To state or not to state?

Age Matters CampaignThe world’s leading producer of luxury Scotch whisky, Chivas Brothers, is today launching a global campaign to advocate the importance and value of age statements to consumers – Reads the first paragraph of a press release that has just landed in my inbox. Surprised?

A lot has been said recently about moving away from age statements and judging whiskies purely on their merit. In various publications, on blogs and through discussion forums numerous examples have been brought up to support the thesis that age does not really matter, young can be as good as old and the ‘very old malt blended together with very young malt’ approach has produced some stunning results last year and the year before (think Uigeadail). But recent market research ordered by Chivas shows that 94% of consumers still believe the age statement serves as an indicator of quality, 93% believe that older whiskies are better quality and 89% actively look for an age statement when making a decision to purchase. In the same time only 10% understand that an age statement refers to the youngest whisky in the bottle. From 1 July Chivas Brothers will start encouraging customers to look for age statements on their whiskies, through point-of-sale display, advertising and PR.

What does it mean?

Chivas Brothers are making a clear statement here. Enough of cheap young stock being sold under the ‘rare and limited’ umbrella. If you want to charge premium, offer premium in return. Stop fiddling with the process, make good and honest whisky and the results will come… It’s all easy to say while sitting on a heap of great old stock, don’t you think? And where would the industry be without innovation?

Both age statement and no age statement approaches make sense to me. I have tried enough ‘ancient disasters’ to know the value of a great entry level whisky. But I have also seen enough disrespectful marketing, milking enthusiasts and collectors. I’m interested to know what you guys think! Tomorrow morning I’ll be talking to Neil Macdonald from Chivas, I can pass on questions/praise/criticism so don’t be shy and leave a comment.

Lucas

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