Whisky Infographic

A quick little mid-week diversion: The folks at Invaluable have put together a fun whisky infographic for beginners, along with a coherent introduction (of sorts) to whisky for my fellow noobs out there. If you’re looking for some Father’s Day gift inspiration, or just aren’t quite sure what the differences are between rye, bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, scotch, and so on, you might find this helpful. I was happy to provide Invaluable with some feedback, and so they credited me as a contributor. Here’s a peek at the infographic, click on it for more. Cheers! -SN

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  • Rye – United States of America? Seriously? It’s often called CANADIAN whisky. And smoky scotch is largely from one region with less than a dozen distilleries. An info graphic that frames scotch as smoky when speyside is the land of fruit and honey is a bit misleading, no?
    I was jokingly going to comment about NAS drama given the hubbub from the other week – but I’ve actually been lead to make a couple of legit comments.

    • Oh, my comments on NAS are quite “legit” – they’re just unanswered; in fact, they’re too “legit” in some ways to be answered. Again, there is simply no way that age is “irrelevant” to whisky, much less that its relevance can be magically and selectively switched off depending upon a label to help someone’s profit margin – and “experts” who won’t denounce this sham really shouldn’t be trusted on the subject of whisky.

      NAS is the elephant in the whisky room in terms of the obvious illogical industry messaging that most people won’t call out (or don’t know enough TO call out), and the canary in the whisky coalmine in terms of which experts are telling the truth about whisky and which are simply marketing boosters. Those who really “don’t know” that age matters to what they’re drinking – regardless of the “refinement” of their palates, how they define “quality” and whether they own a keyboard – really don’t know much about what they’re drinking.

    • the fact that Tennessee whiskey, which is hardly a noteworthy distinction, gets its own section while there’s no distinction between peated and unpeated scotch is laughable.

  • Scotch: Composition “Barley | Distilled in oak barrels”? Huh?

    “Aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years” would be a bit more accurate.

  • Jeff you’re being a donkey. Everyone calls it out. At some point distillers wisely decide to omit age instead of ID the youngest age involved in the bottle. Of course this is an opportunity for distillers to be deceptive with a sub par offering, and everyone knows this also. I’m grateful for the Scotch Noob because he tips us off when NAS = Market positioning. 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?

    • You’re being a bit of a stooge here, John.

      “Of course this is an opportunity for distillers to be deceptive with a sub par offering, and everyone knows this also”, yet “I’m grateful for the Scotch Noob because he tips us off when NAS = Market positioning” – why are you supposedly “grateful” for being “tipped off” about something “everybody knows”?

      “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?

      There is, as always, at a lot of talking at and around my points, but very little speaking TO my points – and so much for real whisky acumen. Regardless of how anyone defines quality, what whisky supposedly ISN’T a product of the duration of its age maturation, much less can have the effects of that age maturation magically and selectively “suspended” at will on the basis of some producer deciding to apply an NAS label to the product after casking? If simply, and selectively, denying/ignoring the physical effects of something can magically make them “irrelevant”, why can’t you make a new car out of a used car by removing the odometer?

      What, no real answer to those? When you figure out why, you’re probably beginning to wake up. People who have yet to understand the obvious and fundamental message here should stop blaming the messenger for what they don’t understand… or, in some cases, simply won’t admit. There IS fundamental dysfunction at the center of current whisky thinking, but I’m not the source of it.

  • Jeff,
    Your perspective re: NAS isn’t wrong. I don’t recall anyone saying it is. It correctly points out that whisky marketers have shifted their ‘truth’ in order to sell more whisky for more money at less maturation. There are some who don’t care so long as the dram in their glass tastes good. That seems to bother you, inexplicably. Your constant nitpicking of semantics as you counter the points people make doesn’t make your point stronger – it just makes you look petty. You constantly attack the smallest details in a person’s post with a smugness that doesn’t do much to reinforce your argument as much as it reinforces the notion that you’re looking to create conflict. Your analogy relating NAS whisky marketing to a used car with a reset odometer is laughable at best. Get over yourself. We get it. You hate NAS whisky. Point made. Now stop beating that dead horse.

    • Oh, I know my perspective on NAS isn’t wrong as well, Dave – yet my “analogy relating NAS whisky marketing to a used car with a reset odometer is laughable at best” in some way that no one, including yourself, apparently, can really articulate. Maybe that’s not one of your more “legit” comments. Again, just talking at and around my points instead of to them doesn’t impress me – and it’s that approach to “debate” that I’d call smug. Oh, and it’s not a “reset” odometer, it’s a removed odometer – the point being that, if you remove the means of measurement, what’s being measured somehow mysteriously becomes insignificant if it helps out the marketing department.

      It’s not about “semantics”; it’s about the utterly ridiculous idea that cask physics can be suspended simply by not talking about them. Somehow, if you don’t talk about a whisky’s age or a car’s mileage they then don’t matter – and it magically becomes information that the buyer doesn’t “need” to know – so long as someone, somewhere, can call something a “good whisky” or a “good car”.

      I correctly point out “that whisky marketers have shifted their ‘truth’ in order to sell more whisky for more money at less maturation” or I just “hate NAS whisky”? No, it goes a little farther than that – I’m saying that many producers are simply lying about the fundamental nature of their product and that many experts/commentators, either out of ignorance or collusion, are aiding them in doing so. As a topic, it’s far from a dead horse; it’s very alive and ongoing – it’s just embarrassing to some, which is why they don’t want it discussed.

      • I dig the odometer analogy.

        If ever you discuss this topic again, Jeff—which could happen, right? :)—I think it’s a good one to hang your hat on.

        • On second thought the odometer analogy is flawed. People can chose to buy a vehicle based on performance and specs, which is really a better analogy. In the 70s performance equaled raw horse power as the market was filled with muscle cars. Now it equals other things – torque, fuel economy, handling. In other words, the industry shifted and consumers voted with their wallets by choosing to buy what they enjoyed driving. Some people still want horsepower and want to know all the specs. Some are content to go by feel. Should people have the option of seeing the specs of a car they’re going to buy? Sure. Can they opt not too buy a car that doesn’t provide them? Of course. Me? I live my life a quarter mile at a time.

          I’m not sure how that fits in this analogy , but it seemed like a cool way to end.

          • They can “choose” to buy any car they like – they can even choose to never look at the mileage OR to remove the odometer – but what they can’t do is say that the mileage on the car doesn’t matter on the basis that they ignore it. For what it’s worth, you can’t say that gravity “doesn’t matter” on the basis that you ignore it either – that only works in cartoons.

            “Enjoying drinking” something doesn’t make the age “irrelevant” – these days, it just usually makes it unknown. No matter who enjoys what whisky or why, which whisky supposedly ISN’T a product/result of its age?

            “Should people have the option of seeing the specs of a car they’re going to buy? Sure. Can they opt not too buy a car that doesn’t provide them? Of course.” – sure, but the information has to be available in the first place for the first group and, with cars, it’s generally accepted that mileage matters. You might buy an car with more mileage anyway, but almost no one would accept the idea that “mileage on this product doesn’t matter if we conceal it from you”. How about the age on your bag of milk?

          • Oh, and sorry – my bad: I didn’t mean remove the “age” on your bag of milk; I meant remove the date on your bag of milk.

            But the point remains: if you take the dates off of milk bags, does that information magically become “irrelevant” to the product on the basis that the information is now unavailable – but, maybe, only on some milk bags, but not on others – or that people have “different ideas” as to what constitutes “good milk”?

          • The analogues relating to odometers and milk expiry dates continue to be flawed. NAS doesn’t = breaking down or expiring. NAS or age statements relate to perceived performance. Neither is a guarantee – it’s just you feel a sense of peace when spending your hard earned buckaroos on something you can readily relate to, such as a number on a bottle. I get that. The industry made that the standard when it was convenient and has shifted it now that it’s inconvienent. That rankles plenty of people – along with a lack of transparency.

            But, there are a variety of things that can affect performance or taste. If the argument is to be made that a scotch should cost more because it’s aged more and cost less if it’s aged less I get that. But, are we really going to make the assumption that letting a single Cask, for example, sit in a warehouse for 15 years costs 2x as much as letting it sit for 12? I’m thinking about Balvenie single barrel 12 and 15 and their respective price points, as an example. Or, is the cost tied into the use of a first full Sherry Cask versus a bourbon one? Where is the sunk cost? Barrels or storage? Is it in the creation of multi barrel recipes? Finishing? All of the above?

            A car, for example, can have a ton of horse power and drive like shit. A scotch can have a lot of years and be mediocre. I’m not defending NAS. Truly. I’m simply pointing out that if a person likes a scotch that tastes good and doesn’t have an age statement it doesn’t make them a fool.

          • Well, if NAS or age statements relate to perceived performance, then breaking down or expiring are really just extremes OF perceived performance as they happen to relate to cars and milk, right?

            The larger point, however, is that, like most things, cars, milk and whisky are subject to physical effects that can’t be nullified by not discussing or measuring them. This is an elementary point, but still lost on many. I’m really beginning to think that people don’t need Whisky 101 courses so much as Reality 101 courses; you can decide what you personally “care about” but, amazingly enough, that decision doesn’t change physics or its effects – and other people TELLING you not to “care about” something for their own profit doesn’t change those effects either.

            Opposing NAS, for me, isn’t about “relating to a number” or even justifying a price; it’s about NOT supporting a form of marketing nonsense that magically and selectively denies the INTRINSIC nature OF the product just to make a buck. It’s more about truth and not letting someone get away with the obvious bullshit of saying that 2 and 2 is 5 than anything else.

            It’s quite common, too, that most people who defend NAS don’t think that they’re defending NAS; they just buy the stuff, help to wipe out the age information that most of them probably WOULD prefer (along with transparency) and then say it’s all justified by the quality that withholding age information never guaranteed anybody either. What’s more, if the industry could legally sell them the same kind of bogus marketing with regard to ABV, they’d swallow THAT hook, line and sinker as well – “ABV doesn’t guarantee that I’ll like a whisky, so I guess I don’t need to know that either if the people selling the stuff and who want to add more water say so”.

            No, these people aren’t stupid at all – they’re exactly the kind of “outside the box independent thinkers” that the industry has to attract to peddle its nonsense. After all, whisky and physics are being completely “reinvented”… and it’s all just for them.

  • I misread your analogy – which makes much more sense as I reread it. That’s my bad.
    That said I don’t think that producers are lying about their product beyond saying that it’s good and that it’s quality isn’t based on age of maturation. It isn’t implicitly a lie to say it’s good. It very well might be, but it’s not a given. It’s also may be not a lie to say that Cask maturation doesn’t matter as much as may have been claimed in the past; it may not be a lie to say that finishes or Cask quality play a larger role in taste. There are a variety of ways that the physical environment surrounding a whisky can affect it’s flavour. I’m not defending the pricing and marketing of NAS whisky so much as I’m pointing out that age doesn’t always equal quality. My favourite Glenfarclas, for example, is the 15yo. I prefer it to the 21yo by a decent margin. In many ways the previous ‘truth’ about age = quality wasn’t an assurance either. It was just more comforting than ‘take our word for it – this is good stuff’. Glenmorangie Signet apparently contains whisky that is 30+ yo, but it also obviously contains much younger whisky (hence the lack of an age statement). The age of the youngest might change from batch to batch as the distillery attempts to create a consistent flavour profile. That would necessitate new labels with every batch – which would be cumbersome on a variety of levels. Do I deserve to know what is in the bottle I’m buying? Yes – but not entirely. There is ‘intellectual’ property for distilleries to protect that would lead them to hesititate to share recipes, although I suppose there is a diff between recipes and ingredients. Where does it end though? Should Ardbeg tell us that oogie has 15% 5yo, 25% 8yo and 60% 10yo? If they tell us that it contains whisky between 5-10yo will people want to know in what percentages? If they put the lowest age number only on the bottle does that accurately represent the whisky? Where do lines get drawn?
    In the meantime, people can either chose or not chose to buy whisky that has no age statement. The dead horse aspect of the discussion relates to that. You have made clear that you abhor NAS whisky. I abhor overpriced, bad whisky no matter the circumstances. People who enjoy whisky in any meaningful way are likely well aware of the debate and have made a choice. So, let it go and vote with your wallet and palate.

    • I think that current trending is mostly just about the industry and its shameless boosters redefining what’s “good” to simply match whatever the industry is putting out at any given time – and age maturation is downplayed, or indeed ignored altogether, where it doesn’t fit the narrative and/or can’t be used as a selling point. What, the age isn’t all that impressive on this one? Abracadabra! – it now simply doesn’t matter on this one either, “depending” on the label applied, but knowing that a whisky is named after a loch or a whirlpool is somehow more important.

      Age maturation has now been “discovered” to “not be as influential as first thought” at JUST the same time that the industry is running low on aged stock – even as distilleries continue to put casks to sleep for decades while losing valuable yield to Angel’s Share and age maturation remains the entire CORNERSTONE of multivintaging and its results? And the bottles for which age supposedly is and isn’t “significant” are magically “chosen” by marketing people and label designers? These ideas are really simply too ludicrous to give serious consideration – but they are very funny.

      If “take our word for it – this is good stuff” seems justifiably silly, even just on the face of it, well, that’s exactly what you’re left with when it comes to NAS – you have to have “faith” that the influence of age is really being turned on and off by a label, and take the industry’s word for it that this even CAN be done. And, instead of “just” trusting the industry to tell you what’s good, you can supposedly trust the”experts”, who back up the industry on the “rationale” behind NAS marketing? The comedy goes on.

      NO piece of information “equals quality”, if only because quality is in the eye of the beholder anyway – but is that any justification for WITHHOLDING information from the paying customer to enhance sales? What else doesn’t the paying customer “need” to know about what they’re buying in order to help somebody’s bottom line? ABV, so that people don’t show “bias” against standard-strength offerings versus cask strengths? Does ABV, like age, somehow magically “not matter” if you simply don’t measure it/know what it is and can this supposedly be “determined” on a bottle-by-bottle, label-by-label basis? The problem isn’t that the thinking is being applied to age vs. something else – the problem is that the thinking itself is both flawed and transparently self serving on the part of the industry and that various “experts” are helping to mislead consumers in this regard.

      The point isn’t who likes what whisky better either – it’s that, no matter what whisky you like or why, its age is a major reason it IS the whisky it is. It’s not that you like a 15 better than a 21; it’s that if you cut the age of either whisky in half or doubled it, they would both be very different whiskies, regardless of that you, or anyone else, thought of the results. Age matters to whisky and, in fact, whisky is matured BECAUSE its age matters. It’s just physics – and marketing and profit margins don’t change that.

      Instead of just recognizing that, we’re back to the (very selective) “need” for secret ages, secret recipes, the problems with changing labels, and on and on. New labels are somehow “cumbersome”, but new, and ever higher, prices aren’t? Poor industry – let’s pass the hat. Compass Box not only manages to tell you most – but not all – of the recipes of its blends, but CB IS the most vulnerable in this regard; CB IS only a blender so, in theory, others could closely duplicate CB products with access to the right stock. Yet CB also tried to get labeling law reformed and met with stiff resistance – even though other blenders wouldn’t be any more “compelled” to share “secret” recipes than they are today under those reforms and, with all the other variables involved, you simply CAN’T duplicate someone else’s single malt merely by knowing the ages and proportions of the components involved in an expression (you need the same stills, water, maturation conditions and a great deal more).

      I vote with my palate and my wallet all the time – I also say what I know to be true about whisky in the face of a good amount of nonsensical marketing and simple ignorance concerning age, and neither are likely to change any time soon.

        • In a debate, I like to resort to the truth – call a whisky good, bad or indifferent (and, in the end, who cares what you call it, or whether everyone calls it the same thing anyway?) what whisky ISN’T the whisky it is because of its age?

  • I’m not really sure what the “invaluable” people meant to accomplish with this thing. It seems designed for people who don’t know the first thing about whisky (no slight intended—we were all there once), but it leads with obscure legal requirements (like “Distilled below 80% ABV) that are way beyond the needs of newbies. And the info isn’t parallel from one entry to the next.

    It should say things like “Scotch: Diverse Whisky Made in Scotland” and “Bourbon: Sweet Whisky Made in the USA.”

  • This infographic is terrible and does no justice to the incredibly diverse variety of whiskies available. It also furthers the inane misconception that all scotch is smoky. If I were a whiskey newbie I would hate to be led to believe what’s represented here. Sorry.