A majority of whisky drinkers will tell you they know what no-age-statement (NAS) whiskies are and will probably also tell you exactly how they feel about it. It is a subject that has certainly sparked debate within the whisky community. NAS whisky is not something new; however it is a process that has become widely popular within recent years. I wanted to finally touch upon the controversial subject and the reasons why they have become so popular.
I want to help those around me understand NAS while educating myself on the process. I’ll start not with what NAS is, but rather with the significance of an age-statement.
An age-statement is the age classification of a whisky, for example Glenfiddich 21, Balvenie PortWood 21 and Ardbeg 10. By law, you can’t classify a whisky with a certain age unless it has been aged for that many years. Age-statements essentially provide the guarantee that the product you are drinking is in fact aged for the amount of years the label indicates.
By law a distiller is also required to label the bottle with the youngest year used in the blend. For example, if a master blender blends a 21 year-old whisky with a 10 year-old whisky, they have to classify the product with the youngest whisky used and in this case it would be that 10 year-old.
Some distillers might see the age classification of a whisky by the youngest year used in their blend as a way for them to lose money. As we all know, a 21 year-old whisky will always be significantly priced higher than a 10 year-old whisky.
Losing money could be a reason why NAS whiskies are on the rise but another reason could simply be an economical one: supply and demand, and also time. The demand for scotch has exploded significantly enough within recent years. This has lead distillers to have a hard time meeting that demand. Even non whisky drinkers know that a decently aged scotch needs time to mature. That’s time that some of these distillers may not have in order to keep up or afloat.
NAS has given distilleries a way around these laws. With a NAS whisky I can now sell that blend of the 21 year-old and 10 year-old without claiming a year… and bonus, I can now sell it at a 21 year cost rather than a 10 if I wanted to. But here is the catch, I can also sell a blend that contains a majority of a 10 year blend and very little of a 21 year-old blend at the price of a 21 year-old because frankly, who is going to know.
Selling a younger aged whisky at a higher price is certainly not ok in my point of view. A loved one told me, if you are going to write about a controversial subject such as NAS, you have to chose a side and stick with it. I would like to disagree with him. Yes, age-statement whiskies have my loyalty and always will. My problem with the issue is that I don’t think that all NAS whiskies are bad. Examples of two great NAS whiskies are Green Spot (I hear they will finally start selling in the US soon, hooray!) and Ardbog by Ardbeg (unfortunately this was only a limited release for last year’s Islay festival). These two examples top my list of favorites.
In my opinion, I don’t think getting rid of all NAS whiskies is the answer. I think identifying high priced, bad whiskies and bringing them to people’s attention is a better way to address the problem. What are your thoughts?
Note: The contents on my blog are solely my opinion. To me every palate and opinion is different! Although I may or may not like a product, I always recommend for people to try it and make up their own minds.
7 Comments Add yours
Great points! This issue certainly gets whisky drinkers riled up, but I’m not sure it’s really a big deal in my opinion. I think NAS whisky gives the distillery an opportunity to be creative with blending and pairing complimentary spirits.
While age-statements give the consumer some guarantees to what they are buying, it also fosters an environment that “bigger numbers” = “better whisky” which we know isn’t true at all.
I think NAS whiskies lets the consumer focus on the more essential question: “Is this any good?”
I completely agree! Older Age-statement whiskies aren’t always better.
I like the variety the NAS whiskies bring to the table. Yes, there might be some bad ones but there are some great ones out there as well.
Like you said, NAS whiskies gives a distiller the opportunity to be creative. That’s something I certainly welcome!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Great article, and love the blog!
Thank you! Much appreciated.
We’ve been thinking a lot about whiskies with and without age statements a lot recently. I really like your (slightly fence sitting) perspective. It’s far too hypocritical to pan all NAS whiskies while loving everything Ardbeg have put out, for example. Since posting this blog has your opinion changed at all?
We’re putting our thoughts to paper (screen?) this week over at the Waffle. Here’s the basic gist: http://whiskywaffle.com/2016/04/04/no-age-no-good-whisky-waffle-launch-nas-week/
Anyway, great article as always!
Keep on waffling,
Read the article, it’s great and I completely agree. I am all for NAS as long as they are done right. My problem with NAS comes when some brands disregard quality and taste just to get something out in the market for a high price. Another big problem, which you highlighted in your article, is when you take perfectly good aged whisky and replace it with a NAS that is way below average.
There are many NAS whiskies that I do enjoy and are worth it. It’s only when I taste those bad ones that at times I wish there were a bit more guidelines imposed to keep those crap ones away. Cheers!
It must be so hard to catch out, though! I mean, tasting is such a subjective thing so if you and I were to try the Talisker Storm and claim it tasted harsh and raw – or worse still, boring – then Diageo could easily come back and say “you’re entitled to your opinion”.
Two fewer sales probably won’t concern them too much – and so long as the box is pretty, they’ll keep selling it.
It certainly is an interesting time for the whisky industry….
Keep on waffling,