The NAS (No Age Statement) controversy - my tuppence worth.
|Evolution of The Glenlivet Nadurra.|
Beli Neder, very soon I will be a doing a comparison of two versions of “The Glenlivet Nadurra 16 Year Old”.
However, before I commence my review I would like to state my views regarding the NAS (No Age Statement) controversy. It is in fact very relevant to this whisky as The Glenlivet “Nadurra” has up until now been 16 years old.
Look at the picture above. Spot the difference?
I'll make it easy for you...
Even though The Nadurra 16 is still readily available in the shops, Pernod Ricard have decided to discontinue this fine whisky and have now released a much younger whisky with almost identical packaging, with no age statement under the same name: Nadurra. Furthermore, the news is that their best seller, “The Glenlivet 12 Year Old” might also be discontinued, replaced with something called “Founder’s Reserve”.
What does an Age Statement actually mean?
The Age Statement on the label guarantees that the youngest whisky in the blend that makes up this whisky has been matured in oak casks for a minimum of X years. Let’s just understand what an Age Statement means. Even if 95% of the final bottling was made up of whisky matured for 25 years say, if only 5% of the final blend was matured for only 12 years then the Age Statement would be “12 Years”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the manufactures stating in addition that “the majority of the casks were made up of 25 year old with some 12 year old to balance the final result” or some such statement. In my opinion, the more information stated on the label, the better!
[UPDATE. This turned out not to be the case as some time after this article was written, Compass Box company was sued by the big whisky companies for doing exactly what I suggested, that is, stating the percentages of ages and casks on their boxes. See my article on Compass Box here:]
The older the age, the better the whisky?
The marketing guys in the Scotch whisky industry will argue that they are only releasing NAS whiskies in order to disprove a fallacy that the older the whisky, the better it is. Ironically, this is exactly the message which they have been pushing on us consumers for years, charging more for their 15 Year Old, even more for their 18 Year Old and a small fortune for their 25+ Year old.
The truth is that the age of the whisky is not necessarily an indication of the quality of the product. It very much depends on the quality of the casks used to mature the spirit. For instance, a whisky matured in quality virgin or first fill casks for four years will very likely produce a young but nevertheless, very enjoyable whisky whereas a whisky matured for 15 years or more in poor, tired out (say third fill) casks will almost certainly produce a very poor final product as the tired out wood, already drained of its essence, will have very little influence upon the spirit. (When they realise this, the distillery might very well “re-cask” the whisky for a few months in either virgin oak or heavily sherried casks in order to dramatically boost the flavours. Hence the more and more commonly found “Finished whiskies”).
Instead of addressing the myth of “Age is better” by giving us, along with the age statement, more information regarding the quality and type of casks used to mature their whiskies and promoting this as a selling point, they have chosen instead to withhold information and release more and more NAS whiskies.
Many of us are against NAS whiskies not because we believe that “Age is better” but because we believe that reducing information to the consumer will decrease our appreciation for Scotch whisky and ultimately harms the industry. As already explained, there is in fact nothing intrinsically wrong with a young 5,6,7 or 8 year old whisky and as many Distilleries have shown, there is much to enjoy and learn from young spirit, if matured in quality casks. The whole problem is that the Whisky industry doesn't trust us, the consumer to understand this and is not willing to take the trouble to educate those who believe the “Age is better” myth by giving us more information! Instead they patronize us by purposely withholding the age of the whiskies used and think that giving the product some fancy name, (or misuse the good name of an existing product previously released with an age statement) in the hope that we won't notice.
The bottom line is that the whisky industry is afraid that stating the age of the youngest whisky in this bottling will negatively affect sales. To this I have two responses.
1. By giving us detailed information regarding quality of casks and the right marketing with words like fresh, clean, youthful, vibrant, these young whiskies can be made to appeal.
2. The age statement does not have to be brazened across the front but can appear at the back somewhere if they are afraid that it might put some punters off. You can even be very clever(like Benromach distillery for instance), and state the age of distilling and year of bottling then leave it up to those who want to know to work it out.
|Be'ezrat Hashem I shall be reviewing this next month.|
“Benromach Peat Smoke 2006” states on the label that it was bottled in 2015. So 2015 – 2006 means that this is a 9 Year old whisky! It’s not Rocket Science.
Withholding information like the age of the youngest whisky used or indeed the types of casks used is never a good thing and leads to a feeling by many consumers of dishonesty in the industry.