Scotch whiskies that due to limited supply of aged stock and burgeoning Asian markets are now re-branded without an age statement.
G’day everyone and welcome to the hot topic on the whisky airwaves right now.
Non-Age Statement Whiskies
You’ve seen them lurking on shelves for years but most paid them no heed or saw them as an anomaly that, while possibly fun, couldn’t really be considered seriously. Well if you have taken an active interest in retail shelves near you recently, you will have noted that some very big hitting traditional brands have gone down this path and the response has been decidedly mixed but leaning more towards potential consumer backlash.
If you want to read a really good mix of opinions on this topic then head over to All Things Whisky and read this very good article from my fellow blogger and whisky guru Curt Robinson.
I have reproduced my comments here below just to reiterate a snapshot that was the first thing to mind for me when Curt asked me to pen something to contribute to the debate.
NAS whiskies fall into two categories
1: Scotch whiskies that due to limited supply of aged stock and burgeoning Asian markets are now re-branded without an age statement. The Scots (bless ’em) have spent a century educating the consumer that “older is better” now slowly but surely they are repositioning themselves and trying not to lose face or credibility with those same consumers that are still largely uneducated about the true nature of whisky. Most customers around the world willingly follow whatever is fed to them by the marketing powers but it seems already that there is resistance to this change, if the feedback I have been receiving from retail stores is any indication.
2: NAS whiskies, that by climate and location, age at a much faster rate than in Scotland. These whiskies by their nature should be NAS as the consumer would take any Age Statement and filter it through their Scotch taught knowledge that young age equals inferior whisky. Any of these distilleries that put an age on the bottle would be dooming their product to collect dust on the shelves. Angels share at 3% per year versus 6%, 10% 12% or even a whopping 18% has a big impact on how quickly a distillery can create a delicious and balanced whisky, potentially at a much younger age.
In the long run there will always be Scotch whiskies produced that will have an age statement even if in much smaller quantities. The movement of Scotch Whisky distilleries to go NAS will really play into the hands of distilleries worldwide that are making great whiskies in a much shorter time frame. The playing field will slowly become more level and whiskies will be judged more on their merit and less on if they come from Scotland or not. This is underlined by the prices that the Scottish NAS whiskies are still fetching. For value, consumers will slowly but surely move over to flavorful and balanced drams from climates that allow the magic to happen faster.
As a true believer in good whisky I have a lot of time for whisky at any age if it is well made and preferably balanced. In my experience working in the spirits market for almost 10 years I have seen how hugely successful the mantra of “old is better” has been for the Scotch Whisky industry. Today, I can with hand on heart fully agree with the adage that “old is a lot more expensive” however it is not necessarily better.
The history of the rise and fall of whisky popularity appears certainly to all present in this time and space to have reached an unsurpassed rise. While many predict the imminent “bubble burst” I myself do not agree as we see true globalization and massive expansion into historically untouched markets. Single Malt has always been a rather finite and precious commodity with the vast majority of Scotch sales always falling into the blended category. It appears that a heck of a lot more people have, through either osmosis or marketing (a little of both I’m sure), developed a taste for our little “Single and looking for a date” friend. Is it all going to fall out of favor shortly leaving the faithful to blissfully go back to always having their favorite on the shelf at a decent price?? I rather think not.
One of the most consistent and safest investments over the past decade has been……Single Malt Whisky. So now we have a truly blue chip trending stock that I would (and have) be putting my money on to continue to increase in value for many years to come. As I mentioned above, there will always be age statement whiskies if you are willing to pay the ever increasing price. If price is something (as it is for most of us) that you take into consideration when making your whisky purchase then I can foresee that Non-Age Statement Whiskies, if not already, will be a part of your dramming future very soon.
This is a very chewy topic and one that is going to fire debate for decades to come.
So, I will leave you with the above to think over in the coming week and next week we will put our palates back into action and test drive a couple of NAS whiskies from Scotland as opposed to faster aging versions as alluded to above in my quick take on All Things Whisky.
So until then remember…
It’s a changing world, but good whisky is still good whisky at any age even if you don’t know how old it is.