No-age-statement will kill us all

Albert Einstein's theory of no-age-statement

One thing that sets us firmly apart from animals is the ability to think strategically. Sure, all sorts of wild beasts think ahead but I’m pretty sure we’re the only species on the planet with the ability to plot a five-year plan onto a spreadsheet. And it’s not just our big brains and all the modern aids that let us do it. Planning is not really about looking ahead and imagining things. It’s more about looking back, finding patterns and figuring out when and how things that happened in the past are going to happen again.

That’s why we (and I’m saying ‘we’ because whisky pays my bills and I guess that means I have to carry my share of the blame), the whisky industry, in our infinite wisdom have decided that since we’re booming at the moment there is absolutely nothing to worry about and we can stop all that nonsense about the quality of our product being both our shield and sword in the fight against other categories, global economy, governments blaming us for people dying after drinking gallons of cheap lager every day, etcetera. That’s it. We have reached the end of history. A lot of wise people sitting in their offices all around the country, and indeed abroad, have read that big fat book about the history of whisky and they have decided that nothing bad was ever going to happen to us again. This is great news, we can now reverse the trends we worked so hard to establish, we can stop caring about informing consumers what’s in the bottle, how old it is, who made it and how. All we have to give them is the brand. The brand is all that matters. We have built so much equity that we’re practically drowning in it. Please, oh please, let us spend some.

The whole modern no-age-statement movement started fairly innocently. There were quality releases from well established names, there was a good deal of innovation and thought being put into it and off the back of that there was success. For me the turning point was Glenmorangie Signet which with its elaborate packaging, great story, big price tag and, above all, great liquid was the pinnacle achievement of the 21st century Scotch no-age-statement. But also in its all-too-pleased-with-itself way it became a one bottle Mannerism to the Renaissance of focusing on the liquid regardless of its age. A swan song of an era and a cue for everyone else to start abusing this new found cash cow. Every man and his dog is after NAS now and some of the liquid out there makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Not in a good way.

And innovation? What innovation, let’s make money!

I’m not going to name names on this occasion as I think it’s only fair to criticise liquid when you actually have it in front of you in a controlled environment. There will be time and place for that. But you know who you are. All I want to say is that this new and evil no-age-statement trend while bringing you quick cash for young stock is also badly damaging your brands and the industry in the long run. Not to mention the weird things it’s doing to the stock profiles… every bottle of single malt whisky sold at the age of 5 today is one less bottle of 12 year old in seven year’s time. Call me Einstein.

A top brand exec at one of the famous blended whiskies recently half jokingly referred to his colleagues in the single malt part of the business as those who’re after the ‘easy money’. He meant it in the nicest possible way, single malts are booming and people want them badly so arguably selling them isn’t exactly rocket science. But what he said rang true with me on a different level. In my opinion the category has become complacent and careless with what is being released. The gap between the great classics and the entry level is widening. Some of the icons are making right fools of themselves. Brands which have ranges spanning über premium decanters filled with ancient whisky destined for some oil baron’s office to 6 year old no-age-statement which differs from my wife’s nail polish remover mainly in colour, shouldn’t be surprised when they see their credibility with the international whisky audience plummet.

Commentators hate it, distillers hate it and, above all, single malt enthusiasts hate it. But shareholders love it. So the category will keep acting like that dog that eats and eats and eats until it throws up. And then the stupid beast eats more and eventually, if there is enough food around and nobody there to stop the poor fucker, it will die. That’s strategic planning dog-style and that’s precisely what we seem to be doing.


  1. Amen!

    i’ve been saying this for long and people just tell me : nah. NAS is good. Age does not matter, it’s the quality and flavours.

    well, about time.

  2. Thank you. You’ve been able to put my thoughts into an elaborate and well written piece in a way I cannot.

  3. Well, I can relate to what you are saying, but allow me to turn around the question – what are you guys doing in order to change the situation? I don’t remember the last time EWB posted a negative (bashing) review! I think it is your (and other reputable blogs) duty to start kicking those red-tape folks in the anckles so they start realising what you are describing in this blog post. I look forward to “There will be time and place for that”. Hopeflully it will be soon and it will be in full swing.

  4. Atanas, thanks very much for your comment and for pulling us up. We have been slacking in the bashing department, that’s for sure. Sometimes it’s hard to find balance, we’ve grown so close to the industry that most brands are no longer just bottles to us but rather real people behind them. Makes it all the harder to have a proper go. But I’ll definitely have a chat with the rest of the team and scope out if there is still appetite to point out a few less-than-average recent releases to our readers. Thanks again for bringing this up.

  5. Obviously there was never any bad age-statement whisky! NAS is a cash-in in some cases, you’re spot on, but it’s not the disease you paint it as. It’s a symptom, for sure, of the short-termism prevalent in an industry no longer beholden to accountants but instead infested with marketeers who view whisky solely as product rather than as heritage and reputation. To rant about NAS is to miss the point. An age statement is just another “brand” like Signet or *spits* Gold but it’s the way the marketeers influence the end result that allows the rot to seep in.

  6. Maltnerd, thanks for your comment. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying but I don’t think marketeers have as much free reign as you think. It’s the bottom line, here and now, that drives all sorts of stupid releases. I personally know a marketeer who successfully defended a single malt brand from a NAS addition putting his job on the line. So just like not all NAS are bad and not all age-statement whiskies are great, not all marketeers are evil;) But I’m sure you know that.

    More to the point, my problem with the ‘modern’ NAS is that it has simply become an area open to all sorts of abuse and ‘marketing truth’. An age statement or a vintage, while being just a number, is a certain reassurance and a guide that helps your average Joe qualify releases. It’s not always right, we all know that, and older by no means is always better but at least it’s not a 4yo Glen Nonsense Platinum Dildo Edition on limited offer at your local duty free outlet for only £89.99.

    So while I take your point that NAS is only part of the problem and a symptom of short-termism, my pet hatred for bad quality NAS remains unshaken of course.

  7. Lucas, I find it very refreshing that you as someone connected with the whisky industry speak out against this trend. I have had my goes at this often enough, but I am simply one of those pesky bloggers who can safely be ignored. The industry must realize that in the long run by flooding the market with mediocre immature whisky they are putting the value of their brand which they have built upon solid age statement single malts.

  8. Lucas, Re you’re comment to Atanas, for me that’s just crap, you either think its a problem and want to do the best by the industry or you don’t. Can’t have it both ways, if what you are saying is true, then you are doing them no favours by protecting these people, as in the long run they will be seen as the ones who toppled the building from the inside.
    If you don’t think its a problem go back to blogging nicey nicey write ups about every whisky so you keep receiving the samples and the cycle of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch you’re will continue.

    It’s one thing blogging something like this, it’s another completely living by this conviction.

    I shall await with scepticism your next move

  9. Hallelujah! Someone in the industry who is brave enough to speak out. There are simply too many arrivistes in the industry, all too willing to cosy up to the producers, too dishonest (even to themselves) about the effect of NAS upon the relationship between quality and price.

    The problem extends to the buyers too though, particularly collectors. People get all excited about the Glenmorangie Private Edition releases or the latest Ardbeg NAS. They seem to care not a jot that they are spending £80 on a bottle that could potentially carry an age statement under 10 years. The latest Laphroaig An Cuan Mor release was a case in point. The Web site buckled as people rushed to buy a £70 NAS plus P&P. When the dust settled (less than two hours later) all that was left were pithy comments from those who missed out.

    Recently I even wrote an article for Whisky Girl (, joining the dots on the provenance of Glenmorangie Companta. When I raised the issue on the forum I use no one wanted to listen, they simply went ahead and bought the sulphured reject from the Cask Masters event – and can you find a bad review of it anywhere? I can only conclude many just don’t care, most of them probably won’t even open the bottle, they’re just using it as an investment vehicle. The whole thing is fucked up.

  10. So marketeers aren’t evil but a whisky subjected to “marketing truth” is? That’s having your cake and eating it. Are there silly releases? Yes. Are they gettin the kicking they deserve in the reviews? No. Because too many of us have pals in the industry we don’t want to offend and anyway, what if they turn the sample tap off? I blog but it’s my money that buys the drink so I can afford to be honest about what I taste.

  11. Alun, thanks for your comment. Maybe a bit harsh? But hey, if you can’t speak your mind here then where can you, eh?

    I get your point. As I said, I’ll speak to the other guys and we’ll talk the problem through. If our readers are flagging something like this up it means we have to have a good look at our recent activity and see what could be done better.

    But while I’ll be the first to admit that inaction may have been a problem recently, by that I mean lack of opinion on whiskies which were sub-standard, our action never is, at least not from an integrity standpoint. There are numerous examples throughout the blog of us not being afraid to pick up that sling and have a go at the Goliath and as a regular reader you know that. It’s one thing not to want to give a shit review and quite another to scratch somebody’s back for gain. More often than not it really comes down to the fact that if you have 20 samples in a box and you only have time to write about one, you’re going to pick one you like because it’s always nicer to say nice things, especially when you know the people behind the liquid. After all we’re just whisky lovers like you, we want the industry to do well.

    In this context I find your comment about blogging nicey nicey about every whisky for some sort of benefit simply unfair. Unhappy with us? Fine, you’ve told us and and we’re all ears. But please don’t throw accusations of lack of integrity lightly. We’re really not doing this for money, liquid or any other gain. We’re doing this for you.

    Thanks again for the comment, we always appreciate feedback.

  12. It’s interesting that a shot across the bows of NAS whiskies has swerved into questions of blogging integrity. Both topics are of immense importance to the future of whisky and the character of the commentary we can expect on it, of course, but I would support the guys at EWB on this.

    No, there haven’t been any maulings of whiskies on the blog of late, but there are other corners of the internet you can go to for invective and deconstructive criticism. Maybe, as the blog approaches five years up there for the world to see the editorial tone has mellowed but as someone who knows Chris H, Lucas, Jason and Chris W pretty well (it has been far too long since I last bumped into Graeme) I can attest that back-scratching is not the aim of the game. Not by a long way.

    On the subject of NAS whiskies, though, Lucas’s point about reputations is worth stressing: the NAS trend is still fairly new, but I trust that, ultimately, the market will stand by those brands which have shown themselves most adept at putting out original, anonymously-aged stuff. Meanwhile, the opportunists and daylight robbers will be found out. Hopefully with the help of some lively (but not vindictive) negative reviews from respected sources when called for.

  13. What is the idea of Inver House Distillers to let Lucas write such a post? Maybe they want to release new 10 yo Speyburn for £1000? It won’t be NAS

  14. If whisky pays your bills would you mind telling us pays those bills so we can make an assessment as to which posts are on products owned by the companies who pay you and the independence of such posts?

  15. Natan, a £1000 Speyburn? Not on my watch;) In my opinion it’s a really down to earth brand that actually offers lots of value for money, even with their NAS.

    Andrew, I work as a consultant, mainly for Inver House Distillers. I explained what the deal was here on the blog as soon as the arrangement started but of course you may have missed it. I help them with various online bits and pieces and frequently do brand education stuff. I’m not an employee so I can say whatever I please about the industry in general, other companies, brands etc.

    Since I started working with them regularly in 2010 I have written about their brands once and on that occasion I clearly stated what the situation was and explained that I decided to praise the liquid anyway because it blew my socks off. When one of the other guys is covering an IHD brand I have absolutely no say or influence. In fact Chris H gave anCnoc 16yo a bad review some time ago clearly not caring too much about my feelings as I love the stuff. Tiger also had mixed comments about some of my client’s liquid but at the same time praised a lot of it over the years too. Again, I had nothing to say on the subject.

    In an unlikely event I ever write about any brand I work with again, I will warn you in the very first sentence like I did that other time so I think you have no reasons to worry.

  16. I think this strategy goes beyond marketing, it’s about commercial viability and long term planning for certain Distilleries. The industry hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand for aged malt spirit and simply, certain distilleries don’t have enough stock to keep producing ‘mid range’ aged single malt at the production rates they have been (perhaps victims of their own success in this respect?) so they produce non aged statement whiskies and use some of their younger spirit to somewhat reduce the demand on, for example, their 12 year old stock. What else would you have them do? Produce only super premium whisky aged 20+ which is inaccessible to the majority of whisky drinkers and thus vastly reduce their revenue to a point the corporate body can’t survive? It’s a shame but at the end of the day, spirit production is a business and like all good businesses should do, producers are trying to make sound commercial decisions in their business’ best interests.

  17. Well put Lucas, I can’t help but agree. Once the industry’s reputation is damaged it will be very difficult to regain consumer confidence. Let’s hope that consumers don’t turn to white spirits too quickly, in which case those whisky producers resting on their laurels will have their 747-hangar warehouses overflowing with cheap-blend stock.

  18. Lucas, Apologies if it seemed a bit harsh.
    At the end of the day, you guys provide a free service to me, so I have no real right to complain and can happily walk away if I so choose. The fact that I don’t tells me that a) I enjoy what you do and value the ‘work’ you do and b) I feedback because I want you guys to continue to do what you do and do it well.
    I get that you can only blog about so many samples and yes its understandable that you pick the better of a bunch to write about. After all if it were the other way round, while scathing write ups would be refreshing for a while, it would quickly become tiresome.
    I guess the point I was trying to make, and evidently not too well, is that I wholeheartedly agree with your blog and standpoint on NAS whisky, I just wish you had had the balls to actually put up there those you think are the biggest problem here, you say that you’re not going to name names, in the same blog as saying that whisky pays your bills and admit in a later comment “we’ve grown so close to the industry that most brands are no longer just bottles to us but rather real people behind them. Makes it all the harder to have a proper go.”, hence my scepticism on integrity.

    If you put yourselves up, as you have done in this blog, as wanting to help change a problem in the industry, then for that point to be taken seriously you have to be seen to take action, that does not mean writing shitty reviews for all to see, but it means picking up the sling and naming goliath while you have a go at him.

    Be it Macallan and their 1824 series, or Talisker with their new Storm releases or Glenmorangie and the flood over heavily priced NAS whisky, at least name and shame the culprits, if you truly believe this is a problem and you truly think the industry which pays your bills may suffer as a consequence, then I see no reason for you not doing this.

    As I said at the start, please accept my apologies, I am honestly not trying to have a go at you guys here, I appreciate what you do and how you do it, I’m just giving a little feedback. My boss once said to me feedback is the breakfast of champions, he was an arse, but I get where he was coming from.

  19. Don’t forget about the angel’s share. 700ml of 5-year-old whisky now is not 700ml of 12-year-old whisky in 7 years. It’s science!

  20. Fiona, thanks so much for your insightful comment. I was rather hoping someone would provide a different point of view on the subject.

    Patchy stock issues plague the industry and it seems no company out there (with the notable exception of Glenfarclas, bless them;)) is immune. With this in mind NAS in itself is not at all wrong and it has been done well and continues to be done well by some. Glorious early Ardbeg releases should be a compulsory case study read for all of us for example.

    What I don’t agree with is using stock which is not ready or, worse still, using sub-standard stock to fill the gaps you mention. Whisky industry is a business of course, and a multi-billion-pound one at that, and I am no stranger to the mindset that doesn’t allow you to stand still but instead seeks constant growth. This way of thinking pushes the money men on top floors to demand ever more revenue. But I fear for sustainability of such growth and I seriously believe that the strategy is short-sighted. Sub-standard stock damages the category in ways that are hard to predict at the moment but surely using chunks of stock laid down 5-7 years ago with the view to bottle in 10-15 year’s time is creating a massive red figure in somebody’s spreadsheet out there, isn’t it?

    Of course I wouldn’t suggest to any distiller out there to only bottle 20yo+. But then, I don’t think that’s necessary. There are other ways of shielding mid-age stock. The main culprits are big international brands and as much as it pains me to say it, I’d rather see them pull out of peripheral markets and put a little bit of shoulder behind what they consider to be key markets for them rather than desperately try to plug holes. BenRiach springs to mind as a positive example.

    Finally, although I appreciate that spirits is a huge international business, I’d also like to stress that it really is much more than that. Whisky was around and people were passionate about it before the word business existed and I daresay it will still be around long after our current business models and corporate mindset are replaced by more sustainable trends. Without trying to sound pompous, we are custodians of this massive part of Scottish heritage and not its owners and we should keep that in mind even if our FMCG wisdom and accountants upstairs are telling us it doesn’t make sense.

    Once again, thanks very much for your great comment. I emphatise with you and other people in strategic positions out there. It’s a tough nut to crack and I know that more often than not people who run brands suffering from insufficient stock find themselves in no-win situations.

  21. Alun, thanks for your kind word and for being a long time regular reader. We really appreciate your feedback and we’re scoffing it up this morning like the champions we are:) Keep your ear to the ground, as I said we’re definitely going to talk the points you’ve raised through.

  22. Hi Lucas, I like many others agree with your sentiment about standards of quality etc. I don’t want to poke a hole in your Einsteinian math – but it seems to me that this flood of NAS seems to be progressing nicely with the upping of capacity at many distilleries. With presumably little change (or negative change) in the blend market it seems there is another whisky loch on the horizon unless it is haemorrhaged fast? Sure some bandwagon jumpers will sacrifice quality to get rich quick. Of the numerous NAS I have tried most of them are pretty good, a little green/young but offer up different tastes. We’re not exactly at the stage of buying newmake directly just yet (surely the cheapest get rich quick scheme there is?).

    For years consumers have blithely accepted that 12 or however many years is the perfect maturation point for their favoured whisky just because the producer says so. If anything, NAS allow the consumer to taste and compare their favourite with (probably) less mature whisky but it is still the same spirit and the producers are releasing it ‘happy’ it is fit for consumption. We have no idea what is in our favourite 12 year old anyway, but have bought massively into the age-statement myth for so long, just as we bough into the how-caramel coloured is our whisky before it. Let this one run its course and see who are the winners and losers, it is a boom and bust industry after all. Personally I don’t think we are going to see a mass depletion of 12YO+ stocks in the future and I celebrate the increase in variety. So I guess I am Pro-NAS for now…

  23. Barry,
    Your post actually leads me to another worry in the industry, will all these distilleries upping capacity and a few new ‘super’ distilleries on the way, where is all the wood coming from for this? Are we going to see sub standard whisky churned out by these massive distilleries because they are having to reuse casks that are beyond their useful life?

    Can the industry withstand a massive increase in output and still turn out the appropriate quality? Surely there is a tipping point where a massive increase in capacity across the industry is no longer compatible with the number of barrels out there?

    There may be trouble ahead…

  24. Barry & Alun, presumably there are projections that assume an increase in the cask supply from the US in line with the increase in demand in Scotland. After all their industry is also booming. But also let’s not forget the category that’s growing the fastest of them all is Irish whiskey and they are competing for casks from the same pool as Scotch distillers. It would be very interesting to get some insight into this… and I suppose that’s where having buddies in the industry comes in handy;) Let me snoop around for some comments…

  25. Thank you for writing this. I think that this is all part of a double edged strategy to price gouge us, the overly willing whisky consumer who will buy everything no matter how much it costs. They are selling young crap for way over price, which is a source of increased, immediate revenue. But by making older malts rarer, they are investing in their future. They don’t want 50 quid for a 12 year; they want 150. In 5 years, NAS will completely take over the under 100 quid bracket. A 12 year for 150 will look pretty good. Mark my words, they are doing this as much to drive up the costs of aged malt in the future as they are to sell cheap crap now. And you know what? If the bottom falls out of the whisky market? Well then, the giant corporations that own the distilleries will close half of them, and then they’ll sell for many times their value. Glendronach will be the new Port Ellen. That’s where we’re heading.

  26. I think they need to be doing something interesting for it to be worth having. Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Glenfarclas 105, the Springbank CV series – these are examples of great NAS releases. But then you’ve got guys like Glenmorangie whose entire release profile is starting to be NAS, and it really makes you wonder when to draw the line.

  27. Alan (& Lucas) virgin cask usage is on the increase – no need to wait for the bourbon maturation first anymore – make as many as you want and use them immediately. Personally I have found very few virgin cask matured whiskies appealing (1 exactly the Bunna Darach Ur), never got to taste the Ealanta (so can’t confirm JM’s super score last year) but other distilleries have served up acrid green wood, MDF, carpentry and sawdust in their virgin cask expressions as new taste sensations, I’d rather lick a plank thanks…

  28. Tyler, good examples. I would add A’Bunadh to it which with its batch approach was actually an innovative and very well received product at one point and continues to deliver good value for money today.

    Barry, I suppose the idea of vatting third and fourth fill casks together with virgin casks to achieve some sort of a middle has already occurred to somebody. My guess would be that the result wouldn’t be up to scratch but I’m willing to keep an open mind.

    As to the virgin casks in general, as much as I love a good bourbon, Scotch spirit and maturation conditions here are simply not compatible with those levels of tannins/sugars. Low temperature, high humidity maturation calls for a seasoned cask and it’s always going to be this way.

    Since we’re already paying producers in Spain to rent wine with which butts are seasoned, the same could happen with bourbon I suppose… imagine a bourbon which spent four years in four different virgin casks, a year in each. That I would like to try, if only to satisfy the oak masochist in me;)

  29. The issue is not good or bad – there is nothing wrong and everything right with telling your customers what they’re buying – same as with wine.
    I can decide for myself if this or that mix is good or bad for me, but I want to know to make an informed decision. Good whisky can be made in a short time – let me judge!

  30. It might be important to point out that NAS is a type of label, not a type of whisky – there is no whisky process involved, you can make HP 12 into an NAS by peeling the label off, and labels cannot enhance quality in any way whatsoever.

    Also, any distillery which tells you that “age doesn’t matter” to whisky (despite the aged pedigree of the overwhelming majority of classic expressions), while showing you that age obviously matters enough to the distillery for them to intentionally conceal it, has you pegged for a fool. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the quality of any given young whisky (that is, young whisky the age of which is actually known and not mixed with unknown quantities of some older malt), there’s almost none of it which can’t, and won’t, benefit from age maturation. And if age matters, knowing it matters.

  31. [...] of any distillery making good whisky is a great loss indeed, and the trend of NAS whiskies is damaging to the industry overall, present and future. Naturally, every serious drinker feels frustration with people who buy whisky [...]

  32. Hi there,

    I think this should be mentioned.

    What they are missing in my view is that JW Red Label is not a good example. It takes 30-40 malts and afaik 3 grains to compose the JW Red. They are not much older than 3 years but it is a lot of effort to gather the whiskies, blend them marry them and than bottling them. Even if you just have to fetch around in just one warehousing complex.

    And the price point is about 14 € about 10-12 Pounds.
    So JW Red proofs that it is possible to create a NAS whisky and sell it far below 20.- € or Dollars or Pounds.
    Creating an NAS from one distillery alone with 2, 3 or not much more components must irrevocably lead to a price point which is – with much less effort – at least 15 to 20 € Dollars or Pounds above the NAS JW Red price point….?

    And it is all about quality freedom for the master blender and the best interest of the consumer?
    How come that the Caol Ila Moch NAS costs the same as the Caol Ila 12yo in Germany? Riddle me that.


    PS Apologies in advance should the price of Caol Ila 12yo rise. I can not be held responsible for who is reading my contributions to blogs and forums.

  33. Also if, as the writers say, “the fact is that millions of drinkers simply don’t give a shit about an age statement”, how would telling us that age effect the “quality freedom for the master blender”? Who would this information harm?

    The idea that “millions don’t care about age” is a completely different argument, by the way, from whether the VAST majority of consumer DO care about age statements, even if they’re fuzzy on what they mean ( or whether they SHOULD be concerned about age, or whether age affects quality (

  34. @kallaskander @Jeff
    Thanks for your comments guys. I’m going to respond to Neil at with another post, not because I disagree with him, I think we agree on many points, but because I think he’s responded to things I never actually said. Perhaps I didn’t spell out well enough that ‘modern no-age-statement trend’ and ‘abusing the new-found cash cow’ does not mean I have a pet hate against all NAS releases. I was trying to make it clear, the only NAS I actually named in the post was one I adored, but either I didn’t communicate my point sufficiently or some people read it with a preconception and blanked out the good things I said. Anyway, I will put all that into another post, I will include more good examples as well as some NAS whiskies which inspired me very recently, but the reality is that today is my first hangover-free day following the blog birthday on Monday and I have heaps of work to catch up on so may not happen until next week.

  35. Those who argue that age doesn’t matter are like those you argue size doesn’t matter.
    The only ones who believe that are those who lack age, or size. However, neither age nor size is dis positive of quality. As the saying goes, “it isn’t the size of the wave, but the motion of the ocean”

  36. You’re absolutely right, Joel: age isn’t considered important for whisky expressions which don’t really have it and considered vital (and always priced accordingly) where age is significantly present. The kicker is that it’s the industry which sends consumers both messages. Where age is actually known, you will almost always pay more for a 21 than for an 18 than for a 15 than for a 12 – age is VERY important at the cash register – but with NAS-labeled expressions, age is considered SO irrelevant that you don’t even have to know it – just pay the premium price for the funny Celtic name and the silly story behind it.

  37. Hi there,

    some words from Richard Paterson

    I may be biasd but I think many words without a clear statement. A Masterpiece of diplomacy from a well versed ambassador.


  38. Some interesting stuff there, to be sure:

    “What you’re seeing now is of course more no-age statement (NAS) releases and what a lot of people don’t realise is that it allows the whisky blender to actually use his stocks in a much more efficient and appropriate manner and allows him to, in many cases, create something better.” – Better than…. What? Better than the young whisky alone which vastly predominates many NAS-labeled products, improved by adding older malt? No argument – add 18 to any 6 and you’ll improve it. But better than the older malt alone which is being used to elevate the quality of the NAS-label in the first place? Try again. Factors like ABV being equal, take a review of anybody’s average 6 and a review of anybody’s average 18 and then show me a review of anyone’s combination of the two that’s better than both. And, even if it WAS possible, is that, in fact, what’s being done with the average NAS-labeled expression?

    “Oman, Dubai, places like this, where whisky is filtering in for the first time. People have the money in these areas but they want to know what they’re buying.” – Strangely enough, people with money OUTSIDE these areas want to know what they’re buying as well, hence many aren’t fussy about seeing age information concealed by NAS.

    “I think the connoisseurs are aware that they’re getting good value for money; but there is the perception that just because it’s not got an age it’s not good.”
    “You must be joking. That’s 45 years old. That’s worth thousands of pounds a bottle.”
    “Is you Paterson collection worth just short of £1m?’ As far as I’m concerned it’s worth every single penny.”

    This is VERY interesting – if age isn’t required for, or not a guarantee of, quality, why does Paterson freak out over icing a 45? After all, maybe it’s just not that good. Why, after the age, is the first thing mentioned the price to be associated with the age? Aurora COSTS “thousands of pounds a bottle”, but that’s a very different thing than saying it’s WORTH that amount as drinkable whisky. Mr. Paterson’s affirmations of value aside, I’ve yet to see ANY REVIEWER say that the prices charged for Dalmore’s high-end products are justified by their drinking (or even investment) quality – and I never will.

    “Do you have any worries that these super premium whiskies will skew the lower end of the market to the point where the entry will be too high for the majority?” – I’ll take this one, Richard… No, like Mr. Paterson, I think the average person will always be able to afford whisky. Unlike Mr. Paterson, however, with the spread of NAS, I’m VERY concerned about the QUALITY of that entry-level whisky, as it is in decline even as we speak.

    And finally: “but there is the perception that just because it’s not got an age it’s not good.” – Every whisky has an age, Richard; you guys just conceal the ones you don’t want to talk about.

  39. Thanks, Jeff. When I read this interview I had three main points in my mind.

    1. If using very young stock and therefore creating a need for NAS “allows (Master Blender) to, in many cases, create something better”, then why in 95% of cases they don’t take the bloody opportunity but rather blend young with very young and create something of inferior quality?

    2. I too spotted the contradictions which made me think…

    3. Richard is sticking to the company line but while he says age doesn’t matter, he obviosuly doesn’t think that. But of course I may be wrong.

  40. As pertains to #3, this is another big problem in the industry: the ability of sales to trump truth. If even the industry’s supposedly best and brightest have to refrain from saying what they know to be true because that truth doesn’t support current product modeling, it’s not difficult to understand how the industry is losing its way.

  41. [...] Booze and chocolates sound nice enough. If the chocolates are from an ‘artisanal chocolatier‘ and the booze is from Bowmore, that is kind of promising. It’s also a bit of treacherous ground Bowmore is getting on because of all the flack Travel Retail is getting lately. There’s a variety of blog posts stating ‘the amount of Travel Retail‘, the general crap quality of whiskies there and the high prices asked for it. [...]

  42. Question, when we buy whiskey, what in fact are we buying? Are we buying age? Are we buying some possibly made up history trapped in a bottle? Or, instead are we looking for the best quality drink we can find at the best possible price?

    After reading many comments, I don’t know if NAS is a particularly bad thing. First off I think it challenges the whiskey drinker to rely on their taste buds to determine the fair value of a particular expression as opposed to relying on an age statement.
    Also, it will place more responsibility on the whiskey enthusiast community to share honest, candid feedback with one another so that the money traps will be exposed, avoided, and left to die on the vine.

    With these points in mind, I look at the possibilities that are their for more creativity in blending new expressions; new cask finishes, innovative uses of different types of casks, and new entrants into the arena.

    Last point, if a particular expression is no more than bullshit bottled up, it doesn’t matter if there is an age statement or not it should be exposed for what it is through full and robust criticism within the whiskey enthusiast community. Through that we can have greater influence over what producers produce.

  43. Great debate with some really good points, but I think we are missing the point: we (all whisky drinkers) control the market, and therefore what we purchase dictates the direction we are heading. Stop blaming the big distillers. Their goal is produce whisky at the highest level of profit. We can change this current fad by refusing to buy expensive NAS whiskies – it’s as easy as that.

    Thanks what you do for whisky lovers


  44. I know this post has been around for a while, but it is still an entertaining and relevant read. Two years later the NAS trend has not shown signs of abating. We at Whisky Waffle are looking at some NASish expressions this week, although with perhaps varying results… Here’s the gist:
    Keep on waffling,

  45. This is just me and my feelings, however, I feel much personal distress from the on-going emphasis on NAS Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

    I have deep roots into this subject. I grew up in Scotland and have known Single Malt Scotch Whisky since being a child. I have been an active member of our local Wee Dram Society for over 15 years of monthly study meetings and excellent tastings. Likewise I’ve been a member of the SMWS and attended their tastings, as well as been a member of other related whisky orgs through the same period of time. My personal library on Single Malt Scotch Whisky is extensive.

    Regardless of past interest and deep involvement with my beloved Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, it looks like I’m the one who didn’t “get it” all this time. At least I didn’t get it until after NAS became a dominant business model that could not be overlooked.

    Yes, the NAS Whisky is reportedly more of an “entry level” (whatever that may mean) change for younger “core” distillery expressions, or so I’ve read. Age statements have been promised on “older” Single Malt Scotch (18 y/o and greater?) and will be available for sale in some countries – that much I do get along with the marketing and the economics and the inventory level information presented in a broad list of specious articles.

    NAS bottlings do not matter to me. Run it all through column stills and be done with it for all I care. The industry has lost my trust.

    ps: As a piper for over 50 years I have so many many many times taken my only pay-for-the-piper from a quaich and been pleased to do so, However, like Scotland’s Whisky industry – the one I once loved even with it’s warts and blemishes – I am morphing into cash up front and cash only when I play. Seems like a fair analogy anyway. Maybe I’ll settle for a bottle of Jack Daniels.

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