in general, I think that this “teaspoon of younger stuff means they can’t tell you how old it is” as a defense for NAS is mostly fantasy – just like JW Blue Label is anything like 60 years old according to The West Wing.

            But, as you say yourself:

            “I understand that I am fully immersed in a slippery slope logical fallacy, but I don’t particularly care.”

            I’m glad that you admitted that at some point, because at least we both know that you never really had a leg to stand on in terms of serious debate.

            Surrender accepted.

            Even though Compass Box HAS legally found a way to vastly improve upon minimum age in terms of disclosure of information to consumers, the idea that minimum age, in itself, somehow equates to disclosing “secret recipes” is as far fetched as the idea that Ardbeg “needs” NAS as a “tool” to make Corryvrecken. As production information, age is no less valid than ABV or, indeed, distillery identity – none “guarantees” quality (which IS in the eye of the beholder anyway) but all reflect factors that, in context, do speak to product performance.

            Where the rubber meets the road, I can’t help it if people are offended as a result of my putting wide holes in their opinions when even they find their opinions indefensible and/or illogical. Such is the marketplace of ideas.

            Again, props to you for acknowledging that you never really had an argument, but that doesn’t change the fact that you never really had an argument, much less make it my problem.

            Cheers!

          3. Nah, Jon, you lost that one and we both know it. Had you bothered to read it, and had a longer attention span, you’d be far smarter about whisky and wouldn’t have to resort to arguments that even you know don’t hold water.

            Cheers!

          4. Jeff, there’s no reason for you to grovel. It’s unseemly.

            It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong and you are a big man.

            You are the Shaquille O’Neal of whisky.

            I’m just happy I was able to open your mind up and that you’ve embraced the NAS trend as a fun curiosity.

          5. If you’d had an actual argument, you probably would have brought it. As it is, we both know that you were schooled.

            As you said yourself:

            “I understand that I am fully immersed in a slippery slope logical fallacy, but I don’t particularly care.”

            Which is the central problem with most “defenders” of NAS: they simply don’t care if they’re full of shit or not.

          6. Jeff, your evolution on this issue has been simply stunning and I’m so proud of you.

            YOU’RE RIGHT when you say that it doesn’t matter if there’s an age statement or not. The only way to truly evaluate a bottle of scotch is to taste it. Ignore all the labels and the numbers and packaging and just throw it back and see if you like it, age statement or not.

            This is sage advice and I’m glad you’re finally agreeing that it should be disseminated to everybody.

          7. Oh, once produced (and purchased), it’s the same whisky, no better or worse, whether it has an age statement or not. You can also say the same for information about distillery, casking and ABV. Rip the label right off once you’ve bought it, it’s the same whisky.

            What you CAN’T say is that age, distillery, casking and ABV aren’t important to product performance, so the idea that anyone should buy products while blind TO these factors BEFORE PURCHASE, much less selectively blind to these factors before purchase to help out distillery revenues, is utterly ridiculous. I write this even the knowledge that the point, and the difference, will be utterly lost on you.

            “Ignore all the labels and the numbers and packaging and just throw it back and see if you like it, age statement or not.” – sure, but you have to buy it first and many people don’t get to try everything before they buy, and they can’t afford to buy everything on the basis that there’s no product information and then “just throw it back”.

            By the same token, if dates were taken off of milk, people couldn’t afford to keep going to the store and just “buy some more and throw it back” until they found a carton or bag that wasn’t spoiled or that “they liked”.

            “I’m looking for something like an Ardbeg 10 at 46% and another like a Glenfarclas 25 at 43% (back when we had product information), but because Jon says product information doesn’t matter, all the labels just say “Whisk(e)y” now, so I guess I’ll just keep buying bottles until I find what I’m looking for. I’ve had a very tough time returning opened products to the stores for any kind of refund on the basis that I found them “defective” or “bad” or that I “just didn’t like them” – it all seems to be “caveat emptor” when it comes to that. That Jon guy said I should just buy some more.”

            Unfortunately, Jon, most people DO need product information – on whisky and a great many other things – to find the products that they’re looking for, because they can’t afford to be as silly as you on this topic until you start providing all the free samples for them.

          8. Jeff, I’m afraid I haven’t had time to read your post, but I imagine (given both how you’ve changed your mind and the length of the post), that you copied a transcript of the Guarantee Fairy dialogue from “Tommy Boy” except you changed the word “guarantee” to the words “Age Statement”.

            Then you ended it with “For your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake, you might wanna try a bunch of different scotch and decide for yourself if you like it”

            As soon as I have some time, I’ll read your post and confirm that’s what you wrote.

          9. No worries, Jon. Given that it will take you far longer to understand and then not misrepresent what I wrote than it will take for you to read it, no one can afford to hold their breath anyway.

          10. Hi Jeff! I took your advice and bought a bottle of Ardbeg’s Uigeadail! I didn’t see an age statement, but then I remembered I’m fully functioning human being, capable of making my own decisions and deciding whether or not I like something based on how it tastes, as opposed to a number on a label, just like you’ve come to be a proponent of. Again, and I can’t overstate this, the turnaround out of you is inspiring.

            Here’s what I decided. If I was a running a dungeon, this is definitely what I would drink if I was spending a late night, like, going over the dungeon’s finances. I really feel like I want to hear water dripping in the background when I drink this. It’s bacon fat mixed with peat mixed with rubber but somehow…good.

            The fact I didn’t know how old it was just made it all the more mysterious.

            Now, because I’ve been knee deep in this scotch, I haven’t had the chance to read your posts which I’m sure are nuanced, thoughtful, and considerate of all points. Just AS SOON as I sober up (54.2% and all) I’ll dive right into your comments!

            But I have you to thank for encouraging me to try more NAS scotch! Thank you!

          11. Hi Jon!

            You might have free will, but I wouldn’t say that your arguments, or really your lack of them, show you to be fully functioning. If, in one of your stupors, you tore all the labels off of everything you owned and burned them, it would make everything you owned far more “mysterious”, but that would neither justify doing it nor seeing other people having to purchase products without, say, distillery, ABV or age information. In your world, every product could just say “whisk(e)y” while you sat around and got sloshed. That being the case, you probably can’t be helped anyway. You may wear your ignorance in whisky like a badge of honour, but it doesn’t make you any less ignorant of whisky. On this topic, you’re a joke.

          12. Thank you for complementing me on my jokes…I try. I’m glad you also tried to steer the conversation back to the product instead of criticizing the critics. I, also, find that discussion incredibly tedious and largely pointless. I’m glad you pointed that out.

            So which is your favorite NAS scotch? I tend to agree with the Noob that Corryvreckan is good, though I don’t quite share the Noob’s overwhelming enthusiasm. And I haven’t had a chance to try A’Bunadh just yet.

            At some point, I’ll get into the Little Bay and let you know. The GlenMo Milsean (I thought) was pretty good! It was awfully sweet and Islay fans would certainly not prefer the chocolate cherry notes, but given that I really like a lot of variety on my shelf, it was a welcome addition.

            So. Your faves then?

          13. Better yet, why not ask how giving up age information “makes” a whisky good in any way, or how age supposedly doesn’t matter to a whisky with an NAS label (if the whisky was 8 or 18, it would all look the same, so it would all taste the same)? People are trading important product info for “quality” that giving up the info doesn’t actually deliver to them. Which of these whiskies ISN’T a result of its age? If people gave up ABV info as well, would that mean ABV “didn’t matter”?

            It just leaves us in the same place: defenders of NAS simply don’t have an answer to these points, so their “solution” is to ignore the points, pretend that they’re comedians and just say “throw it back”. Thinking consumers, however, should realize that NAS is bogus marketing.

          14. Thanks Bob! By the way, don’t be shy in sharing the answers that you don’t have to these points too.

          15. And you read all the way through it.

            Ouch.

            Sorry about that. Hope you drank while you read. That might have made it tolerable…

      2. Hey Jeff!

        So, I’m afraid I didn’t really get a chance to digest your points again, there’s just not enough hours in the day! Interesting weekend for me…I received a bottle of the oft-criticized Talisker Storm as a gift and I thought I’d share my tasting notes with you because (and I know you’re with me on this one) only a total jackhole would go on a whisky website to argue about politics behind whisky rather than having a healthy discussion about the whisky it’s self.

        I mean, can you imagine people who waste their lives doing this? I guess I should walk that back a bit…it makes for an interesting discussion occasionally, but to post entirely on this and entirely avoid commenting on the actual libation seems inane.

        Lucky for the website, Jeff, people like us don’t do that. You and me, we get right into the booze it’s self.

        So. Talisker Storm. I could definately pick up some of the salty brine in the nose and on the front end of tasting. Smoke as well, not surprisingly. The Maritime notes are there, but just sort of muted from the 10. And it’s not nearly as peppery as the 10, I thought. The more you drink it, though, the more it tastes (and I guess this isn’t a suprise) “blend-y”.

        The thing is, though, if you keep drinking it, odd little notes keep popping out. Out of nowhere, a shot of smoke, then back to brine. I also found a few citrusy almost lemony notes on the finish which sort of came out of nowhere and weren’t there the next time I went looking for them.

        It’s definately not bad. It’s an enjoyable whisky to drink, no doubt, but I could understand anybody paying more than $50 for it feeling a little irritated. But not that irritated because it’s not bad. It’s just not exquisite.

        1. It’s not “politics”, it’s physics – which is what actually makes it undeniable instead of debatable. No matter who buys/drinks/likes what or to what degree, NO whisky, in being created, has “required” that paying customers not know what they’re buying and NO whisky is anything less than the result of its age – surprisingly enough, the changes that RESULT from age maturation ARE the reason that whisky is aged in the first place. This being the case, NAS is entirely bogus, not what it says about marketing and some people’s gullibility, but in what it says about whisky. Then again, most people don’t even realize that NAS isn’t a type of whisky or a whisky process.

          The above point being in ABSOLUTELY no danger of being acknowledged, of course, your point about getting used to Storm is something I once experienced long ago – before I gave up NAS completely quite some time back – with Black Grouse. Hideous stuff to be sure but, after beating up on it extensively in terms of its shortcomings, it started to grow on me for the sheer nerve that it took to bottle it and then sell it for more than the original blend. I was, in effect, drinking it pretty and, realizing that, poured the rest out. The opportunity cost, and the evident damage to taste buds, was simply too high.

          1. See, this post I finally found the time to digest.

            For real Jeff, I don’t think anybody here would deny that age changes and improves whisky. I certainly don’t. You’d be a fool not to think this. My smartass remarks aside, OF COURSE I think age, in general improves whisky.

            (before you throw yourself a ticker-tape parade for what you think is a major victory, consider that what I just typed is the most obvious thing in the world and isn’t something anybody was denying in a serious manner…to a point)

            What I think people (myself included) are arguing is that age isn’t the end-all, be-all, only factor that goes into whether or not a whisky *is enjoyable to drink*.

            I’ll actually revert back to the Oban 14 vs 18 example which seems like about a billion posts ago. I will concede that I don’t have the most sophisticated palate in the world, but I’m also not ignorant to the differences to be found. I’ll look again, but I found more difference between Oban Distiller’s Edition and 14 than I did between 14 and 18. 14 and 18, tasted right next to each other, tasted almost identical (to me).

            Now, as it happens, I got the 18 for a rediculously good price (it was actually priced, through glorious happenstance, similarly to the 14, give or take $5). So it was a fun experiment with no real financial frustration.

            Eventually, in my opinion, the value and quality added by age finds it’s self in a world of diminishing marginal returns and ultimately, even takes away from the enjoyment of the drink.

            I think that we can agree that NAS is *different* than the standard expressions, yes?

            Where we’ll never agree is what “different” does to the whisky. I find different to be more fun than it isn’t. It would appear that you find different to come at the expense of more moderate pricing on the old stalwarts.

            It would appear this way, because the old stalwarts are still available but are increasing in price. I can’t think you’re offended by the lack of disclosure because there’s a really simple solution if you are – just don’t buy them. Now, I’m not mad at the distilleries for trying to soak us for all we’re worth because they’re in business to make money and we are the ones who have the money they want. I know what role I play in this transaction. I don’t have some starry-eyed view of whisky producers as people who only make whisky for the sheer love of making whisky….no, they’re in this to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as they’re making money with NAS, they’re going to keep making it. And as long as they keep coming out with NAS that a certain selection of the whisky drinking population finds enjoyable to drink, they’re going to keep making money.

            And I’m perfectly okay with that.

            Anybody tried Kelpie? I want something that’s seaweed and salty. Does it fill the bill?

          2. You might have digested it, but you didn’t really respond to it. If it’s so “obvious” that age matters to whisky, it certainly takes a great deal of time for people to actually acknowledge it but, when they do, that’s when the wheels fall off of NAS. QED.

            Age generally adds tertiary flavours (those created by interaction between still flavours and cask flavours), so older whisky is generally more complex. Some people equate complexity with quality, others may not. But “older is better”, no matter who believes it, isn’t the central issue with NAS.

            “What I think people (myself included) are arguing is that age isn’t the end-all, be-all, only factor that goes into whether or not a whisky *is enjoyable to drink*.” – I didn’t claim it to be “the end-all, be-all, only factor” either, only that age is major factor in whisky character and, that being the case, NAS hasn’t a rational leg to stand on in terms of claiming age to be “irrelevant” information, much less on a bottle-by-bottle basis to help someone’s marketing scheme.

            No whisky “needs” its age concealed in order to be created (omitting age is NOT the same thing as multivintaging) and no whisky is anything less than the result of its age, full stop. NAS is simply bullshit and should be opposed on that basis and the obvious fact that distilleries are “out to make money” doesn’t excuse that bullshit marketing just because some people don’t mind others trying to soak them.

          3. FYI – my family and I sat down and got into an Oban 14, 18, Distillers Edition, and Little Bay. Everybody liked something different, including the NAS Little Bay. I found the subtle variations to be a real treat and retain a firm stance that more variety = more fun = more interesting conversation.

  9. Over the weekend I had occasion to remember this post, and I decided to add my own brief thoughts on the matter. But after scrolling down through the comment thread on this thing I almost changed my mind…

    Anyway, a concept I’m fond of and that I’ve always found useful is known as Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor states that the simplest answer to a given question is likely the correct one, and that is why I’m inclined to view the NAS revolution in Scotch whisky as an almost unalloyed bad thing. Yes, there are distilleries out there who are making quality products without age statements, but by and large it seems to me a strategem for distilleries to charge premium prices for immature malts – malts that could never command such prices if the actual ages were disclosed. There are just too many of the latter out there (Glenlivet, Talisker, Macallan, even Laphroaig) and too few of the former (Ardbeg, possibly Aberlour) to allow for any other conclusion, in my view.

    1. I have to side with you, Jamie and with Jeff. Another point that is always ignored by the Nick Morgan types is the fact that there is an objective, measurable relation between age and cost. A 3 year old whisky is cheaper to produce than an 18 year old whisky. These NAS whiskies are a cash grab to sell younger whiskies at inflated prices. Case in point: Uigeadail and Corryvreckan sell for MORE than Ardbeg 10. Do you think if those weren’t comprised largely of malt YOUNGER than 10 years old, Ardbeg would hold back the age statement? Of course not. NAS defenders talk about taste. “You should taste it”, “Some of it tastes great”….yet they ignore the fact that you’re paying MORE for a younger product, which costs the company less. I’m convinced that the move to NAS is a marketing cash-grab and I won’t participate.

      And to answer Jon Crosbie:

      “Why do people who dislike NAS whisky give a damn?

      Are you caught in some dystopian hellscape where in Macallan 18 is no longer available to you? Has Balvenie 21 Portwood become more rare than the tritium and has Norman Osbourne stockpiled it all? Are you completely incapable of buying the whisky you like?”

      I don’t especially care for Macallan or Balvenie (both are WAY overpriced for what you’re getting), but yes, in fact, it is becoming somewhat more difficult to find age-guaranteed whiskies for people who don’t want NAS. And by purchasing NAS, people are sending the message that obscurantism and price-gouging is A-OK by them, so long as you have a Gaelic name and a good backstory about the courageous exploits about your founder, Angus McKilty.

      1. This is a well-thought-out and constructive comment, thanks for that. I don’t think anyone (at least, not me) is arguing that NAS isn’t a cash grab, or that NAS products aren’t typically priced more than they should be (NOT always more than age-stated products, though, often the entry-level NAS is cheaper than the youngest age-stated malt, at least in a lot of modern scotch brands), but then again, so are all of the age-stated bottlings these days: all more expensive than they “should be”, due largely to demand. To your other point: Corryvreckan costs more than Ardbeg 10 because (this is my opinion) it is better. I’m willing to pay for the Corry premium despite the lack of an age statement because I think it is significantly better than the 10. Same goes for Aberlour abunadh, and a number of other exemplar NAS products. These are the few products that show that NAS *CAN BE* a tool to allow brands to produce better products without facing “age statement stigma”. The Uigedail however, if you look at my review, I do not recommend because I do not think that it is better than the 10 (at least, not anymore). Hence why I keep saying “taste it before you assume NAS means it’s bad”.

        Finally, the argument that NAS should always be cheaper because it costs less to age is only partially true. For one, the NAS malts I listed above are cask-strength, which (because of the UK tax structure) cost a lot more to bottle than 40%-ish products like Ardbeg 10. Look at any age-stated cask-strength bottling and it will be costlier than its water-added siblings. Also, as commenters here have established, retail price is rarely tied directly to production cost. Look at fine wines – you think that Grand Cru French reds that costs thousands of dollars per bottle cost that much more to produce than $5 table red? Nope. It’s because people will pay that much for them.

        1. Noob sez: “retail price is rarely tied directly to production cost.”

          Thanks for bringing in that point. To build on that, I’d say we have to totally disabuse ourselves of the notion that prices should be bear relation whatsoever to ANY production costs—and not just the costs of aging.

          Producers can do all sorts of things that cost money and that might improve (or at least affect) a whisky’s quality or perceived value. Here are a few:

          •Put it in a wood cask for a long time

          •Buy better casks

          •Pour the whisky over a model body before bottling (that was real a few years ago, wasn’t it?)

          •Peat the malt

          •REALLY peat the malt

          •Use local barley

          •Bespokify the casks

          •Dilute it with less (or no) water

          •Age it in a warm climate

          •Age it in a cool climate

          •Age it in a four-seasons climate

          •Stick it on a boat for a while

          •Make it survive a tornado

          •Take a smaller heart cut

          •Double-distill

          •Triple-distill

          •Advertise

          •Put it in a cool bottle

          •Multi-vintage

          •Bottle single casks

          If you’re looking for your bottle price to be something like (A+B+C + 5% profit margin), then you got some problems. First, good luck figuring out what the costs of A, B, and C are. Second, why the hell would you even care? Is it because you feel ripped off if your retail price is way higher than A+B+C? Do you want to go through their cost accounting to select which costs you WILL pay for and which you WON’T? It’s a fool’s errand.

          Now on transparency: Wouldn’t it be great to know the details of all that stuff before you buy? Sure would! It ain’t gonna happen, of course. And to bring myself back on topic: Age is probably the most influential item on my list and probably the easiest to disclose. So it’s the one we should most expect or demand.

          (And here’s a somewhat different point—maybe the obverse of my ideas above: The best way to VALUE a whisky is to drink it blind without the benefit of ANY of that information, soak up the experience, and then conclude: I like that whisky enough to pay $___ for it. THEN find out what the heck it actually is and what price they’re asking. For what it’s worth, I think many expensive whiskies would fail that test, which is why the sellers DO tell you a story and sing you a song about them, so you irrationally value them above the actual drinking experience they deliver.)

          1. Thanks, Jon. I should add that, despite all the ice-cold realism I expressed above, there certainly is value in the romantic stuff too.

            There’s value in KNOWING that you’re drinking something that slept X long years in a cask in Scotland.

            There’s value in KNOWING that you’re drinking something created before you were born.

            There’s value in KNOWING that you’re drinking something hand-made by the good chaps at Springbank.

            There’s value in KNOWING that you’re drinking something from a distillery that no longer exists.

            And all the rest.

            But all that’s gotta be frosting on the cake. And the cake has to be intrinsically decent whisky.

      2. Yeah, that was constructive, thanks for that.

        I agree with the Noob – I actually wrote this above to respond to Jeff (dropping my smartass tone for a brief second):

        “Where we’ll (Jeff and I) never agree is what “different” does to the whisky. I find different to be more fun than it isn’t. It would appear that you find different to come at the expense of more moderate pricing on the old stalwarts.

        It would appear this way, because the old stalwarts are still available but are increasing in price. I can’t think you’re offended by the lack of disclosure because there’s a really simple solution if you are – just don’t buy them. Now, I’m not mad at the distilleries for trying to soak us for all we’re worth because they’re in business to make money and we are the ones who have the money they want. I know what role I play in this transaction. I don’t have some starry-eyed view of whisky producers as people who only make whisky for the sheer love of making whisky….no, they’re in this to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as they’re making money with NAS, they’re going to keep making it. And as long as they keep coming out with NAS that a certain selection of the whisky drinking population finds enjoyable to drink, they’re going to keep making money.

        And I’m perfectly okay with that.”

      3. I would have to add one other thing…

        The explosion in whisky popularity may have added to the cost of age-stated old reliables.

        The scotch shelves have seen a dramatic increase in size and scope in the grocery stores in my neighborhoods in the last 5-7 years. It used to be Johnny Red/Black, Cutty Sark, a Macallan here and there, and some Balvenie.

        At least where I live, I’ve seen more of both NAS and Age-Stated whisky show up, and this has been particularly delightful to me. Maybe it’s different where you all live, but the popularity of NAS has increased the amount of Age-stated whisky here, not decreased it.

  10. Interesting discussions here. I won’t go through point by point, but I hope I didn’t come across starry-eyed. I’m well aware companies are looking to turn a profit, and I’m fine with it. But it’s the never-ending marketing song and dance that drives me nuts. A Gaelic name tells me nothing about taste while an age statement and regional designation give me an idea of what to expect. Age-guaranteed whiskies can be supremely disappointing, any whisky can. But the “just try it” line becomes far more frustrating when you have literally no idea what you’re getting. You can read reviews, but that only helps to a certain degree. What’s in your bottle of Corryvreckan and what’s in mine can be completely different. Yours may have been spiked with some lovely ex-Sherry casked older Malt while mine may contain malt that spent time in “Sherry-seasoned” casks. Big difference. I’m all for more disclosure from distillers, but this isn’t likely to happen. Just look at what happened when Compass Box tried to be fully transparent. The SWA likes the secrecy and mystique they have going on. It’s another part of the marketing. Which is why there are stories of distilleries’ founders riding into battle on an 18-point stag while saving a Scottish king from a dark, stormy whirlpool at 57 degrees North, and so on. And the dismissive attitude of people like Nick Morgan toward any criticism is astounding. His arrogance could come back to bite him in the bottom line. At the end of the day, I’m all for choice, but my LCBO is carrying fewer interesting age-guaranteed malts outside of the standard 12 Year offerings (Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Oban, Auchentoshan). The shelves are overcrowded with NAS. I’m just not buying it. Perhaps I’ll drink more rum. El Dorado 12 (and even 15) is still reasonably priced.

    1. Nah, I don’t think you’re starry-eyed, I just didn’t want anybody to think I was either. Please forgive my ignorance…what’s an LCBO? It seems that the economics of whisky distribution is different (not surprisingly) in other states. The Noob gets all he seems to want in California, but just for context, I’m from Iowa and oddly, here, the state is THE liquor distributor. So you can’t special order bottles of anything you want. Now, as it happens, I live in Des Moines and enjoy popping into grocery stores whenever is convenient to see what’s on sale and where I might find a decent price on a bottle…when I find one I’d like to try for a good price, it almost feels like a trophy.

      We’ve only seen an increase here in both age stated and NAS, so, from my perspective, NAS has been helpful (though the prices have admittedly gone up…I remember in 2005, Balvenie PortWood was $100 a bottle. Now you’re lucky if you can find it for $200)

      “Distilleries’ founders riding into battle on an 18 point stag while saving a Scottish king from a dark, stormy whirlpool at 57 degrees north”

      That’s a FANTASTIC sentence. Well played.

      Please forgive more of my ignorance…what did Nick Morgan say/do/think? I’ll be honest, I don’t even know who the guy is. I assume he’s some master distiller employed by Diageo. I saw a YouTube video with Richard Paterson who made me laugh when he said that if he saw me nosing a whisky wrong, he’d kill me.

      So, Nick Morgan, please enlighten me. (I actually have dropped my smartass tone here and really would like to learn something)

      1. Jon,

        Nick Morgan is the head of whisky marketing for Diageo. I’m not sure what his title is, but he’s a marketing guy. He stated that those who criticize the use of E150A, Chill-filtration, NAS are “uninformed hot-heads who don’t know anything”. I wrote (and included links) in this blog post. (Sorry to plug my own blog, feel free to remove if it’s offside)
        http://ontarioscotchlover.blogspot.ca/2017/05/you-cant-handle-truth-nas-scotch-is.html?m=1

        The LCBO is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. It is the government liquor monopoly in Ontario, Canada. The LCBO is one of the largest single purchasers of alcohol in the world, yet we in Ontario still get totally screwed on selection and taxes. There are some great employees in some LCBO stores, but when it comes to whisky, many are totally clueless. I’ve been shown Laphroaig Quarter Cask or Select many times when asking for Laphroaig 10. When I say “I don’t buy non-age statement whisky”, I’ve often been told “oh, I didn’t know there was a difference. This one is really popular!”

        I’m not as militant as Jeff in my anti-NAS stance, but I still won’t buy them. I think the idea of blending different ages to create something unique is interesting, but I think that the majority of NAS whisky is nothing but a marketing scheme to make more money from younger, cheaper spirit. In a perfect world, distillers would tell us exactly what is in each whisky and how much of it is in there. I won’t hold my breath.

        1. That’s too bad about Morgan. I would rather hear that kind of yammering from a distiller (for example, if David Stewart popped off with something like that, I feel like it would be worth paying more attention to, given his years in the business) who had a scientific basis for the position. When the sales guy fires off that talk, it doesn’t usually carry much weight.

          People dislike Diageo, but I don’t. The simple fact of the matter is that when a big corporation gets involved, the distribution avenues, channels, and ultimately availability increases for everybody. I get that nobody likes corporations, but without the efforts they put into making it available, I don’t get to try as much.

          I’d love it if each distillery was independent and had the reach to offer me everyone of their products but that’s as starry-eyed as it gets.

          See, I really don’t find any of this (NAS, Diageo, Nick Morgan, Chill Filtration, coloring, marketing etc etc etc) offensive in the slightest because I understood on the front end of all these transactions that I am getting taken for a ride.

          Think about what we’re talking about here – we’re talking about paying between $50-100 for a bottle of something that, if you keep drinking it, will dehydrate you.

          I can’t get offended as a consumer because the utility of the product I’m buying isn’t just lacking, it’s not there entirely. Scotch is a luxury, a fun way to pass the time…it isn’t anything I need and isn’t anything to get worked up over. In my view, it’s supposed to be fun.

          Now, of course there’s utility in sharing a drink with a friend and the discussions that come with, but most of my good friends drink beer anyways. I tried to get one of my rugby friends (who has done a rugby tequila shot – snort the salt, take the shot, squirt the lime in your eye) to try GlenMo’s Nectar D’Or to expand his horizons. He took one whiff, glared at me, said that it smelled like acid reflux and went back to his Miller High Life.

          So my circle of friends and the conversations and memories shared with them isn’t swayed by what kind of whisky I have to offer and could give two bleeps about age statements.

          Enjoying scotch is a hobby and hobbies aren’t supposed to be offensive or negative. They certainly aren’t supposed to involve money that was efficiently spent. Hobbies are supposed to spend your money for you and you’re supposed to shrug and say “it’s only money”. Well, in my humble opinion, anyways.

          I can certainly understand why people don’t feel the way I do. Actually, the only reason I was being as obnoxious as I was to Jeff up there is because I don’t appreciate how rude he is to the Noob, who puts all the info he has out for us, on the internet, for free, in an enjoyable manner to read. When there’s somebody like the Noob or Ralphy who’s overwhelmingly positive about what they’re doing and somebody comes in with a wet blanket of negativity, I find this rather intolerable.

          As an odd parallel, I also ride motorcycles for a hobby (these hobbies are not to be mixed, by the way) and one thing I find annoying is the Harley guys who refuse to ride anything but a Harley. I have a Harley, but I’d love to throw a leg over anything. I guess I feel the same way about scotch. I’m happy to give anything a go, at least once.

          I wish you didn’t have to deal with the lack of availability. That would be really frustrating, so I can appreciate where you’re coming from.

        2. Hey, that was a fine blog post. I really enjoyed it – thanks for putting it out there! I’m also glad to hear that you liked Laphroig’s QC – there’s an unopened bottle on my shelf but it’s currently too warm and humid here in Iowa to crack it open. I think it’ll have to wait for a cool September night by a campfire.

          1. Thanks for reading. It’s always appreciated. I try to keep it fun….most of the time.

            I see where you’re coming from. And my take is just a little different. Precisely because whisky is a luxury, I’m very particular about what I purchase. If I was in a position to spend $100 on something I might not like on a regular basis, I might not care as much. But every bottle I purchase is chosen with utmost care, because I’m not a millionaire AND I have three children. I can’t just buy willy-nilly. Regions and age statements tell me SOMETHING. It’s not a guarantee (there are none in whisky) but it’s useful information. A fancy name and a tall tale tell me nothing. Now I like history. Heck, my major as an undergrad was history. I now teach history and philosophy. But this tells me zip about the whisky. And taste descriptions are often quite useless for a variety of reasons: personal taste, genetics, dietary habits, geography, distillers changing the formulations of NAS expressions etc. And again, my perception is that the more distilleries are able to fleece us with NAS, the more NAS we’ll see. If they weren’t making MORE money with this move, they wouldn’t do it.

            I’m not anti-corporate, but I’m not naive either. And if most NAS whiskies were of comparable quality with those they’re replacing, people might embrace it. But the fact of the matter is that MOST (not all) NAS whiskies are not as good as those they are replacing (ahem, Macallan colour series, I’m looking at you) and they are MORE expensive. I realize prices always climb, supply and demand and all that, but I feel the whisky industry is moving in the wrong direction. Again, people are free to make their own decisions, but I refuse to buy NAS at the prices distillers are asking without much more disclosure on their part.

          2. Hey, I understand where you’re coming from too.

            And, for the record, I have two kids and am also not a millionaire. :-)

  11. If you’re interested, here is an interesting link to a very brief debate on the topic.
    https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/the-debate/9214/is-nas-whisky-the-enemy/
    I obviously agree with the first guy. The second guy, from Macallan, speaks strictly in market-ese. What he offers up as an explanation amounts to a bunch of vague platitudes, imho. He wants you to think they’re looking out for you and that most NAS contains “very old and rare” whiskies. I’m not buying it. Whenever someone insists they’re “not out to hoodwink the customer”, I’m pre-disposed to believing the exact opposite. Kind of like when someone starts a sentence with “Honestly”, they’re usually lying to you. Just my opinion.

      1. “Like the doctor who keeps telling you he went to medical school”

        LOL 😂

        The doctor doesn’t need to tell me he or she went to medical school.

        I agree that some age-stated whiskies have some “hit and miss” batches. Like I’ve previously stated, there are no quality guarantees with whisky. NAS just makes it easier to play fast and loose with formulations. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m not spending my hard-earned dough on mystery malt. On the positive side, I’ve been discovering more good quality Canadian whiskies lately. The master blenders are very accessible (Dr Don Livermore is on Twitter) and usually answer questions in a pretty straight forward manner without a whole lot of marketing-speak.

    1. I should point out that this doesn’t stop at NAS. There are plenty of rumors and “insider” stories floating around about distilleries dumping barrels of age-stated whisky into vattings that would not previously have passed quality-control due to bad oak or bad warehouse placement, or what-have-you. Just like every batch of barrels has some “cherry” barrels that make excellent single-cask releases, there are also plenty of duds. Previously these would have been sold to independents or blenders, but they’re now getting put into official bottlings just because they meet the age criteria. Furthermore, there are similar stories of age-stated whiskies that are now solidly “12” or “15” years, rather than an assortment of “12 and up” or “15 and up”. Now that age carries such a premium in the marketplace, you can’t let that 13 year-old barrel sit around an extra couple of years to finish maturing before vatting it. You put it in now. Reviews of many age-stated brands have declined in recent years, and this is (probably) one of the reasons.

      1. So, playing off of the doctor/medical school discussion up there, this would be the equivalent of the old joke:

        What do you call the person who was ranked last in his or her medical school’s graduating class? Doctor.

      2. Noob, you said this: “…distilleries dumping barrels of age-stated whisky into vattings…”

        Are you talking about including barrels that are OLDER than the minimum age they’re bottling? I’m pretty sure you are, given the overall thrust of your post. It’s just an odd phrase worth clarifying, given that every single barrel in every warehouse is effectively “age stated,” since they’re required to track all barrels’ ages.

        1. And this is exactly why the “age doesn’t matter” argument falls flat. Distillers track the age of every cask, but age doesn’t matter……..except when it does. So companies like, oh say, Macallan can charge >$300 for Macallan “Ruby” because age doesn’t matter AND they can charge $2000 for Macallan Sherry Oak 25 Year Old because, you know, age matters.

          1. Despite being accused of being an “NAS Supporter”, I’ve pointed out this very contradiction often, especially in reviews of Macallan products. Age matters. Period. The problem is that age does not correlate directly and linearly to quality, which is why something like abunadh and Corryvreckan are more than the sum of their parts (or sum of the ages of their parts). The correct way to phrase my argument is not “Age Doesn’t Matter”, it’s “Age Statements Matter, But Are Only A Partial Indicator Of Quality, And Can Be Misleading Too.” Heck, the condition of the wood into which the whisky was put probably matters more than the actual time spent in that wood (once you get past the grassy 3-6 year range), and yet nobody is rallying to put Oak Condition Metrics on each bottle. More information is always better, but (as stated in the blog post above), I understand why sometimes distillers keep certain information back, even if *I* want it. Aberlour would sell a lot less abunadh if it had a “6” on the bottle, even if that 6 year-old malt (that’s a wild unsubstantiated guess) is only 5% of the bottle contents and is there for a specific flavor component.

          2. The “problem” is that NO piece of information correlates directly to ANYBOBY’S idea of quality – yet that comes up again and again as an excuse not to give age information. From this, the question directly follows “since ABV doesn’t tell you everything about quality either, can it be selectively dispensed with as well”?

            Taking multivintaging into account, there’s no proof that abunadh and Corryvreckan are anything BUT the sum of their parts (if their parts were different, so would the be the result). For what it’s worth, I “understand” why some producers keep minimum age back, too, in some cases: it’s a very handy way to premiumize the pricing on relatively young products.

          1. I think we’re likely on the same page in terms of “more information being better” and our shared misgivings as to the what and why of NAS concealment. What we seem to disagree about, if anything, is whether we, as consumers, stand to get more product information by purchasing NAS-labelled products or by leaving them on the shelf.

  12. What Jeff said above. I feel we send a stronger message if we leave the NAS on the shelf. And I’ve also had conversations with LCBO staff about it, especially when the stores are busy. I know I risk being “that guy”, but if I CAN steer someone new to whisky away from NAS and toward an age-guaranteed bottle, I don’t mind being “that guy”. Most of the LCBO staff tend to repeat the Nick Morgan/Ken Grier lines by rote.

    “Removing the shackles of age to promote creativity”

    Or

    “Age and maturity are not necessarily the same thing”

    Market-ese, says I. And I’m disinclined to acquiesce to the industry’s request that I just shut up and buy it.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>