An illogical ageist

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Following my recent post about poor quality no-age-statement releases we have received many comments here on the blog, on social media, by email etc. From all of us here at EWB – massive thank you! The community is what makes this blog tick and we always welcome your opinions. Most of you agreed with what I said, some of you didn’t and that’s what gave the discussion flavour.

Other whisky bloggers also decided to chip in which was again very welcome. We saw early contributions from Billy and Gal and some time later also opinions from Jason, Neil, Miss Whisky and others (also worth noting are past and present post by the ever-ranting Oliver the Barbarian). They are all friends and it was really good to see the blogging circuit finally discuss something. Frankly, amidst its undeniable boom the whisky blogging scene has missed a little bit of its claw. Sheer focus on individual expression reviews and a good volume of purely informational pieces has made us all, as whisky enthusiasts, better equipped to make good purchase decisions than ever before. But somewhere along the way we have, in my opinion, lost what made whisky blogging appealing in the first place and that’s relevance to the big picture. A piece of software can generate news articles but it takes a human to have an opinion and, oh horror,  it takes a funny, well-informed or at least an annoying one to have an opinion others are going to bother reading. I’m as guilty of this pedestrianisation of whisky writing as any of my esteemed colleagues blogging from the depths of their whisky dens around the world, so it was really refreshing and personally satisfying to finally have people disagree with me again. What a relief, we’re not dead.

But as in every situation when people disagree, there is a slightly bitter side to the story. While a lot of the points made, whether in agreement or disagreement with my own, were very good and valid, some of the criticism I received, chiefly at the hands of our good friends at caskstrength.net and Miss Whisky, was, in my opinion, fired off in the wrong direction. Some of the opinions I have been challenged on I never expressed and never will. I’m afraid in some cases predictive reading was employed and while my unashamedly linkbaiting title No-age-statement will kill us all may look like a prelude to an all-out criticism of all NAS whiskies, in fact not only my intentions but indeed the words under the title were nowhere near there. I’m really struggling to see where I said all NAS whiskies were shit or where it says mature whisky is always better. I mean, the only NAS whisky I actually named was one I loved. I praised the innovative nature of many NAS releases. I referred to the problematic NAS as the ‘modern NAS’, the ‘new NAS’, the ’21st century NAS’ and simply ‘taking the piss’, these are of course all shorthands for ‘let me begin by stating loud and clear that not all NAS whiskies are bad and yes, I have seen a bottle of Red Label before and I realise NAS is at the foundation of this industry’.

Did I really have to say that? What are we, ten? Am I really condemned to the back seat if I don’t call shotgun in time?

I have been showered with examples of good NAS whiskies. Aberlour A’bunadh, Balvenie Tun 1401 and various Ardbeg releases being the most popular projectiles. Thank you, I have tried them, I love them, I have nothing against them and yes, I agree they have personality and flair and I’m sure they are appealing to many consumers as they are to me. You win. And everything I said about the money people taking the piss, the infuriating trend of replacing information with ‘copy’, stock profiles suffering and the bad NAS releases damaging brands and category, well, just disregard it. You know examples of good NAS so clearly no further investigation is needed.

(See what I’m doing here, I’m painting unfair caricatures of your opinions to my readers just to make it easy to counter them. I’m good at it, right?)

But hey, it’s all good fun. What matters is that we all care. Show me a heated discussion among vodka bloggers about production in the premium segment shifting from potatoes to cereals… I’m pretty sure they don’t feel that strongly about it. Probably too busy beating their wives anyway. Having opinions and showing a bit of attitude is the perfect sign that NAS won’t really kill us all (and no, in my previous post I didn’t mean we were physically going to die of drinking NAS whiskies).

What I really speak out against, and I can’t stress it hard enough, is greed and leniency. Yes, market is going though a correction but that’s no excuse for idiotic inconsistent pricing which does not reflect quality. Yes, I know NAS won’t really kill the category, I’m just warning against the potential threats of abusing it with raw stock, especially at price points where newcomers to the category are most vulnerable. Yes, I know NAS whiskies allow blenders to use their stock more efficiently but I don’t want the final result sacrificed in the process.

Hopefully you can see that calling me an ageist based on this is like calling me a racist because I’m not colour blind. Sorry but I won’t let you do it.

To sum up, I think my respectable critics and I actually agree on something like 93.8% of the whole argument but we’ve somehow missed each other in this discussion, talked about slightly different things. Despite me implying some of my colleagues didn’t read my post carefully, I’m probably the one to blame for not spelling out the obvious basics. To my defence, I had no way of knowing how big the discussion would get, had I known I would have prepared the ground better.

It would be great to read more opinions about NAS whiskies and their role in shaping the futire of the category.  Please keep them coming.