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Tasting Non-Age Statement Whiskies “NAS” | Blog #22

G’day again and apologies for the slight tardiness of this blog. A lot has been going on over at Secret Spirits.com as we work to bring the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar to the Alberta and Saskatchewan markets this year.

As promised it’s time to taste a few NAS whiskies and after rummaging around in my whisky collection I managed to find 3 NAS Scotch Whiskies. 2 Single Malts and 1 Blended Malt.

The two Single Malts in question both come from the same distillery – Glenglassaugh. Glenglassaugh was closed for over two decades and the new owners after firing up the refurbished stills still had to wait over 3 years at least before they could release “New” Glenglassaugh. 500 odd casks of “Old” Glenglassaugh were part of the deal and those lovely whiskies can be found in limited quantities. Glenglassaugh is now owned by Benriach and the Walker Family, however these expressions were the first releases when the distillery was still in the hands of those that brought it back to life.

As a side note, I used to represent Glenglassaugh and was proud to do so. I worked with the new make right through to their first Single Malt release. I look forward to trying some “New” Glenglassaugh a decade from now.

So onto whisky number one …

Glenglassaugh Evolution

Bottled as a one-off release this Glenglassaugh single malt was aged in first fill George Dickel Tennessee casks.

Tasted in a Glencairn tasting glass. The whisky is light in colour with no caramel and at the cask strength of 57.2% with no chill filtration.

As promised this whisky has absolutely nothing on the label to give you an indication of it’s age. Doing some homework however you can work out when Glenglassaugh was reopened and get a ballpark on about 5 years max.

Nose – Just the slightest hint of youth with sweet barley coming through. The Glencairn focuses the higher alcohol a bit too much resulting in a little nose prickle. Definite vanilla almost like vanilla ice cream over cold poached pears with some nuts sprinkled on top. Not sure which nuts perhaps something subtle like cashews or macadamia.

Taste – Remarkably well rounded on the pallet for 57.2% delivers more of that creamy vanilla, the barley note diminishes as the earlier poached pear really comes to the fore. This is one of those whiskies where nose and palate combine to deliver similar servings of a yummy dessert.

Would be interesting with water but with two more whiskies to go I have to get on with it. If I were to purchase a bottle for around $70 on the shelf I would not be disappointed with this whisky.

Yes there is a touch of youth there but this is obviously a really nicely balanced dram. Well done Stuart Nickerson on this release. I am definitely in the camp that young whisky can be interesting, complex and balanced.

Whisky number two …

Glenglassaugh Revival

Bottled after some time in both bourbon and sherry casks at 46%. This was the first mass release whisky off the revamped Glenglassaugh stills. Also tasted in Glencairn.

Nose – Sweet toffee with a barley backbone and hints of premium sake (Japanese rice wine … I will have to try a Sashimi pairing with this sometime).

Taste – This whisky does come across younger than the Evolution and could well be a full year or more younger. The sherry has had an impact albeit subtle. The 46% actually plays a little heavier on the tongue than the Evolution cask strength. The fruit is subdued and only hints at what is to come 20 years later with the big Glenglassaugh tropical fruit that is a hallmark of their older drams. This is a pleasant whisky without delivering a lot of complexity.

As a first release from a reborn Distillery this is a great effort. For me a very easy going dram that would be best suited for the Summer months.

Again no age statement of course and no chill filtration or colouring.

Whisky number three

A.D. Rattray independent bottlers – Cask Islay Blended Malt – vatting No. 1 Small batch.

Such is the popularity of Islay whiskies these days that there are more “brands” by a long way than there are distilleries. These extra casks are sold, brokered, perhaps nabbed off the back of distillery trucks in the dead of night… anyway there is no shortage of good younger Islay Malts available on the market.

The industry term for a lot of these casks is “tea spooned”.

Any given distillery wishing to sell casks but hide the name of the distillery and thus the true production levels whacks a teaspoon from another distillery into the top of the cask thereby wiping out the Single Malt moniker and turning it into a Blended Malt (combination of multiple Single Malts). The bottler may then add additional malts to come up with a flavor profile most fitting to their brand.

Smokehead, Big Smoke, Big Peat, Peat Monster and this version of Cask Islay all fall into that category.

Bottled at 46% and very light in colour almost more like a nice Sauvignon Blanc (drinking it would soon tell the real story though). No caramel and no chill filtration.

Given the light colour one would suspect a younger whisky aged in American oak.

Nose – Instant smoke and iodine abound backed again by sweet barley with very little peat if at all.

Taste – A little tongue prickle but pleasant round palate coating delivery. Drinks extremely soft with subtle creamy baked apple pie fruit with still whiffs of iodine and smoke making themselves known.

No hints on the age here except the light colour. Big hint however on which particular distillery this may have come from before the humble teaspoon rendered the cask unnamed. Looking at the back of the tin I can see from the 2011 Malt Whisky Handbook the differing product capacities of all the Islay distilleries. One name stands head and shoulders above the rest producing more than double the whisky of its nearest rival. Go look for yourself and the 99% probable culprit will be found.

Well I can say that for a starter this was a fun experience and my impression of well made NAS whisky is a good one.

I will continue to work outside my sphere and taste as many as I can in the coming months. If I find anything interesting good or bad I’ll race home and get the blog waves going.

Next week I am taking a look at Independent bottling and why it should be a part of your whisky collection.

Until then stay …

NAS (Nice and Safe)

Jonathan

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