Happy New Year, all.
Let’s close out 2014 in style. Or at least controversy.
It’s taken me a couple of days to pull together some words on this one, but I think we’re finally there. And just in time too. I see a few new comments by our more opinionated commenters have just been posted. Grab a fork and knife, friends. This post will be tasty fare for some of you.
As most of you are likely aware I spent a good part of this year drumming up some anti-NAS sentiment around the wider whisky world. Here on ATW, on Twitter, in posts I started on Connosr and Whiskywhiskywhisky, at my public speaking opportunities and via all sorts of private discussions and email. There were many a snarky comment inserted into various reviews and such before I finally stepped overtly onto a soapbox with this post here on ATW. This post alone has just shy of 100 comments beneath it. That doesn’t even speak to the dozens upon dozens beneath other reviews and features. I like to think that this place is sort of a hotbed of NAS discussion.
This year was particularly bad in the industry. The ongoing whisky bubble seems to have skewed relations between producer and consumer to a degree I’ve never seen in relation to our drink of choice. The brands want to capitalize on global interest, but unfortunately their stocks have not supported their ambitions. What happens? Well…when you need to feed platoons of hungry soldiers on a thin supply line, you simply water down the gruel a little bit, right? This is exactly what the big companies have done. Provide more of less.
Highland Park Dark Origins, Laphroaig Select, Macallan 1824 Series, Ardmore Legacy, Glenlivet Alpha, Mortlach Rare Old, Talisker Storm, etc are all among the guilty culprits who seem to exist due to the twisted logic of ‘hmmm…Ardbeg and Aberlour have gotten away with it’.
Additionally Glenfarclas is dropping the 10 year age statement from its classic 105 cask strength, Bruichladdich dropped the Laddie Ten and Port Charlotte 10 in favour of their provenance-based ‘Scottish Barley’ and ‘Islay Barley’ and Glenmorangie and Ardbeg continue to lambaste us with cleverly marketed (but ultimately young and non age-stated) malts based on linguistics and novelties.
This latter particularly bothers me, as I have been an unabashed Ardbeg fanboy for the better part of the last several years, and while the quality has remained high…it would be no less so with a number snazzily decaled on the black and green, if you know what I’m saying. And Bruichladdich…c’mon, guys. You’re a champion for the purity of the drink and the best interests of the malt. NAS is NOT beneficial to anyone but the bottom line in the producers ledgers. ‘Laddie folk…how ’bout you come back to Team Consumer?
What this NAS crap has done, of course, is taken the pressure off the distilleries’ maturing stocks, while simultaneously granting the brands an effective blank check in terms of pricing. And man…have we paid. The only real positive I see in all of this nonsense is that we’re seeing distilleries getting a little more creative with their releases and thinking outside the box.
So, where am I going with all this rambling blather? Trust me…there is a point. I’m not simply reiterating what we’ve been saying all along.
A few days ago our mate Ralfy Mitchell, whom most of you likely know, released one of his year end vlogs, weighing in on this contentious issue. Months back, when I first posted that piece on NAS whisky – wherein some industry folk weighed in with their own two cents – I contacted Ralfy hoping for his opinion, but never got a reply. That’s ok. He’s a busy guy. And I should conceded that I have nearly unlimited respect for the guy. He and I have had some wonderful email exchanges and interviews together. He’s articulate and informed. He’s also a shit ton of fun. I love that.
Ralfy just went on record as moving forth into 2015 with a boycott on NAS Single Malt Scotch. This is huge. For a humble guy in a remote bothy, Ralfy is a gent with actual influence in the industry. The ‘bigs’ are afraid of people like him. Ralfy’s word holds some weight. Even those whisky drinkers who’d not yet dug into the politics of the NAS debate will now have it thrust under their noses via Ralfy’s lastest video. The industry has to hate that. And the rest of us should love it. Well done, Ralf.
Our own inimitable Jeff here on ATW has been advocating for more of us to boycott for quite some time now. I’ve had a bit of a struggle with this. Not because I need to buy the stuff myself. Nor because I need to support the distilleries. It was only because I was trying to present all sides of the story, and give consumers as much information as possible in making their whisky buying decisions. The thing is…that’s wrong. I was wrong. I don’t want to help consumers support NAS whisky. It’s hurting all of us. And things are actually getting worse.
So let’s show Ralfy a little bit of support in his endeavours…and let’s take a stronger stance on the same issue we’ve been fighting throughout the year. In short…let’s make something happen.
As of now, I’ll not be posting any more reviews of NAS whiskies. Period. No qualifiers.
Jeff is right. This really is the only way. I’m not setting a term for this ‘boycott’ (if you wanna call it that). I’m also not saying it’s a permanent tack, but let’s just say that when we see some change (and I mean meaningful change), perhaps I’ll reconsider my approach.
This means that several of the reviews I have waiting in the wings may never be posted (including the Ardbeg Supernova 2014!). Don’t worry, though. There should be plenty of age-stated and vintage releases to keep us more than busy. And those distilleries plodding along with boring, standard 10, 12, 15, 18 year old malts will suddenly find themselves at the center of our attention.
Sorry to those who disagree with this stance (and were hoping for more a’bunadh reviews), but let’s see if we can’t force through some positive change.
My ultimate goal? Not to have the brands themselves be the catalysts for change, but the self-fellating SWA step in and mandate age statements, just as they’ve previously enforced agendas that suited their own needs. Now it’s our turn.
So…if you’re on board, please help share the word. Forward on links to this post and this post and Ralfy’s video. Let’s get the industry talking. And hopefully cleaning up their own back yard.
On that note…an Ardbeg Ten calls.
Respectfully yours, comrades.
I applaud you both for joining Ralfy on this one. I’m just a small cog in the machinery of devoted Scotch drinkers, but I believe this is in all of our mutual interests.
First, I believe they must be depleting older stock in order to infuse enough flavor into these young NAS. Older stock that WOULD HAVE gone into the industries own standard of “aged” Scotch is “quality” Scotch.
Secondly, Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (Citation 2009, No. 2890) should be changed to require those selling NAS SMSW to include age statements of the whisky put into the bottle. I support those who are smarter than I who came up with this requirement. Distillers (huge corporations who own them) should be honest with consumers – and if age DOES matter, provide that information for consumers. If there is any meaning or value in age – be willing to tell us on the young stuff too. Or discontinue age statements altogether if they no longer matter.
Third, the local Scots, those who actually work at the distilleries with concern for quality, the provenance or terroir of the spirit and are proud of their craftsmanship need to get onboard to protect the future of their product. It is on the line. In the USA, whiskEy makers are moving to aging their spirits and casking. Exactly the opposite direction Scotland and Scotch is heading.
If Single Malt Scotch no longer holds the appeal of age, craftsmanship, and quality above the rest of the world whisky makers – then I like my malt mates will turn elsewhere to continue our journey.
I support the effort on NAS because I do still care.
I’m told that landslides start with a couple of rocks, and I can only hope it’s the case here; at least they’ll be no failure for lack of trying (on the part of those who do try). The thinking whisky consumer must attack that which can’t be defended, and certainly it would be easier to agree with Nick Morgan’s defense of NAS – if there was one and if he had it. It would be nice to see people such as Oliver Klimek, Serge, and the ever-contentious MAO get on board with this as well, as none of them are otherwise “taken in” by the silliness (changeable as it is) that passes for the orthodox wisdom of the industry. Heretics will always be heretics, but those who have the respected pulpits must use them and the grunts MUST VOTE WITH THEIR MONEY to bring about change. No matter what 2015 is, it won’t be boring. Now the work begins. Boycott NAS!
P.S.: I do think, Curt, that, if it comes at all, reform will come piecemeal as you’ve already outlined – producer by producer, to gain market advantage, rather than as some principled stand from the S.W.A. (the stories about how the Cardhu Pure Malt thing really went down would curl your hair). I simply don’t believe that the industry operates on principle beyond the principle of profit: producers will use NAS until it costs them too many sales and THEN they’ll “find their moral compass” and give us age information. Our only advantage is that the first producer(s) who DO give us what we want will trumpet it to the skies and put pressure on the others. Oh, and NAS delenda est.
I have a lot of respect for what is said by Curt, Basidium and Jeff. I agree that there is unlikely to be substantive change in the industry unless there is either a legislative mandate, or it hits them in the pocketbook.
The first is unlikely, because the SWA is essentially “owned” by the big industry. I fear, too, that the second is unlikely to occur despite the best intentions. Someone will always buy the stuff, and my guess is that there will be 2 types of people participating in the boycott:
1. The hoarders. Great opportunity to stop buying and drink from a overinflated collection that they would otherwise outlive. They will not be affected by the boycot because they won’t run out of the “good stuff”. I would be in this category. And like in ancient Egypt, I will welcome those who come to me in the 7 years of drought.
2. The principled losers. These people may not have a multi-year “strike fund”. They will lose out on the drinks they like for the principle of it, and may or may not be satisfied with age statement substitutes.
If this were a real strike, I would caution those with the most to lose to be careful to ensure they are likely to win. In this case, there are no losers. After all, it’s only whisky. Really.
As for me, I’ve committed to purchasing some bottles orders for me from Amrut, and I won’t go back on my word. But once that is complete, I am willing to participate and throw my support behind a boycott. But as I said, I personally don’t stand to suffer from this, aside from the fact that I was hoping to toast my 50th birthday in 2019 with a bottle of A’Bunadh batch 50. But I’m sure an earlier batch will happily stand in, or I’ll use the opportunity to crack one of my rarer keepsakes.
And here is my challenge to Amrut:
The only people who buy your product (with few exceptions) are people with an appreciation for quality craft whisky. We know your whisky is young, and we don’t care.
Will Amrut commit to stating the age of all future releases? If you do and follow through on the packaging, I am willing to continue to buy your expressions, including the earlier bottlings with no age statement.
Forgive me for asking. But does the boycott extend to other than Single Malt Scotch Whisky?
I was not aware American, Canadian, or Indian Whiskies ever put a value on age statements?
Sorry, is that a question for me? If so…as I said above, ‘no qualifiers’. All encompassing.
I think that many Canadian whiskies do not have age statements, but many of them are mixers.
Some of the ones that are more premium have age statements, but some of the special releases, like Forty Creek, do not. Looks like whisky weekend in Grimsby is a no-go next September…
John Hall is one of the guiltiest out there. He has pushed the whole craft whisky thing as his forte for years, but never upped the ABV, dropped the filtering or put a number on the bottle. Forty Creek make good whisky, but they have a long way to go in order to play in the big leagues. As it stands, they’re a better tasting example of all that is wrong with Canadian whisky.
Bound to offend, I’m sure, but my two cents.
“…they’re a better tasting example of all that is wrong with Canadian whisky.”
John Hall has acquired cult like status while producing whisky the same way as most other Canadian distillers (“meritage” my a$$) and overcharging for it. There is NOTHING craft about Forty Creek and that will not change now that they are owned by a multinational corporation.
Easy for me not to purchase NAS Forty Creek. I’ve not been doing it since I listened to Mr Hall at Spirit of Toronto three years ago.
Thank you for the clarification Jeff/ATW. I want to be supportive of the effort in particular for SM Scotch. Sorry I didn’t get it clearly the first time.
I wonder if some sort of handout could be put together to give to my local liquor store owner whom of course appreciates the money I spend on Scotch? An educational promotion campaign for the public?
Perhaps not needed with the internet as the great communicator.
This says it better than I can:
“Anyway, whisky lovers often chose Scotch because they used to think it was a superior spirit, and Scotch has to remain a superior spirit, with all its attributes.”
Hence my question as to the boycott extending beyond Scotland and SMSW. That is the gold standard. That is what I drink.
I really don’t care if the always inferior American (USA my home), or Canadian, or Indian, or other countries have NAS……
Man…that whole post is worth reading. Thanks for sharing. For those yet to click the link above…Serge agrees: The SWA should mandate age statements, NAS prices are too high and ultimately…they’re generally inferior now. Love it.
Well then, Portwood, you’re missing out. Some FC stuff has been great, especially the 2013 Heart of Gold.
Of course, unless he states the age going forward, he’s included.
It’s not a matter of value on age, it’s what’s written on the bottle. Honesty in advertising….
Glad to be able to sign you up, David, and I hope you get a response from Amrut, although I’ll be very surprised if it’s the response you’re looking for.
The principled “losers” are, at least, principled. Compare them to those who don’t actually believe the industry line about NAS any more than I do, and who will gladly take more product information, but ONLY if someone else gets it for them and providing that THEY don’t have to change THEIR purchasing patterns while they wait, and I certainly know who I’d rather drink with. Furthermore, they are only “losers” in the sense that, yes, they will forego buying some expressions they like to make a point where others (the “winners”?) will not, but this is vital in sending the industry any kind of message in the first place; no one CAN boycott whisky that they have no interest in purchasing anyway, or else I’ve been conducting a “boycott” of Crown Royal for decades and never even knew it. And, yes, it’s only whisky – but that, evidently, doesn’t keep people from writing and arguing about ad infinitum, so all of that effort might as well result in a better market for consumers if possible.
Thanks Curt, for fighting the good fight on behalf of us all. I’m on board. I’ll miss my Uigeadail and A’Bunadh but that’s the price we will have to pay to, hopefully, force the industry to rethink its direction. My recent unsatisfying experience with Talisker Storm, which is 10 bucks more than the 10 year old here in BC, makes me all the more determined to boycott NAS whisky. Cheers.
Hi Curt, and Ralfy, et al,
Inasmuch as I understand your defiance, I can’t jump aboard. I’m one who plots my own course without the assistance of reviews, advertising hyperbole, or public opinion. Sometimes that results in me trying a whisky–aged or not–that doesn’t stun anyone. More often the result is a whisky that somebody falls in love with.
An in-law gave a bottle of Old Ballantruan (the NAS, not the 10 year old) to me last week. I’d been wanting to try it but hadn’t been anywhere that offered it. The whisky didn’t break needles on the rating scale, but it far outperformed the same distillery’s With a Peaty Tang. I’m sure the 50% abv contributed to my enjoyment.
Also last week a friend poured a glass of Laphroaig Select for me. I’d been underwhelmed by the whisky’s publicity (and its pedigree–a cobbled together and watered down bunch of scraps), but I never turn down a chance to try something new. Suffice it to say Select didn’t live up to its distillery’s good name. All alone, it adds fuel to your boycott’s fire. But, to be fair, I wouldn’t have said that without having tried it.
I could go on and on with examples of NAS whiskies (46% or more, ucf, and at great prices) with which I’ve been impressed in the last year, but I fear I’d be whispering in deaf ears.
A final point: reviewers (and all whisky drinkers) who tout the label on a whisky bottle to be the distiller’s contract with the consumer must live up to the consumer’s responsibility and actually read the entire label before beginning to make assertions about the whiskies they’re reviewing (and drinking).
Best wishes for a successful campaign, and Happy New Year.
No, not deaf ears, but you are missing the point. As NAS isn’t a type of whisky, but only a type of label which can be applied to any whisky of any quality, the issue isn’t about product quality – it’s about product information and the consumer’s right to know what they’re drinking. Putting an age statement on the Old Ballantruan wouldn’t have made it any better or any worse, but it can easily be argued to be as important as any other piece of information you’re likely to find on the label. Distilleries “skip” this information where it hurts sales with NAS, but still market age statements and track cask age, so age information isn’t simply “irrelevant” to whisky or to consumers whenever distilleries say it is.
I’m not ‘missing the point’ as your finger-in-the-chest reply suggests. Please do send me a link to that ‘consumer’s rights’ list, won’t you?
As John suggests in his post (number 9., further down the list) the ‘core customer base doesn’t care’. Whisky buyers who read or post on the scores of available whisky message boards, such as ATW, are a tiny fraction of the core. I might suggest most are out for a good dram at a great price. A good many others might be those swayed by premium marketing and, subsequently, premium pricing (e.g., Macallan’s ‘colors’ or more recently Mortlach’s Rare Old. There are others.)
Now, as regards the myriad whisky boards and blogs, clearly they wield power. I would partially attribute ucf, 46% and higher abvs, and natural coloring to their collective voices. And I would add that the ‘core consumer’ has no clue why we’ve seen those changes in so many whiskies.
There’s a caution in all this: it’s that old adage be careful what you ask for. The positive changes in the whisky bottle have come at a cost. Every time a business does something different there’s a cost to the consumer. Higher abv means fewer bottles so a higher price per bottle for the distillery to recoup its investment. (I must add that I can’t see how ucf or not using e150a adds cost, but….) Following this thinking, I would suggest that a Whisky Consumer Bill of Rights stating every whisky must divulge its age would contribute to higher prices as well. Does logic tell me that? No.
No doubt you’ve seen the 2014 Malt Maniac awards. The categories are littered with NAS whiskies: great whiskies, which, in a blind tasting, got acknowledged.
This is not a war, not even a battle. Still in all, I bid you luck in your plight.
You did miss the point, and I think you still do. Your argument for NAS was one based on quality – “I could go on and on with examples of NAS whiskies (46% or more, ucf, and at great prices) with which I’ve been impressed in the last year, but I fear I’d be whispering in deaf ears” and “No doubt you’ve seen the 2014 Malt Maniac awards. The categories are littered with NAS whiskies: great whiskies, which, in a blind tasting, got acknowledged”- and product quality isn’t the problem with NAS (see above).
Now the argument is that “the core doesn’t care” – we’ll see. You wouldn’t be connected to the industry in some way, would you? All those who try to defend NAS wouldn’t actually shed a tear for it if it were gone tomorrow and replaced by age statements – they’d probably even prefer the added product information – but they’re just too lazy/selfish to do anything about it themselves. So it goes.
“The positive changes in the whisky bottle have come at a cost.” – so have the negative ones, such as reduced age information. NAS is a great way to hide/market ever-younger whisky at ever higher prices, and those expressions which lose their age statement are going to get younger, not older. Producers are printing labels anyway and the person buying the bottle should know the age of what they’re getting. Those who settle for just whatever the industry chooses to give them are going to end up with very little.
As in past exchanges we’ve had, Jeff, you’re right–in your eyes at least. But, then, I’m not trying to change your mind on, or defend, anything.
You asked, “You wouldn’t be connected to the industry in some way, would you?”
Of course I have no way of knowing how you’ll interpret my ‘connection’ to the industry. I’m a liquor retailer, on and off-premise. I specialize in single malt Scotch, and I base my opinions on watching and listening to customers’ reactions to whiskies. I put no stock in the one quarter of one percent of customers who try to impress me with “I drink Macallan twenty-five year old.” I try to restrain myself from answering, “I’m sorry to hear you waste that kind of money on a low-abv, chill filtered, caramel-colored whisky.” But, hey, it has that all-important age statement.
At a high point (a low point in your eyes) NAS whiskies represented 30% of my backbar stock. Now it’s 18% and the number continues to drop. Yes, some of the increase in age-stated whiskies has to do with blog posts from the likes of Oliver, Ralfy, Curt, and others, but I’ll never stop buying NAS whiskies. Some of them are simply too good to ignore.
Now in my fourth decade enjoying whisky and my seventh year as a purveyor of it I’ve seen some notable swings. One of my first three single malts was a 1970s bottling of Glenfiddich. I still have the gift tin. In addition to “Single Malt” it says, “Pure Malt” but doesn’t offer the slightest clue about the whisky’s age anywhere on the tin. Are today’s NAS offerings taking us back to the start of single malt popularity?
Today I select whiskies for our backbar with a focus on bang for the customer’s buck and craft presentation (ala Ralfy and others). We try to maintain a stock of about 86 whiskies, and we’ve retired more than 175 expressions. About 77% of our whiskies are 46%, ucf, and natural color; 43% are bottled at cask strength; and 32% come from a single cask.
A few days ago, thanks to a holiday gift, I tried my 101st single malt Scotch whisky of 2014. The ages of the whiskies I was lucky enough to try this year ranged from Kilchoman’s 3 year old Port Cask Matured to a 1954 58 year old Mortlach bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Thank goodness I tried a few NAS whiskies along the trail.
Tomatin Distillery Manager Graham Eunson offered a brilliant Master Class at the Victoria Whisky Festival in January. First he poured a 5 year old bourbon cask matured whisky, then he gave us a 5 year old virgin cask matured whisky. Finally he led us to taste Legacy (now Dualchas in the USA due to a copyright problem), a vatting of the two previous whiskies. You won’t find the age on Legacy or Dualchas so I wouldn’t have known its 5 year age without having taken Graham’s class. No matter; it’s delicious, and its $30 price tag is hard to ignore.
Dualchas received the same treatment as Ralfy’s 2014 whisky of the year: 43%, probably chill filtered, and maybe a wee bit of e150a (who knows?). There are two HUGE differences between Tomatin Dualchas and Benromach 10, one is the age statement, and the other is the price. Each consumer will choose which is important.
Seems a bit odd to me that there’s this big resistance to NAS single malts. Blends account for 90 to 93 percent of Scotch whisky sales around the world, but I don’t hear drum-banging to demand blenders add age statements to their offerings.
To be honest, Bob, you’re no less “right in your own eyes” than I am (and you did miss the point about the problem with NAS not being about quality), but I do thank you for your candour about your connection to the industry. As for no one caring about the age of blends, I think age statements SHOULD be carried on all whisky products as all whisky products are aged TO be improved, and so there’s no way that anyone can argue that age is irrelevant information. There are good whiskies with NAS labels, but none have to lack an age statement to maintain their quality. It’s just information the consumer should have.
Bob…it’s good to have you here, mate. Whether we all see eye to eye is irrelevant in the grand scheme. It’s nice to have another enlightened and tempered voice in the mix.
Cheers. BTW…hope you had a great holiday.
Heartily agree about your seeing eye to eye comment. Would be a boring world indeed if we all agreed.
Christmas in Kansas this year–always a ton of fun with Barbara’s family. Hope yours was terrific too.
Happy New Year. We’ll enjoy a quiet one–just the two of us and a few select drams. They’ll have age statements; don’t want to stir the pot, mind.
All I can add to this discussion is: Good. Glad to have two of my favourite whisky reviewers decide to draw a line in the sand, within the same week. This is the first step in a very long walk, and hopefully many more people choose to make this one of their New Year’s resolutions.
Thanks, Andrew. appreciate the kind words.
Glad to see David on board….
For those “principled losers” among us, I know someone with a very big stash of A’Bunadh, and what looks to be some Amrut coming in, and I volunteer his “strike fund” to be available to anyone who misses the taste, but won’t buy the bottle….
Hi Curt and all, long time reader first time poster.
Will this affect only review, or also Dram Initiative events?
Just reviews, and my personal buying habits.
Isn’t it time to accept that the industry is taking this direction, stock up and wait 5-10 years for them to realize they have overproduced and start marketing age stated whisky again?
And would all those fancy Ardbeg bottlings be such sales success if it would have stated their age?
I do understand the discussion about NAS, but the core customer base of the industry doesn’t really care. As long as friends of mine keep buying Bowmore Black Rock at the airport at least……
So why would anything change if your friends keep buying and we stock up (i.e. continue buying)? Wouldn’t that mean the industry had won?
Stock up with good age stated whiskies still available and stop buying/reviewing NAS.
Most buyers are occasional drinkers and will not care anyway, not now and not in the future. The industry will only change if it is profitable to do so. So just wait until whisky gets out of fashion for the occasional drinker or prices are too high for them in economic crisis. Overcapacity will hopefully lead to change of thought in how to attract customers.
Will this happen? Don’t know….
Go get ‘im Jeff…..
I don’t know; the industry and its flacks have already felt the need to write NAS defense pieces WITHOUT review boycott (although, if I were running Diageo, I would have canned Nick Morgan for his “running out of numbers” quip – possibly the stupidest thing ever said on the topic of NAS, and he’s a PhD), If they were nervous then, they are nervous now. If the average drinker doesn’t care about age statements anyway, why won’t the industry provide them to keep those who do happy, particularly if it gives them a market/ethics advantage?
By the way, Skeptic, are you onboard with the boycott?
Ooops! Sorry, Sceptic, I see that you are
Completely agree about the NAS nonsense with regards to all the ultra hyped expensive bottlings that are OK at best. However, I won’t stop purchasing the likes of Aberlour A’Bunadh or Auchentoshan Valinch because they are damm good whiskies at a fair price, albeit NAS. The $100 or multi hundred dollar NAS will never again see a spot in my whisky “vault” however!
So for me, it’s a matter of perspective I guess. Even though I’d prefer to have all the information available to me, I can live with quality & fairly priced NAS bottlings that I know are good.
Cheers and all the best in 2015
Don’t know where you live… Here in ontario A’Bunadhs are $100 NAS bottles
Not in Alberta $70 or so..
I know….it’s so sad….
There seems to be a bit of a “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” mentality here. How can distilleries like Amrut and Tasmania distillery that age their whiskies in climates that cannot be compared to Scotland be penalised for not putting an age statement on their bottles? If Amrut put 3 Year Old on their Single Malt no consumer would purchase it as they would be looking at the age statement from a “scotch” perspective.
I agree with a lot of viewpoints on NAS and how the Scotch industry is now trying to backpedal but I cannot fault rest of the world Single Malt producers that have never had an age statement.
It’s easy to sit in judgement from an armchair or from a whisky club perspective but you also need to think about how these rest of the world distilleries can attract consumers to buy their product when much of the market is extremely “Scotch” biased. Having sold Single Malt from many non Scotland distilleries I can say with impunity that if those distilleries had declared young ages on their whiskies they would have remained on the shelf collecting dust save for the few whisky geek purchases. Apples need to be compared with apples not oranges. By making a black and white NAS boycott you are now effectively taking your anger at the Scotch whisky industry out on the rest of the world.
You know I’m an Amrut junkie. I have thrown my support behind them from day one. HOWEVER…whisky sales have been driven for years now with an ‘older is better’ mentality. If anyone (Amrut included) wants to backpedal and help us to understand that young whiskies can be astoundingly good, perhaps they need to invest in brand education. Getting out and pouring their products…explaining why their whisky matures as it does.
The answer is NOT to hide the age from the consumer. That is, quite frankly, disingenuous, and puts the purchaser at a disadvantage.
How ’bout a level playing field where I get the right information in hand in order to make my purchasing decisions. Not simply swallowing what the marketing departments think I should have. Why should age be hidden?
Should also note…Amrut has stated age on their bottles to great effect before. I guarantee releases like this sold out: http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?p=1970
I can attest to the fact that Amrut have spent a LOT of money and time in education as to why their whisky ages faster. No brand however can sell the required amount of product based on “education” the simple commercial fact is that the bulk of the general buying public don’t go to whisky events or read whisky publications.
The level of “education” for the larger percentage of whisky drinkers is driven purely by the big marketing machines. What they are told is the benchmark is what they buy. Many many times my 1 on 1 contact with consumers was what was required to get them to take a chance on a bottle of Amrut. How is that even remotely a recipe for commercial success for any brand unless i’s a tiny producer. It’s a sad state of affairs that the SWA have made it even more difficult to understand what the heck is going on.
Blended Malts are all at face value “blends” when it comes to the majority of consumer understanding and even with careful explanation a lot still don’t seem to get it. When even a fairly simple use of the word blend to quantify two completely different styles of whisky causes such confusion how then are we to on a mass scale explain faster aging?
Don’t get me wrong here I am all in favor of having full age statements across the board but I don’t see where companies like Amrut while trying to make some headway in the market should be required to spend the necessary dollars to do “all” the educating and to take it upon themselves to solve this issue while still trying to make their product acceptable to the bulk of the whisky buying public that only look at everything through the comparison of their everyday 12 year old Glen’s.
Also note that the Amrut you talk about does have the information but in very small print and as such will only be read by whisky enthusiasts like yourself. For the casual observer wandering the shelves looking for a 15 year old this Amrut would never be in contention.
See what you started here Curt – fun times for all 🙂
Yep, Amrut needs a pass because we all need to worry about Amrut’s problems, those close to Amrut most of all. If I were in the whisky trade, and not just a consumer, I’d probably care more. Poor Amrut – if they can somehow put an age statement on them without going bankrupt, I’ll buy their products again.
No easy fix here
Oh, it’s already fixed; I worry as much about Amrut as Amrut worries about me and, rest assured, that won’t be changing any time soon. If anyone is an importer for Amrut and thinks that sales might be pinched by a lack of reviews, I have as much sympathy for them as they have for me too.
Hahaha. Did I break the internet again?
You back in town, Mr. Bray? Good time away?
Back for a day and off again to Kicking Horse – will be doing a tasting of 8 Single Malt Scotches – all with age statements 😉
Lots of lovely drams consumed over Christmas.
Will be back next week so perhaps we can continue this discussion over a glass or two.
Sounds ideal. Perhaps we can get Maltmonster to sit in.
“If Amrut put 3 Year Old on their Single Malt no consumer would purchase it as they would be looking at the age statement from a “scotch” perspective.” So does that mean that you wouldn’t buy Amrut products if they carried low age statements? If it doesn’t, why would it necessarily be true for everyone else?
This is the doublethink about “the average consumer”: on one hand, a boycott of NAS will never work because the average consumer doesn’t care about age but, on the other, the average consumer who doesn’t care about age is scared away by low age statements. Any part of the whisky industry which wants to trumpet how good its young whisky is can prove it with an age statement. Those who don’t know the difference between Scottish and Indian or Asian whisky don’t know what they’re buying anyway (and they should find out) and dumbing down the labels to pacify them might help the industry’s bottom line, but it does nothing for consumers (and, as we know, “consumer education” is ALWAYS an industry goal). Removing ABV information would also help to “even the playing field” for those who only want to put out 40% ABV products but find they have to compete against cask strengths, but I wouldn’t support it. Worrying about the poor industry’s problems has never, and never will, do anything to further consumer interests, so I worry about Amrut and Kavalan’s problems as much as they worry about mine (and yours). I have to understand why producers want to hide age? OK, I do. Now the industry has to understand that simply isn’t good enough anymore.
I think the problem many of us are having with the NAS revolution is that known and trusted age stated malts are being replaced by unknown, sketchily labeled and often overpriced alternatives with silly names and plenty of hype. I no longer have a Macallan in my cabinet since the 12 disappeared and the cask strength is now NAS. Unless I find a bargain somewhere on the 18, or they start disclosing what’s in the Amber, Sienna etc. I won’t be a buyer. We all know that Uigeadail, Corryvreken (sp), A’Bunadh, Quarter Cask are excellent NAS malts, but I’m going to have a problem if Ardbeg 10 disappears and I have to pay a premium for Ardbeg’s super hyped, premium priced, cult offerings, or if Laphroaig 10 is replaced by a weakling like their Select.
Good whisky is good whisky, regardless of whether or not it has an age statement. In that regard I agree with two-bit cowboy. But as Jeff says, what harm can it do to give us the extra information to enable us to make an informed decision on what to buy. We are not talking about insignificant amounts of money here, so any help would be appreciated. The industry has been telling us for ever how important age is to the quality of their products. We know they are running out of aged product, but If they are going to diametrically change their tune now, they could at least give us some other credible reasons why age no longer matters.
Why not just judge the spirit based on what you taste in the bottle regardless of age statement. Also, it is a shame that some feel that Ardbeg Uigeadail would not fetch the NAS price if it were age stated. That shows that people are buying what’s on the label and not what’s in the bottle.
I feel that whiskey bloggers that refuse to review these whiskeys are doing the community a grave disservice. You have the opportunity to shape innovation in this industry but you choose to rely on possibly made up age statements as opposed to challenging producers to put out their best product and whiskey enthusiasts to rely on their palates to determine value and not an age statement.
Hi, Kevin. Thanks for the comment.
With all due respect, you’re missing the point. At its heart, the argument against NAS whiskies is about price. NAS expressions exist in order to allow brands to market younger whiskies. If this weren’t the case, they would have left the ’12’ or ’18’ or what-have-you on the bottle. Ok…so be it. If that were the only factor at play, I could MAYBE work my way around it IF…BIG IF…I could see a commensurate drop in price according to the lesser investment on behalf of the distilleries. This is FAR from the case.
Take the beloved Uigeadail as an example. Early editions were built on young malt, mixed with some sexy old barrels of Ardbeg. Price was set accordingly. And a reputation was built. A decade later we have an entirely different whisky (albeit still decent), under the same name…with certainly none of those glorious old casks in the vatting. We know this because they simply don’t exist for Ardbeg anymore, and any remaining straggler mature barrels are being meted out with astronomical price tags.
Your reference to shaping innovation by continuing to review these whiskies is so misguided I’m simply not sure where to begin. If we continue to do as you suggest, the distilleries will continue status quo. The malts will get younger. The prices will continue to creep. The end product will suffer. And the consumer is a bloody fool for allowing it to happen. What happened to caveat emptor? Why should we blindly accept an imminent fleecing? I don’t buy a new car and just accept at face value that everything to do with the vehicle is hunky dory. I shop ’til I find what I want, and if I feel like I’m being misled or that the dealer is hiding something you can bet your ass I’m moving onto something else. Trust me…we are ALL being misled right now. The brands are doing their damnedest to keep us in the dark about just what we’re paying for.
I knew at one point that my Mac 18 was a solid investment on the part of the distillery. Do I know the same with the Sienna or Ruby? Of course not. Betcha anything there are a few old barrels in the mix to show a touch of maturity, and a whole shitload of young casks bringing youthful fruit and vibrancy. The rub? The price is even HIGHER now for what is ultimately a younger whisky. And we’re supposed to continue doing our thing in order to not do the community a ‘grave disservice’? Sorry. Gotta disagree. In good conscience I cannot play along.
In three words: We’re getting fucked.
I’m also not sure what you mean by ‘possibly made up age statements’. This would be ‘illegal’ under the mandate of the SWA.
When you blindly accept the price tag without knowing what you’re getting for your dollar, on your own head be it. I’ll continue to fight it. At some point this will all be as laughable as the people who said the earth wasn’t round. Those who supported this NAS trend will be embarrassed and will most likely never admit it. The distilleries will backtrack at some point when stocks recover. At that point I PROMISE you that age will suddenly become relevant in their marketing strategies again.
I’m picking nits here, but to be clear, the SWA doesn’t have the power you attribute to it.
The UK government, in The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, prescribes and enforces labeling requirements, including age statements:
I’m guessing here, but I believe the ultimate goal of your campaign would be to amend this regulation. If, along your journey, you gain SWA support so much the better, but the SWA has neither a governing nor an enforcement role in The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009.
Happy New Year,
Important to note that government tends to follow the advice of the SWA, and furthermore the SWA is primarily composed of members of the industry.
I think we should be under no illusions who runs the show.
There are no arguments to your sage outlook. The organization’s persuasive and lobbying efforts are mighty, and its five lawyers and three support staff are certainly busy.
The organization’s lofty, self-appointed power stance, however, makes me fully appreciate those distilleries and other ‘members of the industry’ who don’t belong to the SWA.
Yes, I know. That’s why ‘illegal’ is in quotations as it is. Pseudo-sarcasm. Simpler to get the case across, though oversimplified to the educated. Apologies for the lack of clarity.
Very lively discussion.
I discussed this with a friend of mine (who likes good whisky) last night as we drammed away 2014. It pains me to admit 3 of the 5 were NAS, though a more careful examination may prove otherwise ( I don’t have Ralfy’s steam punk peripherals).
He works in an industry which provides him a lot of insight into multinational corporation strategies. He is very pessimistic.
Ultimately, he feels that the Diageos and LVMH would not move to NAS unless they felt they could ramp up output to eventually maintain production once the younger stocks currently available begin to dwindle.
He says that they are ultimately responsible to their shareholders and will have evaluated this strategy will long term projections.
I responded that they may not be able to objectively predict too far ahead but he disagrees.
He does not feel a boycott will be successful because most people don’t care, and for those who do (either because they consider a number a status symbol or because they appreciate quality), there will be enough numbers allotted by the big companies.
I know Curt, that you think this is all about money. I don’t disagree. But to me this issue is about quality.
The big companies can make more money by selling stuff that is cheaper for them to produce. I have no doubt the quality of expressions like A’Bunadh will suffer in quality over time, and ultimately most of what is available will be mediocre.
At the same time some good and some mediocre stuff with age statements WILL be available, at prices that people will have difficulty affording.
The worst part, is that the smaller producers will be forced to either follow the trend, go bust, or be bought up, with the same ultimate results, lower quality or highter prices.
My personal take on this is that whisky is a treat, a luxury, like milk chocolate. I already choose not to drink something I don’t like. I would sooner have a club soda than a Glenfiddich 12. I don’t NEED whisky.
I feel bad for people who have a personal stake in the future of the industry: the craft producers like Armstrong who see their labour of love collapse, and consumers who feel pain because of the direction things are going (and need to re-prioritize).
I support a boycott in principle. I don’t think it will be effective but I feel I should participate to support those who feel it might. Personally, I think a more effective boycott would be for us not to buy any products from producers who sell NAS, or from retailers who stock their products. But then there would be little left to buy, and nowhere to get it.
Thank you Skeptic for offering up my stash of NAS for those who run out during the boycott. As a socialist I support the idea of helping others get through a rough patch. And my wife will be happy to see me clear a lot of space in the basement.
But on the other hand, would it not be hypocritical to advocate a boycott, while enjoying what one has in reserve, while others who didn’t stock up do without (the principled losers)?
So my question to you, Curt, Jeff, and Ralfy:
In addition to not buying NAS, are you prepared to commit to not drinking it, even if you have some stashed away?
Maybe return the bottles you have to the retailer?
Taking this to its logical conclusion, should I then not speak to people who buy or drink NAS? Should I block comments here from any who are in support of it? Should I delete old reviews of NAS whisky?
Not gonna happen.
The thing is, this NAS trend has gotten worse and worse over time. When it was a couple expressions here and there, leaving me ample room to cherry pick and accept that a couple of brands were consistently producing good products but doing something innovative as well, I was ok with it. Now that overall quality is dipping, prices are climbing, distilleries are acknowledging a lack of mature stock as the reason for NAS whiskies AND they’re blatantly bullshitting us by suddenly telling us age doesn’t matter (after decades of telling us it DOES matter)…I’m not ok with it anymore.
Some of the whiskies I’ve bought over the years are NAS. I bought them after trying them and enjoying them. That was a moment in time. I’m not going back to rewrite history. I’m simply not going to help brands sell bullshit here on my site by publishing reviews for them. Effectively I’m helping them do exactly what I’m asking them not to do.
As for drinking what is currently stored away here…yes, I will. At some point. Who knows…perhaps by the time I get ’round to opening them this nonsense will be behind us and I can do so in toasting the end of idiocy. 😉
Howdy David (with apologies to Curt for being such a blabber mouth here),
I wondered how long it would take for the ‘hypo…” word to appear on this post. You ask great questions.
Your pal is too late in defending Diageo, LVMH, or others. Talisker Storm, Oban Little Bay, Mortlach Rare Old, the ever-controversial Johnnie Blue, and more come from Diageo. The many Ardbeg and Glenmorangie annual releases that are NAS outnumber those with ages.
Pernod Ricard’s age-stated Glenlivet 16 Nadurra has achieved rock star status, but now The ‘livet’s new Nadurra Oloroso and its upcoming Nadurra First Fill Selection (first fill American white oak casks) are NAS. I’m amazed how closely Nadurra Oloroso Batch OL0614 resembles A’Bunadh, but at half again the price! First Fill Selection Batch 0215 will be 63.15%; how old can that be?
And, gee, Pernod Ricard’s “guy” just took the SWA helm from a Diageo guy.
This venue already has “skeptic”; perhaps we need a “cynic”. No, I’ll remain forever yours,
Bob…I love the commentary. It’s one of the main reasons I keep posting. Don’t stop being a ‘blabbermouth’.
To clarify, my friend was not “defending” Diageo et al, just analyzing the situation. He did not support the current trend.
Not sure if its co-incidence or a company listening to (admittedly small percentage of consumers) but Benromach is/has replaced an NAS expression “Traditional” with a 5 year old!!!
It is unlikely NAS bottles will disappear but what is certain is that some companies will make the switch from NAS to AS as they see a competitive advantage in doing so. Kilchoman and others have shown it possible to sell very young whisky – even at exorbitant prices. No reason to believe other producers can’t/won’t do the same. The small producers, not the big players, are likely to be the ones to buck the trend.
Will I stop buying NAS whisky? Yes
Will I stop drinking NAS whisky I bought in the past? NO.
As has been mentioned several times, many of the NAS expressions considered high quality (the likes of Uigeadail, a’bunadh, Balvenie Tun 1401, etc) became “classics” on the back of significant aged stocks mixed with young whisky. Over time, these classic NAS bottles have slipped in quality (or, in the case of tun 1401 been replaced by much larger batches of lower quality whisky), mainly due to increasing proportion of the younger components. What has changed recently is the NAS bottles coming to market today have NONE of the older whiskies mixed in to the batches of past NAS bottles. Where relatively high prices for previous NAS bottles (containing older whisky) may have been justified, the same cannot be said of more recent NAS.
I’m not against NAS per se … I’m against paying higher prices for NAS bottles than the equivalent age stated bottles (example: Talisker Storm v 10yo, Ardbeg/Glenmorangie fancy shmancy annual release vs 10yo, Glenlivet Nadurra Olorosso vs Nadurra 16yo etc). In order to send a message my wallet will be closed to NAS expressions for the foreseeable future.
David has a point though.
There is an element of hypocrisy in advocating that people who do not have a multi year supply of their favourite NAS stop buying them, while one continues to enjoy it in the privacy of one’s home.
” Go without for THE CAUSE!” I’ll join you on the “picket line” and then toast my righteousness with a fine glass of the A’Bunadh I squirrelled away, maybe with one or two of my buddies.
“Four legs good two legs ….better?”
Fair comment, skeptic, however:
The money I’ve spent on NAS in the PAST is already in the pockets of the industry. They could care less if I drink the whisky or dump it down the drain. If I decided not to drink those bottles it would be the equivalent to a tree falling in the forest with no one around.
OTOH, the money still in my pocket is more powerful.
I’m not advocating anyone stop buying this or that whisky. You can do as you see fit with your money – including buying NAS whisky. I’ve made a personal choice, albeit from a position of having enough bottles to drink without buying ANY more whisky (AS included). If enough people do the same, the industry (may) change, if not, you can still buy your favourite NAS whisky while I continue to drink down what I squired away. The upside, I will have more $$$ to devote to other neglected hobbies, you have your NAS whisky and principles intact, and the industry has more of your money.
As a further point, anyone that strongly disagrees with those of us that have committed to avoid future NAS bottles, why not start your own blogs/twitter/facebook accounts where you review, advocate, and promote nothing but NAS whisky?
I may read your defense of the industry selling young (cheaper to produce) whisky for higher prices (bigger profits) but I will still not buy them – even if they are good quality/tasty whiskies.
The truth is that not drinking what I’ve already bought is only punishing myself, whereas the point of not buying NAS releases going forward is to ‘punish’ (for lack of a better word) the industry.
I have 5 bottles of NAS product unopened (two were gifts) and an opened bottle of Amrut Fusion that, of course, won’t be replaced. I would pour it all out if it would help to end NAS – but it won’t, the industry already has my money. I haven’t bought any NAS (except for a bar dram that was my buddy’s right to pick) in more than a year, so if it’s about who joins who on the picket line, the signs are right over there; I’ve been walking for a while.
O.K. Everyone, let me throw something out to all of you. What about Compass Box? They have never, to the best of my knowledge put an age statement on any of their bottlings. I will leave it that for now, and look forward to the dialogue.
Compass Box would still exist and still succeed irrespective of a potential mandatory age statement. I have 100% faith in this. John Glaser is a whisky savant. He’s a blender whose passion and skill is unquestionable. If anyone could find ways to work with a new system (or new obstacle, in his case), it would be him. I love the guy.
Unfortunately, this NAS thing is a case of one bad apple spoiling the bunch (or rather several bad apples, and increasingly more). Some are being unfairly lumped with the all. Unfortunately I simply can’t say I’m ‘boycotting’ this, this, this and this, but not that, that, that and that. It would then become exceptions to exceptions. KISS theory. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Play hardball in hopes of getting results.
Let’s just say that if only single malt Scotch was suddenly enforceably age-stated (i.e. mandatorily labeled as such going forward) I would be more than happy. I would then simply HOPE that others in all regions and niches would follow suit, as they’ve always followed in the broken trail of the elite forefather: Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Ok. If you “socialists” want to share your NAS, then I say go ahead. I won’t buy any more Nadurra if it’s NAS (I’ve got the sherried version and it’s not good enough for the money) nor Macallan CS (prices of Macallan have gotten ridiculous). I’ll probably pass on Talisker Storm, even though I like it, but the price is a bit high.
I’ll still buy Corry as long as quality stays high and Ardmore till its gone. I might also buy another A’bunadh, even though my last (batch 41) was not very good. Everything thing else I buy has an AS or vintage, or they tell you what is in it (WT, High West,etc., so I really don’t have enough NAS to get upset. But soldier on and fight the good fight! I’ll cheer you on.
By the way, you could cross over and do some whiskEy reviews. Evan Williams and Elijah Craig have age info and are quite worthy of review. Might check out High West blends too, but they only tell you the age and origin of what they blend, not the exact percentages. I’ve been drinking their Midwinter Night’s Dram, which is their Rendesvouz finished in port. A mix of 6 and 16 YO ryes.
The following is meant entirely respectfully, to state a point. There is no personal attack intended, and I apologize in advance if any offence is taken:
I cannot support a boycott in which the rich (the 1%, people with plenty stashed away) ask the poor (those, the 99%, who don’t keep 100 bottles at home) to do without something that they themselves are not willing to do without.
“Don’t buy NAS” is equivalent to “don’t drink NAS” for people who only buy when their bottle is empty.
The principle of a boycott is meaningless if you watch other people suffer while living off your reserves until the industry is reformed.
How is that different from Jeff’s criticism of those who want change but want others to do the work? Answer: it’s not.
It’s like Orwell’s “Animal House”, where the pigs sit back and relax on the backs of the other animals. Thanks for pointing that out Skeptic.
By saying that you will continue to consume NAS whisky, you are telling people without NAS reserves that you don’t intend to make a sacrifice for the principle (which is ok as it’s whisky, not poverty or human rights) but that in order for the boycott to work, they do have to make a sacrifice.
Do you not see how that puts a crimp in the whole credibility of your call for a boycott?
And separating the dram initiative which you are a founder of, does that make sense? It’s like me saying I won’t buy NAS but my professional corporation can do what it wants. If the initiative has a night that features a lot of NAS products, will you go?
I don’t drink a lot. I’ve calculated I myself consume less than 3 bottles worth of whisky a year. I go through a bit more as I host tastings and supply most tif the stuff. I have enough NAS stock to last me 7-8 years if I drink no age stated spirits during that time. That means I can last at least a decade. And even though I’ve committed to sharing, I have no effective way of distributing what I have equally to all scotch lovers who are missing out.
I think a more powerful message would be the following:
Curt, you in Calgary, me in Toronto, others where they may be, let’s set a date for a Canada wide or worldwide NAS rally. Let’s invite people to bring their NAS whiskies and we’ll supply a good chunk of ours (regular stuff, not the one-off stuff). Let’s share it around and send a the following message to the industry:
We like these whiskies. We don’t care how old the whisky is in them if they are good but we deserve to know. We don’t like NAS. This is the last time you’ll see us drinking this stuff until your new bottles all carry age statements.
This way everyone moves forward on an level playing field.
What do you say?
Hi, David. As always, you’re a gent, and need not worry about offending. Let’s see if I can’t respond in a way that makes things palatable (pun intended):
Your concerns of a seeming hypocrisy are noted, and completely understood. They’re not right though. I’m not asking anyone to do anything. I’ve simply said what I am doing. If others want to fight for change and join in, so be it. I’m not only happy for the company, but grateful for a little more weight behind the argument.
Your concerns are founded on an assumption that I’m ok with not buying this stuff anymore, and that it won’t affect me. Do you honestly think I won’t be hurt by this? I anxiously await each new Ardbeg, Amrut and Kavalan release. I buy more a’bunadh and Quarter Cask than you can imagine. I adore Compass Box and Auchentoshan Valinch was a revelation go-to dram for me. I bought these bottles not only as the affordable drinkers in my hordings, but also to allow extra budget for the more expensive purchases. Now I will have to find alternatives that are likely going to cost me more. Additionally, my Amrut and Ardbeg collections will suddenly cease. If you don’t think I am sacrificing, you’re making incorrect assumptions.
I could also just as easily say that I am setting the terms to by l’il boycott to not reviewing and not buying. End of story. Anyone who wants more out of me is shit out of luck. I’ve never been one to allow others to dictate terms to me. Sounds snarky, I realize, but I honestly don’t mean it as such. As has been pointed out…the bottles in my personal collection are spilled milk. The ‘sabotage’ I’m engaging in now is more like ‘Atlas Shrugged’, wherein I simply refuse to play by their rules. A few of us are trying to stop the motor of the Scotch whisky industry as it stands. ‘Cause quite frankly…it’s not healthy for any of us.
As for others without reserves…sorry. Can’t speak to that. Anyone could have squirrelled away whisky at any time. It’s not up to me to sacrifice further to make anyone feel better. At the end of the day if none of us are buying or reporting on the malts, we’re all doing the same thing. What happens to the liquid at your house, Jeff’s place or mine is nobody’s biz unless they choose to make it so. It certainly won’t affect the industry in any way.
Let me be clear here: I have NAS whisky at home. I even love some of it. Especially those I already mentioned. I will continue to drink NAS whisky at events and tastings when offered or poured. I will also finish open bottles I have here. Will I open new ones anytime soon? Dunno. Doubtful, since I will need new fodder for the website and obviously those wouldn’t make the cut. Either way…if you see me say the malt of the day is Ardbeg Alligator, that’s cause it is what I’m drinking. End of story.
Regarding the Dram Initiative: I founded the club. There is a committee of five others that help me manage affairs. There are 80 members and a revolving door of guests. We are a group dedicated to whisky of all regions, ages, philosophies and methodologies. Some are members as much for the education as for the camaraderie. This is my political maneuvering. What kind of an asshole would I be to change stream on paying members midstream and start forcing my agenda down their throat. Don’t get me wrong…I will bring up the topic time and again to them, cause we are a club who are there to talk whisky after all, but I won’t singlehandedly determine the fate of the collective.
You ask if there is a night with a lot of NAS whisky, would I still go? Of course. I open and close every event for the club. I sometimes speak for the entire evening. I am the primary contact for all of our speakers and guests. Again…I WILL still drink the stuff.
If the occasion allows for me to one day share drams with you and you pour a’bunadh, I will toast your good taste in whisky, mock you mercilessly for supporting an industry fleecing and proceed to have a great evening chatting and making memories together. That’s how these things work.
One final thing to note…
Guys…I love whisky. A lot. Not in an ‘I drink a lot’ kinda way, but in an ‘I’m incredibly passionate about this drink, it’s history and it’s inherent aesthetics’. This ‘boycott’ is not me being a temperamental little tw@t for no reason. I’m fighting for this stuff precisely BECAUSE of how much I love it. I don’t want anyone to be hurt by this, but the industry is hurting us. It’s time to hit back, and hope they rub their swollen jaw and think ‘oh wow…I didn’t realize it felt like this. Maybe I should be nicer to the other guy’. WE are the other guy.
As you said above, I’ll return to you: hope I didn’t offend, mate.
Cheers. Appreciate the dialogue.
Your reply is a great example of how people can have different opinions without offending the other person.
I was going to any I disagree with what you say, but instead I think I’ll say that I find your words inconsistent.
After all, if the Dram initiative pours NAS, it must be purchasing NAS product. If you’re paying for your participation, you are essentially paying to support the NAS trend.
If I lived in Calgary, I would have done everything possible to secure a membership in DI, no small part because of you (though I likely would not have become interested in whisky if I hadn’t lived and worked in Toronto where I did – long story, to be shared only in person over a dram).
I don’t know how DI works, but I’m assuming there is a per event cost, like a ticket or something.
If I were to buy into an NAS boycott, I would not go to events where the DI was going to purchase and pour DI stuff. Maybe if there was just one expression, but I would be sure to insist that my set of drams did not include it.
But the way I read your last response, it doesn’t sound like you’re calling for a boycott. You’re not asking for others to go without. You’re just announcing what you are going to do. So absolutely, you can set whatever parameters you want for your own actions.
As to the other matter you alluded to, I will digress slightly:
I do hope that one of these years our paths will cross. It would be a privilege to pour you a dram. But I would not pour you an A’Bunadh, not a chance.
If I could pour you only one dram, I would pour you a Bladnoch. 10, 11 or 12 ( if I have tried it and like it, the 12 will be opened in 2015 once I empty my current 11) year old, not NAS.
Why no AA? Simply because you’ve had many. You need to try a Bladnoch.
You say you love whisky, not just drinking it but the whole deal? Well, as much as I could “love” a whisky, I feel that way about Bladnoch (OB under Armstrong), and I would want to share that with you.
I have a few of bottles from that now closed era of the distillery, and you can be sure I will be waiting with one of them for a time when you can be there.
To your continued health and happiness.
I am still not convinced whether a boycott on NAS will bring any change to the industry. It’s like being a Porsche owner saying I will boycott all Volkswagens and still buy new Porsches.
So you buy the good/ more expensive bottlings, but boycott the cheap stuff that represents 99% of the company’s revenue.
Wouldn’t it be more effective to stop buying from those distilleries alltogether? That would give benromach a real competitive advantage.
And that does ME any good how? As I said, I love whisky. Should I just stop drinking it, unless it is Benromach? Most distilleries have NAS expressions now. I cannot…or perhaps I should say ‘I will not…boycott every distillery that has an NAS whisky.
Guys and gals…I could be cynical and say ‘this won’t work…I’m just one guy’, or I could be optimistic and think ‘I have a blog that is fairly widely read and am helping to spread the word on this and get people talking’. I’ll opt for the latter.
Well, I must say, you, Ralfy, Serge, and others have created the equivalent of a weather phenomena. I received a message this morning from the leader of the whisky club we belong to: our January assignment is to research NAS whiskies and be prepared to discuss the pros and cons — opinions, no right or wrong answers (a very nice approach) at this month’s meeting.
Following John’s question and your reply, I looked at Springbank’s new Web site (terrific, by the way). Using John’s rationale–if I were to join the boycott–I couldn’t buy or drink anything from Springbank Distillery because they offer Longrow Peated, currently the distillery’s only NAS malt. Ain’t gon’na happen!
Conversely, Aberlour Distillery makes it easy to ignore their other whiskies if I don’t buy A’Bunadh. But this one whisky seems to offer boycotters their greatest conundrum. The day after your initial post, Curt, “the mashtun” boarded the bandwagon (also linking to Ralfy’s vlog), but the very next day he included A’Bunadh as his number one holiday whisky. More of David’s ‘hypocrisy”?
Boycott is a tough commitment, obviously, and it tests strengths and wills. There seems to be no black and white answer to how each person will go about the challenge of supporting the collective. Awareness (which will result in knowledge), more than anything, is the best thing that will come from the outpouring of support for the cause.
March on, with a caveat: March to your own drum beat, and without judging the next person’s actions.
I am just trying to understand what you aim to achieve. You want the industry to change, but only by boycottimg something you can do without anyway.
At the same time you want to stay a happy customer for their other products. So their marketing stratgey is actually working. Differentation of customers and it will be even easier to target core customers as you will only be reviewing their top products.
Don’t get me wrong. I encourage all initiatives to create transparency in what I am actually buying, but I don’t think the current cask stock leaves the industry much choice in keeping their profits at the same level/growing.
For myself, i rather buy independent bottlings that do provide most information needed.
Maybe better to boycott distillers that produce crappy NAS then? As also bladnoch and Bemromach have NAS bottlings.
Strange that those who don’t support this (and who have industry ties) and consider it a “not even a battle”, now want to suggest tactics and give marching orders to the people doing the marching. In any sort of debate about this issue the “anti-NAS” side should easily win: there simply is no defense for an uninformative label type which can’t, of course, affect quality in any way and which sends the message that age matters only in the context, and with the expressions, the industry chooses, at whim, to discuss it. Again, quality is no defense and the best Nick Morgan could come up with is “we’re running out of numbers”.
Sorry, my mistake entirely: I confused John with Jonathan. I apologize. Sorry.
I’m behind Ralfy, and this site as well. I don’t buy, or haven’t bought many NAS whisky, but I get it. One that I do have at the moment is Scottish Barley, and at $109 Canadian, I should have taken a pass on it. It’s nice, but Laddie 10 was just as good and only $70, with an age statement.
I would love Machir Bay just as much if it proudly displayed 6 years on the label, because what I read about what they are doing at Kilchoman made me buy it.
Highland Park is quick pricey, but at least here I can get the 10 year statement, and it is very reasonably priced as well as tasty.
Let young whisky be good, and let it be priced accordingly. Not overhyped by PR people to get collectors and speculators who will never pull a cork to buy in the hopes of creating a retirement fund.
I have read through all these posted and have enjoyed the dialogue, but I am not entirely convinced that I will be taking a pledge to not buy NAS. It’s interesting to see that most of the the NAS bottlings that are mentioned as a mark of excellence are pretty much the same. We are talking about Abunadh, some Ardbegs, Valinch, Compass Box, Amrut etc. These might represent 5% of all NAS releases on the market. No one is jumping on here pointing out that they are going to miss Amber Rock or Cu Bocan or any number of other silly NAS stuff that is so heavily marketed to us now.
I have fallen the last year into buying any number of these releases. I think I will have a hard time looking the other way on these favourites, but I will certainly move away from the rest of the nonsense that curiosity often kills me on.
Collegiate, you bring up a good point on the split between good (5%) and bad (95%) NAS releases.
Upon further reflection, my decision not to buy NAS is less a boycott than a realization I can do without 95% of the NAS crap that has been released recently. I haven’t bought many in the past and won’t buy any in the near future.
If that makes me sound like a hypocrite, I don’t care. We’re talking first world (luxury good) problem here not the fate of civilization.
The NAS trend has developed largely due to the whisky bubble. I, and many enthusiasts, have contributed to that bubble by buying much more whisky than we consume. The decision not to buy NAS is actually a decision to buy less whisky.
In the end, what makes a free market such a wonderful mechanism is that if the bulk of consumers continue to buy the crap (non age stated AND age stated) put out by the industry they will continue to supply said crap. Those of us that boycott (or a less romantic action to simply buy less) will be faced with having to spend more for age stated releases OR move on to other spirits that offer better value.
Maybe this is a good time for me to start an Armagnac blog …
Great to live in a democracy, ain’t it? Equal opportunity for all points of view. I sense that as this discussion goes on, many of us are getting a better understanding of what is actually involved in a full on boycott of a product category. To me it means drink what NAS bottles you’ve got and don’t buy any more for a year, or until there is the desired effect. I can think of a suitable AS alternative for even the most desirable NAS whiskies. If I only had Ardbeg 10 (46%, NCF and very tasty) I could live without any of the pricey NAS Ardbegs. Caol Ila 12 will do nicely and there is always Lagavulin 16. They can keep the overpriced sherried Macallans and I’ll take BenRiach 12 yr. old sherry matured or Glendronach 12 Original, or any number of AS Glenfarclases. A’Bunadh is a tough one, but I’m told the Aberlour cask strength 12 yr. old is pretty good. Hard to beat BenRiach 10 yr. old Curiositas for a peated Speysider (46%, NCF, natural colour). The point is, there are plenty of very good and affordable AS whiskies available to sustain us through a boycott. If we don’t make some sort of statement we will never know if the industry gives a shit about us or not. They might just be content to sell shitloads of cheap blends to the masses, keep the seriously aged stuff to suck big bucks from the rich and famous, and leave our relatively small segment of the market to take what they give at whatever price they tell us. Some of you might favour a half-assed boycott where you still get to buy the best of the NAS offerings and avoid the crap, but that does not convey the message to the industry, which really boils down to this: we can live with NAS because we understand that demand for aged product is outstripping supply, but we are only going to accept it if you start being honest about the age of its components, which we have to assume, unless you tell us otherwise, are very young whiskies. And, just as importantly, start pricing the stuff accordingly. Otherwise, we’re outta here!
I think one concern is that while most of the horses have left the barn, it’s important to try to close the door not to lose the ones that are left.
I predict that those producers who make the 5% of good NAS products will feel the pressure to maintain cash flow by using younger, less desirable spirit, and that the longer the consumer allows this to go on, the fewer quality NAS releases there will be.
At the same time, it will be harder to find the good stuff without buying duds.
For the average consumer who doesn’t care, it’s no problem. For us who do, it’s a waste of money that we can’t get back.
And the age statement stuff will become more and more pricy.
Do I think a boycott will work? No. Do I think it’s worth supporting those who want to try? Yes.
I don’t know how a boycott will affect me. I’m at a stage in my collecting now where I was planning a drastic reduction in purchasing in 2015, before this began. I have a few bottles I am waiting for, and I was planning on one specific batch of A’Bunadh expected this year. But this was supposed to be a reduce my collection a bit year, or years.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a little concerned about the incomsistent messages from proponents. Ralfy seems to have limited his ban to Scottish single malts. Curt is not asking others to stop buying , but won’t buy or review any NAS, but has enough to last year’s and will still potentially indirectly support NAS through Dram Initiative.
And all that is ok by me because it’s about whisky, not torture, democracy or human rights in general.
As I said before, I am willing to consider supporting a NAS boycott, but those who advocate that others do without ought to commit to doing without themselves.
The arguments that others had a chance to squirrel away stashes but did not is not valid. Not everyone has thousands of dollars available to buy whisky, and many buy as they drink.
I do not believe that Fidel Castro asked others to stop smoking until he quit smoking himself.
So anyone who just wants to say the will I longer buy, go ahead and do whT you want with your collection.
Anyone who is asking others not to buy NAS, give away your collection or commit to leaving it untouched. If you won’t do that, don’t expect others to.
The problem with the “level playing field” argument is that personal budgets, product access (and prices) and personal preferences create imbalances in collections that no one can compensate for and, interestingly, no one cared ABOUT compensating for prior to talk of a boycott; back then, it was people boasting about how many decades they could go without having to buy anything. “Cabinet equity” as a prerequisite to consumer action is a practical impossibility to satisfy (which is one reason I think it’s suddenly being brought up). There are those with more and less whisky (of all types) than I have as a lifelong member of the 99%, but that has always been the case and I’m neither asking the world to buy me drink nor offering to buy it a round. What, “but other people have more/less Uigeadail than I do”? That was the case before the boycott and it’ll be the case after it as well, even if Uigeadail receives an age statement (and I don’t have any Uigeadail). Hoarders never really cared about how people without premium whisky “suffered” before and they aren’t going to lose any sleep over it during, or after, a boycott either.
We’re asking for help in sending the industry a message, but it’s a voluntary come-as-you-are situation; join or not. There is nothing unethical, much less hypocritical, about the consumption of previously purchased NAS product when no one is asking others to refrain from doing do and when that product’s consumption, or destruction, won’t affect the outcome of the boycott in any case – or to consume such product when it’s not your call as to what’s being served. Those who don’t want to boycott will always find an excuse to avoid doing so and, more often than not, their real problem with the idea is that “there are some good NAS products that I just don’t want to give up”- and David has said this in the past. If that’s the case, fine, but just move on; after all the arguing the reasons NAS needs to be boycotted and, yes, avoiding NAS purchases on principle when NO ONE was behind this, I simply won’t be morally judged for what I do by those who aren’t doing anything on this front and never have.
First a caveat; I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but I felt it needed to be added to the discussion. How well I word this will probably leave much to be desired. You’ve been forewarned.
The funniest thing about the NAS issue is that boycott or not (which I fully support), I see the continued growth of distilleries NAS output effectively serving to do what the boycott hopes to do, and perhaps to even greater effect/depths.
One of the most important reasons that served to catapult single malt scotch into its currently revered position was the quantity of a reasonably priced and well aged inventory at hand (which was clearly labelled as such). Out of this “whisky loch” grew some very devoted fans who spread the gospel; Johannes @ Malt Madness, The Malt Maniacs, Serge @ Whiskyfun, the LA Whisky society etc. Many of us here got on the whisky train partially as a result of those noted above proselytizations and the fact that there was great whisky at “fair” pricing to be had.
With growing numbers of aficionados out there spreading the word in the intervening years, and more and more casual drinkers getting on board as a result of all the talk of great whisky to be had and the happenstance of the parallel trend of all things mid century modern (ie. Mad Men) we’ve ended up here. Now that these whiskies are no longer broadly available to the industry, and production is lagging behind, we’re stuck with ever increasing numbers of NAS offerings being feed into the machine, with at demand or well above pricing that the corporations have become fat on.
So what initially drew those to single malt scotch is now quite diminished, and those that are new to the experience are left fighting for the scraps and having to settle for a more expensive and frequently inferior product. The end result is that the industry will struggle in the years to come to keep those “early adopters” happy and still purchasing (as well evidenced by the discussion here and elsewhere) while also finding it difficult to continue to attract committed new purchasers to the fold.
I know if my first exposure was limited to many of the NAS offerings at the ridiculous pricing we currently have I certainly would not have become the fan/supporter that I now am. $110 for HP Dark Origins certainly wouldn’t do it. In a time when the industry should be striving to protect it’s image as a superior spirit with more empathy and transparency, and less arrogance as noted by Serge over @ WF, they are clearly taking the opposite tack.
Boycott or not, the industry (and I kid myself no longer, that is what it really is with the exception of a small handful of distilleries) will find itself with diminishing numbers of people purchasing directly as a result of foisting over priced NAS bottles on us.
You could say it’s bit of the old Ouroboros at work, or you could say it’s just your bottom line capitalists too blinded by their greed to see the writing on the wall. Either way, donkeys will be donkeys.
A fellow Dram Initiative member, and long time reader of ATW.
Thanks for your support of the boycott, Chris.
I don’t know if the industry HAS to sell me younger whisky because of demand (and who can say), but I know that the industry WANTS to sell me younger whisky, particularly at the $80-$120 level, because it’s cheaper to produce, and this is why the industry pushes NAS: because minimum age can be changed without notice. The age degradation of NAS products, especially at what can, admittedly, only be suspected as younger and younger introduction points, is contributing to the overall decline of the category. Young whisky is supposedly good (but is seldom otherwise confirmed by young products with age statements as anything beyond competent), but is that the young whisky that’s being used in these NAS offerings and what is the quality of the older whisky that we’re usually assured is in there as well? I don’t think that it’s of single-cask quality, or else it’s being put in with an eyedropper. Yet, again, it’s not for me to impose my ideas about what people should think about young whisky. I’d only like clear and consistent age information so that people can judge for themselves – and the current situation is a paradoxical double standard: age only matters where and when the industry wants to discuss it as a pricing point, but it doesn’t matter once an NAS label is applied.
I didn’t recognize this as something I’d written, then I realized there are two us called Chris who are weighing in on this topic. Well said, the other Chris, I agree with pretty much everything you have said here. I will just say again, drink or save whatever NAS product you already have, and then seek out suitable alternative AS offerings and let’s just see if we can make a difference.
I agree with you about your interpretation of the motivation of the big drinks companies.
I also agree with the Chris who feels that the market will eventually correct itself for the reasons he gave.
I also don’t think a boycott will work but am open to participating. Even if it means giving up the A’Bunadh batch 50 I covet.
But nothing I have read will convince me that someone with a decade supply who advocates that others join him or her in not buying any more can possibly have a shred of credibility.
In politics, someone who preaches austerity and is caught living the luxury life on the taxpayer’s dime, well they usually get the boot. Remember Bev Oda and the $16 Orange juice and other fiascos?
The principle here is no different. Sure, you can say you won’t buy any. But if you back home and drink your favourite, don’t be surprised if someone buys his grandfather His favourite NAS because he likes it too, and maybe he couldn’t afford to buy a 10 year buffer.
I understand the argument that it’s money already spent, but by amassing a huge stock of NAS before it bacame unfashionable that brought us to where we are now, and now this person rests on his/her stash and expects others to to his/her work for him/her? Not gonna happen.
But I’m a socialist, and I realize that people don’t see things the way I do, and I can respect that.
Maybe we should go the way things are moving with carbon credits. We can use NAS credits and offsets. For every NAS you buy or drink you have to buy an age stated whisky.
Or, for every NAS a hoarder drinks, a non-hoarder gets to buy one. More fair that way…
Chris 1 (BlueNote over on Connosr) here. NAS offsets, nice one David. Is that how we reduce our malt footprint?
I don’t think Bev Oda ever made any pretense to being anything other than a pig at the trough. Sandbox socialists and toy radicals are what we used to call those that did pretend to sympathize with the lumpen proletariat whilst living the good life themselves. Cheers Mate.
I think there’s nothing wrong with reducing our malt footprints general For the hoarders, you don’t need it… for the drinkers, you don’t need it either.
Remember, the more whisky is bought and drunk, the more business for my friend David. So anyone who doesn’t want him to do well…drink less.
oh…he’s a doctor, not a drinks retailer…if that wasn’t clear…
Thanks so much for clarifying that, skeptic.
Your 1%/99% argument is a red herring of your own (very recent) construction. I don’t have a decade of supply, not even close, and I certainly didn’t amass some huge stock prior to calling for boycott, but I thought that I read you have 20 years’ worth (as a self-professed hoarder, as opposed to me being a “principled loser”); where does that leave you? What are you pouring out? If nothing, where’s your credibility? I won’t be judged by you because you’ve yet to do anything. If you support the boycott, fine, but no one has anything to justify to your satisfaction; to me, you’re a johnny-come-lately.
I have a decade supply (not 20 year) of NAS because I simply don’t drink a lot. I actually get most of my enjoyment reading about the subject. I could easily turn it into a lifetime supply without buying another bottle. And I’m not saying you’re the one who amassed the large hoard.
I actually think you have the most credibility of all the people calling for a boycott. I think primarily the reason you won’t be judged by me is because I’m not judging you.
If I were to support a boycott it would be because of your arguments. Precisely because, as you say, you don’t plan on sitting back and sipping on boogie while you ask others not to buy it.
I was simply commenting on the broader issue of others who have a supply but will continue to enjoy NAS whisky either at home or through proxy organizations. For them to call for others to do without if they don’t have the same access to previously purchased favourites is “inconsistent”. But bear in mind, there is a difference to announcing an intention not to buy (and consume what one has), and advocating that no one buy and consuming what one has.
All that said, I’m not the one pushing the boycott, so it’s unfair for you to judge me or my collection. I’ve already indicated I would share what I have with anyone I can.
And what is a “Johnny come lately”? Do you mean I’m to early on in my whisky journey (3-4 years) to understand the issue? This isn’t about smell and taste. It’s about the marketplace. I’ve studied these types of affairs and more important economic and sociopolitical issues for thirty years.
I’ve debated every sort of issue for decades. One thing I’ve learned is to look at things from all angles. I can argue almost anything on either side of an issue. The advantage is that you can find the holes in your own argument and strengthen them.
If you want to win a war with an enemy that can outspend you $1 000 000 000 to $1, you need to shore up your argument pretty tight. you should be THANKING me for identifying weak points.
Oh, and you’re welcome.
What is a johnny-come-lately? Someone who has only recently supported the boycott (and you opposed the idea for a long time). It’s not Jeff’s boycott, or Rafly’s boycott, or Curt’s boycott, and I certainly won’t see it become David’s boycott in any sense that it has to match David’s recently developed sensibilities for those who have more or less whisky. I’m not judging you because you have a collection; I’m saying you don’t have a right to judge others on issues that don’t affect the boycott – and I won’t thank you for becoming the self-declared Red Cell team when the “weak points” you’ve identified aren’t legitimate and can’t be realistically remedied – you never cared who had access to whisky before, and you’re not pouring anything out – and you haven’t really taken Step One yourself in any case. Again, support or don’t support for your own reasons. You have a lot walking to do in proportion to the talking you’re doing and you’ve waffled on this boycott more times, and in more ways, than I can count. I’m glad for your support, if we have it, but I won’t tap dance around your issues.
I think the point is being missed here in a major way.
First things first…I am not asking anyone to do anything. I haven’t tried recruiting anyone for a boycott; told anyone what to drink or not to drink; said I hoarded NAS whiskies; or anything that seems to be stated as fact here.
I have some NAS whiskies. My Ardbeg and Amrut collections (which won’t be drunk anytime soon), two bottles of a’bunadh batch 28, a Last Vatted Malt and very few others. The bulk of my stores are Port Ellen; age-stated Laddies, BenRiachs, Taliskers, Lagavulins, Bowmores, etc. Very Islay-heavy. Very age-stated. But quite frankly…my personal collection is nobody’s bidness, with all due respect.
I simply said earlier that I would not refrain from drinking what I have open if and when I want to. I’ve paid for it. I’ll do whatever I like with it.
As for the Dram Initiative…once more: This is MY fight. Not the club’s. These folks did not opt in and pay dues in order to be told what to drink. Sorry to sound difficult, but I am simply not willing to debate this point further. I founded and run the club (with others), but I am not an outright dictator. I can’t stand others forcing their agenda on me, ergo I won’t do it to them. We tend to do very extensive range tastings. If we do 10 Bowmore releases and one happens to be the Legend, does that not make a perfect segueway into discussing NAS malts with a roomful of eager minds? Won’t they also see what the distillery is shilling when something like this is held up against the beautiful Laimrig 15 or 25 y.o.?
Anyway…back to the front…
The past is, unfortunately, the past. Going forward, however, I am fighting for change. I believe I can do much more with this blog than I may do in harm via an occasional bottle purchased by the club to fill out a full range tasting. I WILL now be more aware, though, and will try to tailor our ranges exclusive of NAS malts, EXCEPT where the undeniably make a glaring point about how wrong the entire trend is.
All this e-chat is making me thirsty. Time to go find a dram.
Agreed. About the dram part. But my invited dram invitees were unable to make it and I’m on call in a few hours. Have one for me and I’ll try to return the favour on Sunday.
I agree with your position 100% and I do thank you for taking up the cause against NAS (I really do; we need the people with the pulpits to speak), because I know that you understand the harm that this marketing is doing. If my language is sometimes less than diplomatic, it’s only because diplomacy is of limited value and I won’t resort to it at the expense of plain speaking, or the truth. I don’t mean to alienate anyone from supporting the boycott, but the point is to stop the purchase of NAS-labeled whisky, nothing more.
Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix. If Brian Kinsman had been forced to attach an age statement to his creation it might have been 13 years old, based on the press releases I recall.
Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt. If Richard Paterson had been put in the position of providing an age statement on this historic malt he also might have had to use 13.
Would the age statement have weakened either story? Not really. Would an age statement have hampered sales? Probably not. I will suggest these two whiskies offer the greatest “stories” of any recent single and blended malt releases. Ok, Jura’s Prophecy is a cool story, but neither it nor others can compete with the tragedy of Snow Phoenix or the success of Shackleton’s expedition.
My curiosity of what was in the bottles was sated by the marketing disclosure of these two malts. I fully believe I would have thought less of the ‘stories’ had either bottle said, “13 year old”. Now, I fully acknowledge my admiration doesn’t apply to all the ‘crappy’ NAS whiskies on the market, and gad, there are more bad than good.
Curt, since your initial post I’ve been doing more and more research. I’ve found blog posts I’d read when they were a day old, and I’ve found a few I’d not seen before.
Billy’s post, which I read shortly after he posted it, generally reflects my position:
One Man’s Malt, which I found today, also is consistent with my thinking:
Education about what’s in your bottle and having really good whisky in the bottle for a fair price are my desired goals. I don’t necessarily care about full disclosure on the label.
A NAS boycott is not in my future, but I respect those who believe in the boycott.
On “January 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm ,” John said, “Maybe better to boycott distillers that produce crappy NAS then? As also bladnoch and Bemromach have NAS bottlings.”
I’d suggest it would be better to boycott distillers who produce crappy whisky.
Crappy whisky is constantly “boycotted” by consumers in the form of product selection based on perceived quality/value. This is something different, where marketing which supports inconsistent age information, and so an inconsistent and paradoxical message about the importance OF age information, is the target. Product quality is no defense of NAS marketing; quality has nothing to do with the label, and so quality is no justification for concealing the age. Don’t buy bad whisky? Absolutely, but don’t buy NAS either, because people who want more product information will never get it by settling for less.
I have to completely agree with Jeff…”Product quality is no defense of NAS marketing; quality has nothing to do with the label, and so quality is no justification for concealing the age.”
While I’ll always opt to purchase goods that disclose more info about it’s providence, I’d be more apt to accept the lack of age information if the pricing wasn’t so egregious. You want me to pay more for your bottle of NAS, then do what Tomatin did with the Decades etc. If the SWA wants to get in front of this, and avoid what is certain to come if they allow the continued proliferation of NAS offerings, they need to allow distilleries to more easily/readily provide cask and age make up of these bottles. Chances are they won’t and they’ll suffer for it.
Looking through my bottles to see whether I actually do purchase consciously, I’m pleased to say that I only have two NAS offerings; a 10th anniversary Flaming Heart, and a Batch 1 Cask Strength from Glendronach, which I distinctly remembering dragging my feet on buying when I knew I could get the excellent Revival for the same price. I have not purchased another since.
To 2-bit; regarding Benromach, it only confirms my support of them as they have recently renamed the NAS Traditional a 5 year old.
Yeah, and I just picked up the Benromach Traditional. First of all, I trust the distillery, and second the price is right. It’s always been a 5 year old, and I’m thrilled that they’re going to acknowledge that on the label. Another “win” for the team.
On another note, I’m not sure if anyone pointed this out or not, but it’s worth checking out “So, how was 2014
at Whiskyfun Towers?” by Serge on Whiskyfun where he comes out for mandatory age statements.
Serge has forgotten more about whisky than I’ll ever know, and, despite his modesty–or perhaps because of it, he wields more influence with the industry than most.
Yes, Serge’s post was linked earlier. What a guy! Awesome stuff!
…and, Bob…dead on. Serge is a luminary. Humble guy and an absolute trove of knowledge and experience.
If that’s how you treat your friends…..
Remember, that if you want to get this boycott moving in a successful direction, you’re better off building concensus than trimming potential supporters.
As Sherman T. Potter wisely said:
“You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”
To be honest, I’m not sure who my allies, much less my friends, are on this – but I won’t court anyone’s support by submitting to their personal judgment about what I own or what I do with it, much less submit to the “friendly” suggestions that I’m a loser, one of the pigs from Animal Farm (and David attributes that idea to you, my friend) or a hypocrite. No one is going to give up NAS just because I’m a nice guy and I wouldn’t want them to; they need to do it for themselves.
Good that you’re being honest, but seems to me that David has some points about weaknesses in the approach, and from where I see things it’s best to cast a wide net for support…
I’m not gonna say any more than I have to, if that. – Chili Palmer
In terms of “casting a wide net for support” of the boycott, (very!!!) recent supporters should stop telling both older, and prospective, supporters that they’re not “pure enough” to participate until they rid themselves of their previous NAS purchases. The point is to stop new purchases, because it’s only that which sends a message to the industry. I’m not going to submit to, or salute, those who can only join on condition that it’s in the capacity of Conscience of the Revolution and/or Senior Tactician, and I wouldn’t ask anyone else to either. Those who aren’t “pushing the boycott” (and have, in fact, previously opposed it) have no claim to setting its agenda.
Tasted blind, consumers liked Pepsi better than Coca Cola better. But after adjusting the taste, sales of Coke dropped significantly. So they changed the formula again as consumers wanted it to taste like the coke they wewe used to. Boycotts help when done by masses. If it hurts financially.
Maybe better to try to reach the mass market by structually reviewing NAS bottlings and let them know how crappy it is. And what alternatives are out there. Education instead of boycott.
The problem with NAS is the marketing itself (although it does facilitate age debasement), not necessarily quality. NAS is simply a type of label, not a type of whisky and, as such, can be applied to product of any quality, high and low. There are some good products out there with NAS labels; the problem is their label doesn’t make them good and so doesn’t justify hiding their age.
I understand, but isn’t it more effective to educate consumers that they should buy the Talisker 10 instead of the Talisker Storm, instead of ignoring the product and have the marketing of Storm do it’s work?
I’m intrigued by your question, John. Can you offer an idea of how you would propose to “educate consumers”?
Let me explain why I ask. Quite some time ago we carried Talisker 10 until nearly every nearby shop began to handle it. When Storm became available to us for the same price as the 10 year old I gave it a go. Talisker lovers were curious about it because it was different so many tried it and liked it more than the 10. Our first order of Storm sold very well so we reordered. It sold out in no time. I like to rotate our offerings so Storm is gone now, replaced by Longrow Red–Port Cask 11 year old.
About 99% of our customers don’t hang out on whisky sites. A few read a whisky periodical, but most magazines are sketchy at best compared to the quantity and quality of info we pick up on Internet sites. So where does the education come from? How does it get to the consumers?
Retailers aren’t going to invest in inventory and then tell their customers “you shouldn’t buy this because it’s NAS” so I don’t see the point of sale being the place where the education takes place.
And, since I’ve opened this can of worms, do those who plan to boycott NAS whiskies then also plan to boycott retailers who handle NAS whiskies? I have thick skin so you won’t offend me by being honest.
Good question Bob. Where I live Storm is quite more expensive than the 10.
You can’t expect retailers to educate. The only means are blogs like these for the more interested consumers.
On the other hand your arguments more or less make clear that a NAS boycott in the “blogger-world” will have little effect. Why shouldn’t Diageo continue with Storm as it sells out and they have flexibility in using all casks available to them without worrying about age statementss?
Again, it’s the labeling lacking age information, not retailers, or even the distilleries in general, which are the issue.
What has proven to be least effective in the past has been everyone talking about doing something, but no one doing it, and I’m thankful that we appear to be past that stage. There have always been naysayers and can’t doers and, now that things are moving, I’ve continued to hear all kinds of reasons as to why it won’t work, but from new and suddenly interested people who might not really want it to work, so I think that’s progress too.
But Jeff, like many before you with a focus so tight on your goal, you are developing tunnel vision. You are missing the point entirely.
David (who is remaining strangely silent to this apparent slanderous conversation) is actually on the side you want him to be. but he is not so obsessed and deep into the topic that he can look at it from a fresh lens.
He’s not criticizing you, actually not even criticizing Curt. He is simply pointing out a flaw in the optics.
One thing I’ve learned over the years (and sorry to be more philosophical than skeptical) is that in order to succeed not only do you have to be right (actually, Stephen Harper has shown you don’t have to be), you must be SEEN to be right. I know I didn’t make that up but it applies here.
So David is appropriately identifying a flaw in the optics.
You have 2 choices:
1. You can continue to dismiss him, continue with a flawed course and at the same time alienate people who could have joined you.
2. Accept that to “win” this you have to be open to considering other views and adopting them. That’s how most leaders (S.H. aside) succeed.
I may be an anomaly here, living as I do in Calgary (a true hotbed for whisky). We are fortunate to have some great shops here that DO actually educate as they sell. Not all, of course, but we have some BIG stores with incredible selections, wherein the resident whisky guys actually run tours, apprentice their next-ups, etc. Additionally…most host their own whisky fests. I don’t have to shop at the little ma and pa shop where the guy behind the counter barely knows Bud from Guinness, let alone Ardbeg from Sullivan’s Cove.
Having said that…most of these ‘specialty’ releases (i.e. anything other than Glenfiddich 12s, Laphroaig 10s, etc) never make it anywhere BUT to the specialty retailers.
So, no…I won’t boycott my retailers such Dave, Andrew, JP, Dan, Kevin, etc
I agree with your decision not to boycott your usual retailers. If they could not sell stuff to the majority on non-geeks, they would not be around to sell to you, and they have to supply the demand. SO I can’t fault them for getting in what people want.
But I would challenge the idea, if that was what you meant, that visiting mom and pop shops is not fruitful. On my Dec. 2103 whisky adventure I found some of my best finds at non-specialty stores:
– Amrut CS (original 2007 bottling)
– Springbank Claret wood
– Some Minis I had not found anywhere else
And over the summer, more on behalf of a friend, we rescued more than a half dozen Mac CS at original pricing ($73 tax in) when TWE was charging GBP 125.
Plus it makes the adventure more fun….
The problem with that approach is that all NAS whiskies are NOT crap. Lots are actually good. The last thing I want to do though, is come on here and give something a glowing review, ergo sabotaging the case. The issue is with clarity of labeling and giving the distilleries a blank cheque to dupe us via pricing schemes that can’t be justified (which works PERFECTLY for them) and expressions that have no firm standard of quality as younger and younger malts end up in the mix.
As both Jeff and I have said many times (the message, not specifically these malts), a’bunadh or Quarter Cask or Uigeadail are great, but they’re no less great for not saying 7 year old on the label. Nor are they made any better by being NAS. Conversely, if Uigeadail suddenly said 7 year old, perhaps some would think twice about dropping $100 on it. Perhaps not. THAT is the way the market should work.
Actually, age statements on things like A’Bunadh and Uigeadail, or other limited quantity batch-related products would help people like us a lot. I would love for people to see the low age on a bottle and skip over it, leaving more for those of us who truly appreciate the stuff and sometimes have a hard time finding it. I guarantee (though can’t back my guarantee with cash) the producers will still sell their product.
If there’s a recent whisky that proves your point, David, it’s Kilchoman Port Cask Matured. “Distilled 2011” and “Bottled 2014”, according to the label. The purplish, grapey color of the whisky is stunning, and the nose and mouth prove that whisky doesn’t need to be old to be delicious.
Anthony Wills and John MacLellan have, once again, proven their genius in bottling a whisky when it’s ready, and then being honest about it. They set a standard others could emulate if they also made whisky this great.
I’m not questioning whether NAS should be replaced with age statements. I agree. Quality will sell itself in the end.
I just want to understand what you want to achieve. And how you can achieve this. Because, as pointed out earlier, as long mediocre NAS sells big time to the masses, why would producers give them extra age stated onformation that MIGHT have a negative sales effect.
What will a boycott from your end do any good, except from standing up and be a frontier and burden yourself by not being able to drink the quality NAS you like so much?
This is the thing: if you want more age information, boycott NAS, advocate that it be boycotted, and spread the word that it is being boycotted; it is the only way you’ll get more age information and only that which is actually tried has any chance at succeeding.
Wow. You guys are awesome. I simply can’t keep up with responses. Please don’t feel ignored if I don’t directly reply to these. I’m sort of reading out of sequence as comments roll in. I’ll reply where most appropriate. Thanks for a great discussion, all.
Thanks for laying out “my options”, but I have a different assessment.
I’m not dismissing anyone in the sense that I don’t appreciate their support if, in fact, we have it – and that IS a question here; some “supporters” have found more “flaws” with the boycott than they ever seemed to actually find with NAS. I’ve dealt with David’s issues to the extent that I feel I need to. There’s nothing wrong with my, or Curt’s, “optics” on this, and I’ve explained why. We clearly differ on our take on the role David is perceived to be playing, and the debt of gratitude owed for it, but so be it. Again, I won’t have this be about me or David (or Skeptic).
It will be difficult enough to recruit people to boycott buying NAS without adding the unnecessary, and pointless, requirement that they also dispose of their previously purchased products as well. I don’t know if that idea is supposedly for everyone or only a requirement for those “pushing the boycott” (however defined) – but it doesn’t matter in any case; I’m not doing it because it makes no sense and so I’m not asking anyone else to do it either.
I’m just not playing into the drama of this, or making it more complicated than it needs to be just so people can find roles unravelling the intricacies they’re inventing. My “supportive” critics can do what they want (and it would be nice if they actually gave up NAS for, say, a week), but my course isn’t “flawed”. The presence of your support will no more change what I’m personally doing than its very recent absence did before. If you choose to boycott NAS, fine, but base it on your defense of consumer interests (and I previously heard very little along those lines either), not on how well you can make others jump through your hoops.
The above is, of course, in reply to Skeptic’s last comment to me.
Give up NAS for a week? you must be joking! While I do admit most of my current favourites that are open are NAS (A’Bunadh, Amrut, QC, Forty Creek), because I can’t manage to drink anything at all most weeks, that’s no challenge.
Challenge me to go without for a month! That I would accept and accomplish.
But thanks for bringing to my attention that my most common drams are in fact NAS. When I think about most of my collection, it turns out a lot of it IS NAS. Quality stuff, but NAS. My heavy age stated holdings are primarily in Springbank and Bladnoch, two of my favourites but still a minority.
I think it’s a coincidence. I like CS full flavour stuff and a lot of that carries no age statement. I would still buy it if it were stated as young (like Octomore – which I would buy if it were cheaper…). Actually, my purchasing decisions would be no different.
For batch products, I consult the net widely before I buy, or I try. Age or NAS, it’s the same.
So for me there would be no direct benefit to an age statement. But I don’t buy the mass stuff. Indirectly, I would benefit from honest labelling because I think it would moderate price increases.
I’m not joking because, to my knowledge, you haven’t actually done it (and I still can’t tell if you’re boycotting or not). But, for those who are actually serious about this issue, I’m asking everyone who supports this boycott to go as long as it takes to get product information reform and/or wipe out NAS.
I went more than a week without touching NAS this month. Given my health, I think it was closer to 2 weeks without a dram. Curt, you must have had a computer virus….I’ve been reading your posts and got as sick as you were…
I haven’t bought any NAS Scotch this year. I haven’t noticed any change in the industry yet.
I was going to add that I hope this meets with your approval Jeff, but, in actual fact, I think you would reply that your approval is irrelevant.
To help put NAS into the most accurate context, and really show that it has nothing to do with allowing distilleries to create a better product while not having to hew to the “tyranny” of an age statement; give the following quote a read from John Ramsay (ex-Master Blender for Edrington Group – Macallan, HP and Glenrothes):
“…I was initially cynical about the NAS products when our marketing colleagues put forward the idea…”
Well it’s no surprise, this quote certainly confirms that the push for these offerings was from the marketeers and not the those who make the whisky. Interestingly he went on to say why the consumer should see NAS as a boon is that it allows them to avoid using colouring (E150) in their whiskies, as they can choose barrels based on both flavour (maturity) and colour. Ha! Oh why thank you very much for saving us from the scourge of caramel while you pull the rug from under our feet with the overall value (and most frequently quality) of your whisky. Doublespeak at it’s best.
Bingo! – and, somehow, we COULDN’T see the avoidance of caramel or see the use of better casking WITHOUT age being concealed, because that’s “just the price we have to pay for quality”. INGSOC would be proud.
Given the relative lull, should we change the title of the topic to “so we’re done with this NAS thing already…” ?
Not even close, brother. I’m sure there’s lots to come.
Yes, it’s been lively overall, and I’m generally encouraged – some people genuinely get it and different industry defenders have come out of the woodwork to question and dissuade folks from taking action, which gives you some idea of their real faith in how a boycott won’t work.
I think that the challenge, of course, is in spreading the word and in arguing the long vs. short view: that NAS needs to be reversed, even at the cost of forgoing some current good values which happen to be NAS. I’m not worried about “pro-NAS” arguments, because I haven’t seen one yet which is really effective. We ARE on the right side of this, we just need more numbers.
Another challenge is staying, and arguing, the course in the “post-honeymoon” season of this, when all the excitement of the newness of it has worn off. The strategy which has been adopted is a long-term one and people have to be realistic about how quickly it can work, and even how quickly the industry can react to it, and they need to keep it visible. There is a groundswell of support for this, both against NAS specifically and with NAS as a banner for those with industry issues in general to rally around. A lot of people may not always think about it, or always be able to exactly put their finger on the reason, but there is a growing feeling among those who honestly value whisky that the industry is steering it into the dirt while the customer isn’t valued. In the long run, the growing number of people who feel this way will help us.
Thanks again to Curt and to everyone who has taken up the cause and is spreading the word.
I had no trouble blowing a pretty good wad on 3 excellent AS whiskies this weekend. Nadurra 16 CS, which sat beside the NAS Nadurra Olorosso on the shelf, BenRiach 12 Sherry Matured, also NCF and natural colour and high ABV, and Benromach 10 just because Ralfy said so. I’ll still drink my existing high end NAS stock, but I’ll have no trouble avoiding NAS offerings for the foreseeable future. There are tons of excellent AS malts to fill the void.
I’ve heard there are three types of folks in the world:
1. The ones who watch things happen.
2. The ones who ask, “What happened?”
3. The ones who make things happen.
Let’s try to make something happen. Here’s a link to the latest Tamdhu Distillery label approval on the USA’s tax and trade bureau site:
Looks like a great whisky to follow the very nice, new Tamdhu 10 year old. The new distillery owners had to wait a few years for their aging sherry casks to reach 10 years before they could release that first one. Now it seems they’re prepared to take a step back from the precedent they set; their Batch Strength whisky is one you, Ralfy, and others won’t review, or even buy, if they release it without an age statement. I propose we attempt to convince Tamdhu to change course and put on an age statement–even if it’s a single digit–before they release it. I’ve already sent them a note; others who are interested in taking on this challenge can send the distillery a note here:
I guess Ralfy is now done with that NAS thing…..
Writer’s tears reviewed today.
Gotta admit for a 40% weakling it’s not a bad dram
Did he explain why? Do Irish whiskies get a pass for some reason?
He comments on it in the video. Says it’s not Scotch, so it escapes the ’embargo’.
In his original announcement last year, he limited his embargo to single malt scotch.
So, essentially 90% of production remains fair game.
That allows him to continue to enjoy compass box, big peat, and any non Scottish whisky…
If compass box and other good quality blends were priced like ardbeg products, raping us just because they think they can, I’m sure they would be on the list…Fact is, blends like that are indeed reasonably priced and provide good value for money. I really think that if NAS whiskys were priced properly from the start, the outrage could have been avoided. That hasn’t happened, and in the end there is no way to ensure of this happening so sadly the only way for us as consumers to protect ourselves is to demand an age statement.
One reason I am on board with the NAS boycott is because when distilleries think they can charge whatever they want for whisky (good or bad quality) that doesn’t cost them nearly as much to produce, that attitude trickles down into the retailers.
I’m talking specifially about the fact that here in Ontario the LCBO thinks they can charge 185 bucks for any ardbeg product other than the 10 year old, just because it’s supposed to be “special”.
Not sure why we haven’t demanded change with regards to the illegal monopoly that the LCBO is allowed to maintain, but there are some big changes needed here and around the world in regard to these problems.
I know this was a bit off topic, and that these problems arn’t directly related (The LCBO doesn’t need anyone’s help or influence to think they can bend us over like they do.), but somehow I feel like these are all problems that do somehow tie into each other….
Curt you said you payed 220 for your 2012 releases of talisker 25 year old, here they want 430. If I am missing something here, some reason that these crazy prices are “necessary”, I’d appreciate being enlightened (outside of this thread, so as not to detract from the topic at hand any more than I already have..)
Ralfy hasn’t changed his stance, and I respect that. As much as I do appreciate Ralfy’s stand on NAS scotch single malt (and I very much do, and I think it will do some good), it does seem to me, however, that drawing the line AT scotch single malt does seem like an artificial distinction. The real argument against NAS is one of consumer empowerment and purchaser right to know (and, if consumers don’t “need” to know the age, what else won’t they “need” to know in the future if someone in marketing finds it inconvenient? – and that IS all that happened with the expansion of NAS; it was marketing which drove it) and that principle applies to all whisky products, not just scotch, because age maturation matters equally to them all (although not proportionally in a year-for-year sense).
The argument against NAS isn’t really one of value for money as some decent values currently carry NAS labels, but the ability of NAS to undermine value in the long run is obvious: if the whisky behind established labels can progressively become younger, at whim for the sake of “flexibility”, what was a 10 can end up a 5 without notice (and certainly with no reduction in price for a change which doesn’t have to be announced). People who are OK with this either have a lot of faith in the Gaelic magic powers of NAS labels to make it all right, don’t think that cutting the age of a whisky in half is any big deal or just want to watch good products go bad for lack of applying minimum standards of production/information (and where metrics disappear, quality declines). If performance and safety standards were removed from cars because, as the Toyota brake recall scandal showed, “safety standards are no guarantee of a safe car”, how comfortable would you be with your next purchase?
Older isn’t necessarily better, but if aging is no benefit to whisky why is it aged at all beyond legal requirements – particularly in the case of NAS-labeled products where age can’t be used as a selling point and producers are still losing 2-4% per annum on “fantastic, vibrant, young whisky”, the high quality of which is seldom proved in the modern era when it’s standing on its own and its age can be verified?
I think the LCBO is its own can of worms – it doesn’t know, or chooses not to know, about world market prices and, when I once inquired where the LCBO got the idea that 57 North was worth $174.95, I was told “the (Diageo) agent sets the price”. There is no one negotiating prices at LCBO in defense of the consumer because, truth to tell, the LCBO sees its high prices as some kind of buffer against overindulgence – even though paying inflated prices for premium products doesn’t keep anyone from getting smashed on Grant’s or Red Label. Would competition help? Maybe, if it was real competition and you didn’t see the same kind of price fixing and collusion as you do with gasoline.
Ralfy’s line between SM Scotch and everything else is artificial.
Jeff’s line between buying and drinking NAS is more organic.
Personally I agree that any attack on NAS ought not distinguish between country of origin and grain of origin.
However…. maybe the real line should be between appropriately priced quality spirit and everything else. Maybe NAS is irrelevant.
Maybe we should be boycotting JW red, OB Mortlach 25 (43% selling for $1000 at LCBO!), and drinking Compass box and A’BUnadh.
Skeptic doesn’t like the idea that, while I can show how not buying NAS might send a tangible message to the industry in terms of sales figures, he can’t show why pouring out products already purchased would affect the industry at all – yet I gather that he still feels that people should be pouring out products to maintain his rather fickle support.
But that’s skeptic, a guy who should be asking what he was doing about NAS before any of this got rolling – always having more criticism for the critics of NAS (and this, of course, continues even now), than he ever had (or has) for NAS itself. Despite everyone not doing things to skeptic’s satisfaction, if we were waiting for him to take the lead, we’d all still be waiting, wouldn’t we?
It’s just too easy…
To play both sides of the fence, while implying “in a friendly way” that others who did more than you are hypocrites (and they’re not), or to just not actually take a position?
Both are easy, but I think the second is easier. Again, I would have joined the action that you were advocating against NAS… but you never advocated any.
Satire, Jeff, Satire.
Can’t you tell when someone is lobbing you bait?
Oh, I was being “satiric” as well; the funniest part was that everything I’ve said is true.
Except what Skeptic said was true. I admit I’m not thrilled about his plans to “help” me drink down my collection…
Ultimately, what is the goal of any effort? You have to have a clear goal.
Is getting rid of NAS really the end point? No. As everyone has acknowledged in one way or another, there are essentially four types of whiskies:
1. Good whiskies with age statements.
2. Bad whiskies with age statements.
3. Good NAS whiskies.
4. Bad NAS whiskies.
You can subdivide each category into expensive and cheap, and then put a subjective value for money on it.
My take on this is that getting rid of NAS is only part of a means to an end. To me, the true end should be good whisky at a reasonable price. Whether that whisky is 3 years or 30 is less relevant.
You can say that stripping NAS and showing the age achieves the reasonable price part, because younger malts (in Scotland) are cheaper to produce than really old ones, and with an age statement you would get more reasonable pricing. But Octomore (5 YO – $150 +) blows away that theory.
The other issue is that there will still be crap out there. Water down to 40%, use bad wood, whatever, bad is bad. You won’t eliminate that with an age statement. I’ve tasted Glenfiddich 15 YO solera. 15 years of “not worth half what I paid”. The only open bottle I ever gave away.
So Skeptic, ironically, for all his satire, has a point. Maybe it’s not the NAS we should be boycotting, maybe it’s the crap. And the most effective way to boycott crap is to stay away from the whole line. So shun Macallan completely until they stop throwing pole dancers at us. Don’t buy Laphroaig OB of any kind until they deselect the Select. Mutiny against Mortlach (OB), Put JW out of business….period.
Reward the good producers, especially the independents. Compass Box makes good stuff, usually reasonably priced outside LCBO, regardless of age. Amrut. Bladnoch (olev hasholem). Encourage Aberlour to step up some of the lesser offerings.
If you really want to force change, don’t pay $1000 for an OB 25 year old Mortlach bottled at 43%. The value probably isn’t there. By not buying the “rare old” and going for the overpriced 25, are you really hurting them? You hurt them more if ALL their offerings gather dust.
Make them prove their stuff is good. Bring the bottle back if it’s crap and ask for your money back. If the store says no, write the distiller and say you won’t buy anything of theirs until you get reimbursed. Insist at the retailer that you won’t buy it unless you taste it first or they agree to take it back if it sucks. You can be sure the retailer will pass that on to the producer pretty quick.
Do I think this kind of campaign would be successful? No. Why? Because most people who keep big liquor in business don’t care (same reason the NAS ban won’t work).
But, I think all other things being equal, that would be a more effective way to get better quality whisky at a reasonable price than boycotting NAS.
So, David, are you or aren’t you currently boycotting NAS?
As Lemony Snicket would say, That’s the wrong question.
I think in December I indicated I had made a commitment to my local liquor shop that had ordered in some Amrut for me before the debate started.
Since that time I have abided by the boycott, but to be fair, there was nothing I wanted to buy, and I was planning on applying the breaks for purchases anyway. So am I a strong supporter or an accidental one? And does it matter?
But I do have to say, I’ve been a strong supporter of Skeptic’s suggestion of not buying crap for a long time…
As the Greek philosopher Anonymous said, “don’t bullshit me”.
The NAS boycott has a clear goal: to see age information on every bottle, so that consumers can judge the importance of age for themselves in terms of making an informed choice – but this can be repeated forever and some people just can’t, or won’t, get it. People “protest” bad whisky every day by not buying it, but that’s not a boycott. So, indeed, my question about boycotting NAS was the right one – the only “problem” with it, for some people, is the issue of commitment; if you don’t have it, fine, but that’s your issue, not the boycott’s. The NAS boycott is not a protest over quality, it’s a protest over principle and producers will care about age statements if they can’t sell their whisky, good or bad, without them.
In contrast, the supposedly “comparable” silliness of an all-out “boycott” as David describes it, “punishing” whole lines (and “punishing the good ones along with the bad ones” was, previously, a reason an NAS boycott wasn’t “fair”, wasn’t it?), bringing the bottle back to the retailer, “insisting” the retailer give you taste samples and all the rest, is just smoke and mirrors that’s difficult to take seriously (and even David doesn’t).
But naysaying and being on the fence about the NAS boycott are nothing new for David or Skeptic. As I’ve said previously, I won’t court their support by putting up with their nonsense, or by letting them try to be the tail that wags the dog because, again, if we were waiting for them to take action, we’d all still be waiting.
I AM surprised that this has to go any further in discussion of Skeptic’s comments being/not being “satire” – except that David, like Skeptic, frequently likes to have it two ways (see above), and so now those comments are to be taken (somewhat?) seriously. Very well:
The first two times I had to defend I, Curt and anyone else who advocated stopping the purchase of NAS, but not pouring out products previously purchased because pouring them out would have no impact on the industry, there was no indication that the baseless accusations of “hypocrisy” from David and Skeptic were anything like “satire”, and no one HAS advocated that anyone do ANYTHING that I haven’t been doing for more than a year already: just stop buying NAS – but that has to be endlessly complicated just to give David and Skeptic something to say.
That said, if my “friends” keep finding their feelings hurt about my non-acquiescence over the idea that I’m a hypocrite when I’m not… well, maybe they should either substantiate the accusation or stop making it, because they’re still not going to get either my thanks (David) or my apology (Skeptic, who thought that poor David was treated unfairly for not being thanked) if they continue – and if they’re taught a lesson at their own expense while in the process of trying to teach me one at mine, so be it.
Just sayin’… for the third time.
Whose feelings are hurt? I think your imagining that we place a far greater importance on what you think than we actually do.
If you think that it’s not hypocritical to say “don’t buy NAS” while sipping on your Quarter Cask or Ardbeg “name I can’t spell”, no problem. Can’t speak for David, but your opinions, however flawed, are causing me no hurt.
Now David was being honest. He said he has abided by your (but is it really yours? did you pay for it?) boycott, but also that he hasn’t had a chance to drink much or buy anything for other reasons.
So he’s right, the correct question is “are you supporting the boycott, or just not buying anything right now, and if the latter, when you do buy, will you be boycotting NAS?”
Or, maybe the question should not be to David, but to you…..do you care which one it is?
I’m being honest too.
I don’t care what importance you place on my opinions, I just won’t have the situation glibly mischaracterized so that you can appear “clever”. I’m not asking ANYBODY to do ANYTHING that I’m not doing, and have done for more than a year – so I am not a hypocrite and, much as you like to talk around it, you can’t show how I am – and again, if you can show how pouring out anything previously purchased would have ANY impact on the industry kindly do so (and, as you say you support the boycott, please tell what you’ve already poured out and what effect it’s had; I’ve yet to hear about any of this). I never said it was my boycott, but I’m not unclear about its goals or its ethics (topics of constant “confusion” for you and David no matter how many times these “questions” are answered).
And simply not currently buying anything at all isn’t really the same thing as supporting the boycott in both action and spirit. If someone’s currently not buying any whisky at all, does that mean he’s “accidently” supporting a “boycott” of whisky? If he’s not currently buying any alcohol at all, does that mean he’s “accidently” starting a temperance movement? If he buys Aberlour 10 one time, a Quarter Cask the next and a Bowmore 12 the next has he “supported”, then “cancelled” his “support”, then “reinstated” his “support” of the boycott? There is an ethical dimension to this that, as far as I can tell, you guys simply don’t get in your “me too” jump on the bandwagon. The simple truth is you don’t have nearly as much of a problem with NAS (if any at all) as you have with the people who had the audacity to take action against it without consulting your sensibilities, and you actively spoke against the boycott far longer and stronger than you ever gave it your support (to whatever that “support” amounts to even today – “Maybe NAS is irrelevant. Maybe we should be boycotting JW red, OB Mortlach 25 (43% selling for $1000 at LCBO!), and drinking Compass box and A’BUnadh” and “same reason the NAS ban won’t work”). You resent that you couldn’t stop the train from leaving the station altogether (and you tried) and then, when it started to move without you and you jumped on, you resent that other people won’t acquiesce to the idea they “aren’t doing it right” coming from those who weren’t just previously neutral on the idea but, again, actively opposed it – and still oppose it.
Those who don’t support the boycott have every right not to do so, but they should at least be honest about it and shouldn’t disguise their lack of commitment (and periodic active opposition) as “problems” with the internal logic, or the ethics, of the boycott itself – or try to invent these “problems” to justify that lack of commitment.
Please try to be a little more emotional….that last post has me thinking you’re from Vulcan….Alberta ……not.
I love reading posts by people who hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves.
Who said anything about pouring out good whisky? There’s a difference between wasting something and putting it away for a time when it’s more appropriate. But as pure of heart as you may be, if you drink NAS and tell someone who doesn’t have it not to buy it, unless you’re willing to share (as David has said he is), it don’t look good. No I shouldn’t say that. Because you seem to understand plain words, it looks hypocritical.
Poor David, in reply to my post you attack him. How wrong of him not to buy any whisky with an age statement! Perhaps you could ask him directly if he supports the boycott rather than criticize him for not being in a position to buy anything. That’s why you were asking the wrong question.
And I would dispute your assertion that the train has left the station. I think it is trying to get out of park into first gear, more likely, with a bad clutch.
And there is a difference between opposing something and not thinking it will be effective.
For instance, i would certainly support David’s right to get acupuncture Fire the headache you must be giving him….but I don’t think it will help.
Thanks for having my back, but I don’t need it.
Jeff, I agree with Skeptic. You ought not attack someone else in a reply to his post.
There are a couple of ways to argue a point. You can go after your opponent a la Stephen Harper. It may get you elected but it doesn’t win you the argument (and the courts will still beat you…)
The more effective way, which I have used, is to find flaws in the arguments, not the person putting them forward.
Attacking your opponent personally in a debate just brings attention to your own faults, and also makes people less likely to believe even your good points.
And for this lesson, you are welcome.
Again, some people try to misinterpret, or misrepresent, the “complexities” of their own positions, or simple lack of positions – as shown by only quasi-support/non-support/”accidental support” of the boycott, having far more criticism of those opposing NAS than any criticism those people ever had of NAS itself, and non-advocation of taking action against NAS (perish the thought) – as somehow being indicative of “issues” with the boycott because it suits their purpose of being a “critical voice” without committing to a POV, pro OR con. It just leads to endless supposition that even these people don’t really take seriously (when examined, it’s either “satire” or even they just don’t think what they’re talking about, at length, would actually work) and, while it gives them something to say, I don’t confuse it with any problems with the boycott. The funniest part is that these comments often start or end with “maybe we should”, when what the authors should be doing is seriously examining to what degree they are part of the “we” that supports the boycott in the first place.
The boycott no more has David’s support, for example, than it does that of a bunch of teetotalers currently living in Brighton who, as it just so happens, “accidently” aren’t going to be buying much NAS in the near future either – unless, of course, they develop a sudden taste for Amrut. Some people simply don’t really support the boycott, and that’s fine (yet, ironically, if the boycott’s successful, most of these people will probably enjoy having more age information just as much as anyone else). The willingness of non-supporters and fence sitters to occasionally pay lip service “to the idea”, however, doesn’t, for me, give their comments any special aegis under the guise of “trying to be helpful”, much less justify their trying to say what the boycott should or shouldn’t be to the people who are actually on board with it in terms of both thought AND action. In short, they have a right to their opinion, as we all do, but I don’t afford that opinion any special protection from criticism just because it purports to be “on my side” or “from my friends”, particularly when both of these qualifications are demonstrably questionable at best.
I say what I do and do what I say, and I don’t ask anybody to do anything more than I’m willing to do – I know that bugs you, but I’m not a hypocrite (which is why you phrase it as a matter of “how it looks” rather than how it is). But let’s look at what you propose.
If you’re not pouring it out, what time would be “more appropriate” for the consumption of NAS, if you agree that, once previously bought, it’s to be consumed? When you say it’s OK for me to drink my whisky? Thanks, but I don’t need your permission. When would you be drinking your already-purchased bottles and how would that help those who didn’t already have any before starting the boycott? If I drink my already purchased NAS today or tomorrow, I’m a hypocrite, but if you hold off for a year or some unknown “more appropriate time”, you’re somehow better? It’s wrong to drink NAS now, but it’s OK “later”.
I love reading posts by people who hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves.
As has already been pointed out quite some time ago, the “equalization” of whisky cabinets is a complete delusion – invented here to give David some kind of moral high ground as a result of some theoretical offer to give his whisky away – but some people will always have more, and less, whisky of all types than others and that won’t change whether people drink, drop or donate their collections in whatever way they see fit, and it still wouldn’t affect NAS.
I did ask “poor David” a direct question – it was, of course, the wrong one because it was the one he didn’t want to answer. He’s only currently “boycotting” NAS in the same sense that he’s “boycotting” every other whisky right now – he’s not buying anything, but he’s not “boycotting” anything either – and the only thing he is committed to buying is NAS from Amrut. As he says “so am I a strong supporter or an accidental one? And does it matter?” (as opposed to “I’m no longer going to buy NAS)” – I can only take it doesn’t matter to David, so why should it matter to me, but I don’t characterize that as support of the boycott and the drama of whether David “can” support the boycott is all just more smoke and mirrors too. As the two of you prove, there is a difference between actually supporting something and “accidently” doing so while paying lip service to it so you criticize your “allies” in a “friendly” way.
Clearly one needs to use plain English here. Unless you prefer any different language…I can arrange a translation.
Attacking people doesn’t win arguments, it wins adversaries. And it’s poor form.
Doing something while telling others not to do it – hypocrisy.
It’s ok to point out flaws in something even if you are supportive in principle because if the champion of the principle is open-minded, he/she can strengthen their position.
The way I see it, you won’t get anywhere with your boycott for 2 reasons:
1. Your writing suggests your mind is closed to constructive sugestions.
2. You attack people, not just their ideas.
No one likes a bully.
In the words of Yoda: “that is why you failed”
Once it was acknowledged that I was “wrong” to drink previously purchased product while it was somehow alright for Skeptic to do so because he knew “the more appropriate time” for it – and it was therefore shown that it was Skeptic, and not me, who was the hypocrite of this situation in the process – I didn’t expect anything more of him than desperate attempts at deflection and distraction – and he didn’t disappoint.
I agree Jeff as been a little unfair in his comments towards me but I wouldn’t call it bullying just yet. He has as much right to his opinion as I do to mine. He could choose his words more carefully though.
To clear the air, so that Jeff understands:
1. I keep my promises. My local shop ordered an Amrut at my request before Jeff started calling for a boycott. I bought those bottles when they came in. My integrity in my interactions with others trumps any artificial start date to a whisky boycott.
2. There is currently nothing out there that I want to buy that is within my price range, age or no age. If there were, even with an age statement, I would be hesitant to buy them. I am really trying to end the year with no more sealed bottles than I have now.
3. I support the idea of a NAS boycott in principle, though I have no personal problem with the idea of NAS if (and only if) we could trust the industry to be fair, and I acknowledge in general we cannot. But I do not believe that there are sufficient people in the world who care the way some people here do overcome the non-interested drinkers.
4. If I decide to buy whisky this year, I plan to support the boycott. But I won’t go out and buy something with an age just to prove it. I hope that makes clear my position (not asking if it meets approval).
5. My position on drinking NAS whisky is clear. If you drink it, or say you’re drinking it, it is fundamentally hypocritical to advocate that others not drink it. I know that it is not the fault of anyone here that some bought it and others didn’t. But there is something fundamentally bourgeois about sitting back and enjoying something that you stocked up on before changing the rules for everyone else.
If you are just saying you will not buy NAS, fine. Drink whatever you want. But if you are asking other people not to buy it (and by advocating for the boycott you are asking), it weakens your case to be drinking it. It is the “I’m all right Jack” philosophy.
When unions go on strike, they all share a strike fund. If you want people to go on an NAS strike, share the fund. I remember hearing about some people who for religious reasons could not join a strike. They handed over every penny of their pay to the union strike fund.
Or, put it away. When the strike is over, and everyone can get what they want, then it’s ok to open the vault.
So if I were a boycott leader, advocating that no one buy NAS, I would either not drink it, or share it. I agree with Jeff, sharing is not feasible, so if I were a boycott leader, I would not be announcing that I’m drinking an NAS spirit.
I hope that these comments are received as intended, and reflect the philosophy of appropriate debate, where it is the ideas and positions that are discussed, without attacking individuals who espouse them.
In the words of Yoda (if he could comment on this):
“Argument well you have made. Convinced me you have. A true Jedi, you now are.”
While I commend David for finally (!!!) figuring out some portion of his position on the boycott, it should be noted that most people can do this with only a fraction of his drama, delay, evasion and equivocation – and without blaming those who ask “wrong questions” that only seek to clarify his POV.
In that spirit, I don’t know what he means by the following:
I support the idea of a NAS boycott in principle, though I have no personal problem with the idea of NAS if (and only if) we could trust the industry to be fair, and I acknowledge in general we cannot.” – I have no idea what this means as I don’t know what a “fair” idea of NAS would look like. NAS needs to be done away with because it can’t be reformed.
“If you are just saying you will not buy NAS, fine. Drink whatever you want. But if you are asking other people not to buy it (and by advocating for the boycott you are asking), it weakens your case to be drinking it. It is the “I’m all right Jack” philosophy. – It doesn’t “weaken” anyone’s case to drink it as what happens to a bottle after purchase can’t affect the industry’s bottom line, or affect NAS. David simply won’t acknowledge this fact because he wants to invent some artificial distinction between what he and others “should” be doing; “boycott leaders” can’t drink their whisky, but David will have no problem drinking that Amrut (or is David “a leader” and saying he’ll never drink it and hold on to indefinitely?). Anyway, clearly different rules (whatever they are, only David would know) for “leaders” as opposed to the rank-and-file, but I strongly oppose that – everyone should be held to the same standard and I’ve never said differently; I’m only asking that others do what I’m doing, no more, no less.
“Or, put it away. When the strike is over, and everyone can get what they want, then it’s ok to open the vault” – What does “putting it away” solve? As is agreed, sharing it out is not feasible in any sense of “fairness”, so if it’s not to be poured out (and David, and certainly the hypocritical Skeptic, isn’t suggesting that) then it’s to be consumed sooner or later – who determines when that is? Skeptic, or now David, because they know the magical “appropriate time”? For me, there is no “after the strike”; NAS is a fundamentally flawed system of marketing which I will never again support; my boycott of NAS is never going to “end” because NAS is simply wrong in principle – that being the case, how can one “stop” opposing it. When my previously purchased product is gone, it’s gone forever – win, lose or draw.
I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, Jeff, but I don’t understand why you continue to do so by attacking me personally.
I am also baffled that notwithstanding your narrow-focused (Skeptic would probably say narrow-minded, but I am committed to attacking arguments and not people) and seemingly inflexible opinion, you seem to continue to misrepresent what I write.
You know, if you were a member of my debating group, I think you would be soundly voted down if you acted like this, even if people agreed with you generally, because of your behaviour, to teach you a lesson.
Here we go again, paragraph by paragraph:
1. I’ve never had any doubts about my position on a boycott, let alone a need to finally figure out a portion of it. I support the principle of the boycott, even though I have no problem with the idea of NAS in principle. Why is this so hard to understand?
When I go to a local restaurant, or someone’s house, and the chef says I’ll make you something special, I don’t ask the age of the meat or the nature of the ingredients. I trust the expert to do their thing, and if it’s a restaurant, to charge me a fair rate. If they don’t I would not go back. If distilleries said “trust me, this is good and priced fairly”, and if the products actually were (like for the most part Amrut, Compass box, etc..), I would have no problem with the status quo. And I feel I have to add that I don’t care a fig if you “approve” of that or not. It’s my right.
However, there are too many examples of abuse of this trust by the multinationals, and one cannot trust that the contents of NAS whisky will be good or fairly priced. So that is why I support, in principle, the aims and means of the boycott.
But there is nothing hypocritical about my belief that it will not be successful. There are a lot of things that I think are worth pursuing even if it is unlikely they will be successful. If I were dropped in the ocean farther from land than I could swim, would I not still try to get to shore?
I have a right to express pessimism. I also have a right to point out weaknesses in the approach taken by people whose aims I support.
2. With respect to drinking or not drinking NAS, I draw no distinction between what I and others can do. If you want to hold up a glass of an NAS you purchased before you changed your mind about it, and yell to the masses that you want them to boycott NAS, go right ahead. But I guarantee you will be taken less seriously by people who would be right to say “sure, he can say that because he’s got stuff already”. Leaders who do not lead by example soon have no followers.
As Curt as already said, what he does with his “stuff” is none of anyone’s business. But he was careful to say that he was not asking others to boycott, just that he himself was not going to buy or review any NAS. He will continue to support NAS through a whisky club he has an influential role in. Given he is a leader, I respectfully argue that this weakens his support for a boycott.
Personally, if I wanted to influence others to join the boycott, I would not publicly announce my intention to continue drinking it, let alone purchasing it through a club. I would probably put it away and drink the same stuff I was asking others to buy (i.e.: something with an age).
When is the magic day that I would drink it again? When you achieve your goal. When A’Bunadh carries an age statement (it did once…) go ahead and drink that A’Bunadh you put away. When Laphroaig QC carries an age, go back to that older bottle you have. If Ardbeg still puts out annual NAS releases, don’t buy or drink any of your stashed NAS releases.
That is how I would know when to drink it.
3. What about me? Jeff asks me what I plan to do with my stuff? Respectfully, my short answer is that, as Curt said, it is none of his business.
My longer answer is more nuanced. This issue has spurred me to take stock, as it were, of my whisky position. I was a little surprised that I have a lot more NAS among my favourites than I had expected (mostly Amrut and A’Bunadh, among my favourites). So what to do?
Well, in terms of drinking it, I have no reason not to. I am not a leader of the boycott. I am no leader in the spirit world at all. Planning to support the boycott by avoiding NAS purchases does not make me a leader.
Will I drink it in my lifetime? Who knows? If I die with NAS whisky in my collection, it will be passed on to someone else who, I hope, will drink a toast to me someday.
To close, I have become more and more concerned about the NAS trend, but I have top say it has not been through my recent reading on this site. It has been through other sites which have put forward facts and opinions without attacking individuals.
And to put it in context, I don’t think a boycott will work but I also don’t care much. For me, this issue is an interesting one, but not an emotional one. I like whisky, I enjoy reading and talking about it, and sharing it with friends.
But like all of us, I lead a busy life. My job takes a lot of my time, and there are many issues I have to fight for that take up my spare time (poverty, health care, religious intolerance, not to mention more international issues). So my priority is family, work, social activism………(the dots mean “many other things”)……..NAS whisky.
Jeff, I don’t want to fight with you. If you don’t agree with me, your loss, but try not to make it personal.
I don’t take it personal; your position on what people “should” drink simply doesn’t make sense – and, like Skeptic’s, it’s hypocritical – and you can forget about playing the victim card with me.
What you do with your whisky “is your business” (and I don’t dispute that), but somehow I shouldn’t be drinking my previously purchased NAS product – or I shouldn’t drink it until you think it’s alright (again, the magical “appropriate time”).
We both support the boycott in terms of what we purchase (at least we do now – what you were doing before was never clear; it was even the “wrong question” to ask, wasn’t it?), but only one of us shouldn’t be drinking any of the NAS we have left, because “leaders” are be held to a different standard than “followers”. What you do with your whisky “is your business”, but that’s not so much the case with others. Again, it’s an artificial distinction which you create yourself; it’s OK for you to do what you want with your whisky but, depending upon how you designate them, doing exactly the same thing is wrong for others.
“With respect to drinking or not drinking NAS, I draw no distinction between what I and others can do.”
“Well, in terms of drinking it, I have no reason not to. I am not a leader of the boycott.”
You have no reason not to drink it, but you say others do; that’s a clear double standard, which is why I reject it as the bullshit it is. My position is not hypocritical, yours is – but don’t take it personally, Napoleon.
I am leading by example, to whatever degree I’m leading (and again, it’s not my, Curt’s or Ralfy’s boycott); I haven’t asked anybody to do anything that I’m not doing, furthermore, unlike you, I don’t ask anyone to do anything more than what I’m doing and, although this has been dealt with before, I never “stocked up” before calling for a boycott. Did you “stock up” before you decided to support it?
“However, there are too many examples of abuse of this trust by the multinationals, and one cannot trust that the contents of NAS whisky will be good or fairly priced. So that is why I support, in principle, the aims and means of the boycott.”
I hate to break it to you, but taking the exact same NAS products that you have a problem with (whatever they are) and putting age statements on them wouldn’t make them any better or, necessarily, any more fairly priced (however defined). Again, for maybe the twentieth time, the problem with NAS is the marketing itself (promotion of a contradictory and self-serving view of age by the industry at the expense of the consumer’s right to make an informed choice and know what they’re buying), not the value of the products its applied to (which is why “the good ones” don’t justify “the bad ones” or shouldn’t be boycotted as well). You don’t care about this, which is why you don’t really have a problem with the status quo in terms of the principles of the marketing. You’re entitled to your pessimism, but I don’t know why you enlist to help with an effort you don’t believe will work and is only geared to fighting for a point you don’t really care about.
I wish you would not continue to misrepresent my position. I’ll repeat again that I’m not telling anyone what to drink or not drink. I don’t care what they drink. (unless they are Skeptic)
What I’m saying is that most people are not convinced by someone who tells them to do one thing and does another. If someone wants to go on drinking NAS, he or she is not in a strong position to encourage others to give it up.
Although I am prepared to follow along and support the NAS boycott, the emphasis here is on the word follow. I do not fall under the leader category, so my actions are not subject to the same scrutiny. If I were to start advocating that others support the boycott, then I would feel I should give up NAS drinking. And if that were the case, I would.
It is simply a matter of optics.
As to your discussion of what putting ages on the bottles would do, I agree putting an age statement on a bottle with identical contents to NAS bottles will not change the quality. However, that itself is not the point. There are many NAS expressions that are good, even great (I won’t repeat them again.). But putting the number on gives the consumer an understanding of what is inside.
Then the onus is on the manufacturer to convince us why such young whisky (if it is young) should be so expensive. This would mean they have to give more information on what wood is used (ie: expensive first fill sherry vs cheap tired refill bourbon), or lower the price. At the very least it would allow the consumer to decide whether the value is there based on more information.
And the lesser quality former NAS expressions which use bad wood or very young stock would likely languish on the shelves, causing the producers to redirect their energy into something that will sell better, and may improve the general quality. But this is pure speculation. I’m no economist, so I have no models to prove I’m right about this.
And it’s because most consumers are not economists that I think a boycott even by 100% of the people who care is unlikely to have enough impact to sway the industry.
I am an idealist though. That’s probably why I like Scotch and whisky spirits in general. There is a lot of history and tradition in this and that’s what I enjoy, probably more than the occasional dram I allow myself. And idealists have the luxury of trying to do something even if they don’t believe it will be successful.
The political party I support (and a few of my favourite sports teams in the past) have a long history of achieving the “moral victory”.
What you’re saying is that it’s OK for you to drink what you own, but that it’s hypocritical for others because you designate them as “leaders”. You do not “fall under the leader category” because both the category and its “rules” are of your own invention so as to both allow you to drink what you own AND criticize others for doing exactly the same thing and it’s a complete double standard, just like Skeptic’s, which is why you’re a hypocrite.
“What I’m saying is that most people are not convinced by someone who tells them to do one thing and does another.” – as that’s EXCATLY what you’re doing, telling certain people that their drinking their whisky is hypocritical while excusing yourself so you can do it, surprisingly enough, your bullshit doesn’t convince me.
It’s not a matter of “optics” – because I never told anyone not to drink what they have, as refraining from doing so is immaterial to ending NAS anyway – it’s just a matter of you creating an artificial moral high ground for yourself while doing as little as possible in support of the boycott.
As for the rest, people should simply be realistic about the boycott not bringing about some whisky utopia even if it’s successful in creating reform with age statements on labeling. To believe that the boycott is going to be a cure-all for bad values in the whisky market is to believe that only NAS-labeled products are bad values and only age statements are good ones. While there is some hope that more information would lead to a market re-evaluation as to what young whisky is worth (once it’s identified as young whisky), it’s only the first step in such a re-evaluation, which, in the end, will depend on the consumer and on the quality that various identified young whiskies can deliver – not everyone who buys Octomore would pay the same for every 5 yr. old just because of its age statement. Such a re-evaluation WILL depend as much on expanding honest and frank discussion of just how this good young whisky is (and isn’t – and there’s a lot of people currently hyping young whisky whose ideas about quality are very different from mine, for example) as it will upon knowing its age. Knowing the age IS the first necessary step to beginning such a debate, but the far more fundamental point is that there’s no argument to be made for NAS that consumers shouldn’t know the minimum age of what they’re buying. No matter to what degree it is or isn’t successful with individual expressions, there is no disputing the fact that all whisky is aged to improve it; that being the case, age is clearly valid production information and there is no reason for the consumer to tolerate it being withheld.
As for you being “an idealist”, that’s pretty funny – “I support the principle of the boycott, even though I have no problem with the idea of NAS in principle” – but I’ll say one thing for you: you have a lot of principles.
Well Jeff, you got one thing right in 37 lines of your last rant: I have a lot of principles. You may as well, but it appears they do not include:
1. accurately representing or restating the positions of others.
2. respectful debate and discussion.
To be blunt, it’s a shame that there is not BS filter on the internet, but it’s lucky for you. Otherwise the above field would be blank.
If you continue to attack individuals personally you will find it a lot harder to find people who will support your position.
If you can’t stand to have inconsistencies in your position pointed out, come up with better arguments on your own. I shudder to think what it would be like to have a brain-storming session in a team with you as the leader. I guess it would be fine as long as people simply said “good idea” to whatever you say.
As Skeptic said, attacking people and not their arguments is poor form. This is supposed to be a friendly forum, not the current house of commons.
To address all the valid points in your last post:
That’s right, there were none.
I can simply say…reread my previous post.
I told you at the outset, David, that I wasn’t putting up with your nonsense.
According to you, that which is OK for you to do while in “support” of the boycott (drinking previously purchased NAS product) isn’t OK for others to do because of “categories” and “rules” of your own creation – and it’s simply bullshit.
Calling you a hypocrite is no more “bad form”, or any more personal, than it was when you did it to me – the difference is that I’m right.
we are surely not done with this thing yet. And it can only be hoped that the impact – such as it is – of our discontent is noticed and finally felt.
As to noticed … let me reycle a post I have already made elswhere.
not quite topic but an interesting comment by Ian Buxton, unfortunately behind a screen.
Ian delivers insight on what might produce stunts like the Mortlachification:
“My view is that, for Western consumers at least, many Scotch brands are starting to look and feel expensive; offering poor value when compared to high-quality aged sipping rums, Armagnac and even the premium craft and small-batch gins, which are gaining traction with younger drinkers. Recent launches, such as Haig Club and the new Mortlach ranges, look to me to be testing the limits of consumers’ wallets, and the more general trend to no age statement expressions (NAS whisky) continues to fuel furious debate on social media.
While there may be no prospect of returning to age statements for many brands, at least until stocks have been re-built (which may not be quite the problem it seemed a few short months ago, if the slowdown continues), consumer acceptance of NAS whisky has been more grudging than the industry expected, at least if the blogosphere is any guide. While the more strident social media commentators clearly have an axe to grind, it ill behoves any category to antagonise previously loyal advocates and enthusiasts.
“Scotch companies will continue to face the challenge of drawing in new customers,” says Rabobank, which goes so far as to suggest that the industry could be “battling structural challenges”.
That has an ominous ring to it for an industry which has historically dealt with structural change too late, and then, arguably, too severely. Despite all the talk of a ‘golden age’, could whisky’s history be on the verge of repeating itself? That may be too depressing a prospect to bear, but it’s clear that some bold and decisive action is called for.
What that might be – and who would undertake it – isn’t so obvious.”
That post was made here http://www.whiskywhiskywhisky.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8409
Pesonally I am not sure about a boycot and what it could achieve. After all we are not the WDTU – the whisky drinkers trade union. I do not think that in contrast to “the whisky industry” we are organised enough to develop enough reach for byocotting anything as far as whisky is concerned.
The exchanges here – and that is just a small sample of whisky lovers posting here – do just not speak for something like a effective boycot.
But the things Ian says will be more trouble for the whisky industry. Over-pricing and having no justifying reason for it. A development in which NAS bottlings are just a part of the problems the whisky industry is causing for themselves.
No matter its size or effectiveness, the boycott IS a grass-roots movement, but it is also the only hope at achieving reform – otherwise, just as the industry is pushing the envelope on declining value, it will continue to push the envelope on declining logic: age is important here, but not there, depending upon whether the industry wants to discuss product age. NAS is simply a nonsensical form of marketing that should be opposed for that reason alone – and there is certainly far more revolt against it than there was a year ago.
Reform will not come from within the industry (which is content to say that NAS is a matter of “running out of numbers”); it can only come as a result of pressure from consumers. Even if it’s true that the industry as “no alternative” but to use more and more younger stock (and is this entirely “necessity”, or is it being done because younger whisky has higher yield with lower loss to angel’s share?), there is no reason products shouldn’t carry age statements (those who don’t care about age information at all are scared away by low age statements?) or that consumers should tolerate not knowing the age of what they’re buying and constantly being asked to pay more for.
If the concern is that a boycott won’t work, that’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy for every effort that isn’t attempted in the first place as well. Nothing comes with a guarantee of success, but you miss 100% of the shots you never take.
Agreed, in principle.
There are some things worth trying even if there is slim hope of success.
But that slim hope fades to none when you misrepresent and insult those people who could be your allies…
again, just sayin…
Again channeling Yoda:
“polite be, try not, do”. Catch more flies with honey than vinegar you can”.
“common foe not each other, attack you must.”
“Sees this not, Jeff does. That…is why he fails. True Jedi not, will he be”
You can’t be my ally while you tell me that I have less “ethical” access to my own property than you ask for yourself, particularly based on the idea that your greater range of “ethical” choices is somehow based on your being a “follower” (that you’re simply willing to do less in terms of promotion of the boycott than I am). Again, your view on this matter is completely hypocritical and will remain so until you change it.
I won’t put up with your bullshit, or Skeptic’s, in the name of “being polite” and, as I’ve said before, I won’t court your “support” by paying lip service to your nonsense.
And that….as Skeptic would channel Yoda….is why you fail…
And that (plus “channeling” muppets) is why you’re still a hypocrite (and full of shit). The fact remains, for all your pretension at now coming up with “rules”, if we were waiting for you to even criticize NAS (which you still don’t oppose “in principle”), much less take action against it, we’d still be waiting. You’re just the tail trying to wag the dog.
I wonder on whom that last post reflects more…
My two cents:
I’m not trying to coerce anyone to follow along with anything I do. I’m no pied piper. I have nothing to sell or even give away. Perhaps I can shed a little light on my own motives and thoughts on any sort of boycott. For those that don’t see a value in boycotting NAS…please read on.
The human voice raised in song can be a beautiful thing. But it is, after all, only one voice. A choir of human voices, however – perfectly in harmony and resounding at multitude times the volume – can be utterly transcendent. Ever listen to a choir in a massive echoing cathedral? Goosebumps.
Maybe I am only one voice. So is Ralfy. So is Serge. So are other ‘media sorts’ publicly speaking out against the latest initiatives of the industry. And so is Jeff…and Skeptic…and Kallaskander…and Two-Bit Cowboy…and Maltmonster…and David…etc. Wow. If we’re all saying the same thing, guess what? Suddenly we have a choir. Now add a few more voices to it, via each individual that reaches for a number instead of an NAS, and suddenly we’re resonant. Really resonant. People can’t help but stop and take notice.
Don’t believe me? Why is Ian Buxton talking about it? Why are brand ambassadors fighting us on it? Why is it a topic of dissention all over the blogosphere? The industry knows we’re here. They know we’re not happy. When the bubble bursts it will be us they need to help them back up again.
Don’t kid yourself. Every voice counts. Those in positions of having public pulpits (i.e. blogs, vlogs, websites, magazines, etc) may have the loudest voices, but it takes a choir to make the impact that we’re looking for.
I agree; even every avalanche has its early moments. It’s like Edward Fox says in Force 10 From Navarone after the explosives go off but there’s no discernible damage to the dam they’re trying to destroy: “You have to let nature take her course. Give it time, it’ll work”.
Something I’d like to try and clarify for my own understanding, if possible, is your view on the distinctions (if any) to be drawn surrounding the evils and responsibilities of “active” recruitment and advocacy for the boycott and just ”supporting” it, “but not telling anyone else what to do”. No one can be “coerced” into supporting the boycott – all support is voluntary and everyone is on their honour anyway – but, to me, there’s no way that those who are personally boycotting purchase AND writing long diatribes against NAS aren’t trying to recruit for the cause – they ARE “trying to put the industry in a corner” through increasing consumer pressure and aren’t in any way “neutral” on the matter.
Recruitment – to whatever degree writing about this stuff aids recruitment – is not wrong if the cause itself is just (and otherwise, why support it at all?) and, furthermore, it’s necessary to success: we need more people to boycott and to help with arguing for the boycott. If someone “supports” the boycott but ISN’T trying to convince others to join it in some way, I have to, in fact, ask why that is – because, otherwise, they’re part of a cause they’re dooming to failure.
Also, more fundamentally, why is it a case of “any sort of boycott” or “a boycott, if you wanna call it that” (?) – if we aren’t boycotting the purchase of NAS, and advocating that it be done, what are we doing?
My purpose here isn’t to criticize my allies in the fight against NAS; it’s only to better understand them. Are we all, in fact, saying the same thing?
The difference between the people leading the boycott and those “following” it is simple:
The leaders are saying “Boycott NAS and here’s why…”
The followers are saying: “hey, I never thought of that ….makes sense…I’ll do it”
Or something like that. Some people, convinced by the leaders, can become leaders themselves.
I remember being “skeptical” about a animal suit contest at school designed to raise money for charity. But once convinced, I sold the most tickets 2 years in a row and by leading encouraged other to participate.
That’s why David so correctly brought up the optics. If someone stands on a podium saying “eating meat is cruel – don’t buy any more meat” and is munching on a hamburger (that he had bought before he started his boycott), he would have less credibility than if her were holding a carrot.
He could argue, possibly successfully, to those who would listen, that his eating of the 2 tonnes of meat he had in his freezer before he had his epiphany would not affect the cows still in the fields, but I suspect most people would take one look and refuse to be swayed be this person who looked like a hypocrite, even if he in fact did not feel like one.
So David is right. If you simply plan to follow the wisdom of those who promote the NAS boycott, it’s ok to quietly sip your stock of A’Bunadh in the privacy of your own home. But if you want to convince others to shun NAS, you can still do what you want but your best chance at success is not to be making it known that you have a lifetime supply (or even just some) of the stuff that you don’t want others to buy, and that you’re drinking it.
But, David isn’t prescribing or proscribing. As Curt says, what he does with his NAS is his own business. Do what you want, but accept the consequences of your actions.
Hamburgers….why didn’t I think of that analogy?
mmmm, getting hungry.
I was actually looking for an opinion from Curt, as I certainly never mistook David or Skeptic for my allies, but I’m not abiding by their self-serving “definitions” in any case. No one likely to join the effort is likely to do so WITHOUT owning at least some NAS and what everyone does with their own previously purchased NAS is their own business (just as it’s their own property) and the disposal of those bottles can have no impact on the industry in any case, no matter who is, or isn’t, “quiet about it”. Some can drink it and some can’t, based on whether they help recruit (and those who do more have less freedom?) and whether David and Skeptic think it’s OK? Hilarious! Skeptic forgot the part about the “followers” eating all the meat in THEIR freezers as well while yelling “hypocrite” to their “leaders” between mouthfuls.
I would appreciate Curt’s opinion, and those of others willing to actually speak out and take action in this cause, about the issues I raised in my above post, however. What is the choir supposed to be singing?
I don’t recall ever saying “you should join me on this righteous crusade”, and I have no intention to ever say something along those lines. I think the most lasting and impactful decisions are the ones we make of our own volition or between we feel influenced enough by someone’s actions to change our own position. So – while not actively begging for supporters – I DO hope others see the merit in it and lock step with you and I (Jeff).
There is no active evil or sense of responsibility in recruitment, as you allude to, but I simply don’t think my telling anyone to do something will make them do it. If I felt I could effectively do that, I would be talking to someone about redrafting the 2009 SWR instead of making enemies here by engaging in dialogue that is costing me ‘friends’ (term used VERY loosely) locally. More than one way to skin a cat. So…I have a forum here where I try to articulate the rationale for boycott and hope my words are powerful enough. When they’re not, I rely on the measured and impassioned diatribes of folk like you. Honestly.
As to the “any sort of boycott” or “call it what you will” wording…well, quite frankly, I’ll take support in any increment. Whether or not others engage as militantly as I (let’s face it…I’m VERY public about my stance, I won’t review these any more, or buy them) is up to them, but it’s not up to me to set anyone else’s terms (be they for the actual actions or what they opt to call it), much as you’ve mentioned above. For me to tell anyone how religious they have to be with this would be antithetical to keeping anyone on ‘Team Boycott’. I know that I personally reject authority instinctually, so would be the first to say ‘fuck you’ to anyone dictating terms to me that I had to follow. If, however, there points make sense for the well being of all of us…bet your ass I’m turning plowshares into swords.
On we fight, and all that.
Good question, Jeff. Cheers.
Thanks for the reply. As I said, I didn’t intend my questions as criticism, only for clarification.
For what it’s worth, I don’t ever recall saying “you should join me on this righteous crusade” either, but the exaggeration distorts the issue in any case. It is only whisky, but, for me, the issue boils down to the question “does NAS stand against consumer interests and, if so, what is to be done about it?”. What I was trying to get at was the nature of your call to act “in concert”, which I think is now to be understood as “everyone can do their part to help” – which I agree with, but I was confused as to whether you were calling for something more coordinated than what we are doing.
Again on our writing, criticism of NAS has been directed at essentially saying “this is why NAS is wrong and why it should be boycotted”. As all support is voluntary, I never looked at it in the light of “telling people what to do”; either they see the merit of the argument and start to take action or they dismiss it. That being the case, I don’t see all the shades of meaning around “saying NAS should be boycotted” vs. “asking people to boycott NAS” vs. “telling people to boycott NAS” when the message of the writing is clear that the author would like to see consumers boycott NAS; no one can write reams on this topic and then say “but I’m not suggesting that anyone do what I’m doing” when the point of the piece is to encourage people to do what you’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, we’re both arguing the same points and recommending the same action. Furthermore, I’m not saying that anyone should boycott NAS for me or my interests; I’m saying that they should boycott it to defend their own interests as consumers. Again, if the reader sees the argument, they might be convinced to take action.
I certainly understand the point you’re making with “support in any increment” and I agree with it in general, but recent discussions have made me re-examine my views on what constitutes “support” (and not for the purpose of trying to find people lacking). First, for me, “support” is an act of volition, not an “accidental” alignment of views or actions. The teetotalers in Brighton buy no more NAS than I do and, while they do no harm to our efforts, they can’t be said to be supporting a boycott of which they may or may not even be aware of and which doesn’t figure into their purchase decisions in any case. Second, “support”, even simple moral support, is clear about which side is being supported – one can’t be both for and against NAS or support both ideas in principle. A person can understand the arguments for both sides but, in the end, has to choose which one they support.
The above said, I think it’s possible that the NAS boycott could be a sort of lightning rod for a lot of dissatisfaction with the industry that consumers are currently feeling; they may not feel as strongly about NAS as you or I, but they still support the merit of the argument (and see the opportunity to send the industry a message). In terms of sending a message, for me, the answer is to simply stop buying NAS to disrupt sales. Doing less – complaining about NAS but still buying it – doesn’t affect the industry’s bottom line and won’t bring about change. Doing more – pouring out previously-purchased bottles, grandstanding about who is or isn’t drinking what they already have or when, or even publicity stunts – doesn’t affect anyone’s bottom line either and so is immaterial to bringing about change. On this point, and on that of recruitment, I don’t personally accept any double standards – people who want to see this boycott succeed should be arguing against NAS and trying to convince others, not arguing how those who do take the lead against NAS are to be held to a higher/different standard while the others sit back and watch. If some aren’t actively arguing for the boycott, that’s their choice, but I don’t accept any different standards, particularly based on what I’m doing vs. what they elect not to do.
I don’t think the above is telling anyone how “religious” they have to be about the topic, but it is where I come out on it; weigh it as you weigh anything else. As I’ve said, I’m glad for anyone’s support, but I won’t court it by changing what I’m doing.
If you wanted an opinion just from Curt, you could have sent him a private message. A public forum is meant to be for everyone. Curt himself has declared his intention not to censor any comments.
Or are you now suggesting that you only want to hear opinions from certain people, not others, and that those who don’t agree with you should remain quiet?
I agree with David… at this rate you’ll have everyone bathing in NAS whisky just to spite you.
I think I hear the choir singing:
Go Jeff Go!
Go Jeff Go!
…..Far Far away…..
As I already indicated, Skeptic and David can’t be my allies while they have a hypocritical attitude about what I do with my whisky as opposed to what they do with theirs; I just can’t embrace their double standards, for myself or for anyone else. My reply was to Curt, but my broader interest was in hearing from “others willing to actually speak out and take action in this cause”, specifically on the topic of recruiting which, again, leaves them out as they’re content to just sit back and complain, not recruit – their choice, not mine. Skeptic’s gloom and doom pronouncements are nothing new, and mean nothing new, to me – and he spends more time making them than he ever spent arguing against NAS. He thinks he can hear a choir singing? He thought he could channel muppets a few posts ago, so I consider the source.
For all the “damage” my current practices are supposedly doing to the recruitment that Skeptic and David don’t care enough about to help with anyway (so how would they know?), the two of them, themselves, are the very evidence which disproves their own argument: even as the most fickle and critical supporters of the boycott that I know of, yet the most outraged over my conduct, they still joined the boycott nevertheless; whether because of me, or despite me, I could care less but I, evidently, didn’t stop them in any case – so how am I stopping others?
Although I think that they are, by far, the boycott’s two biggest frenemies – they don’t actually have a problem with NAS and are only part of the boycott to disrupt it from within out of attention-seeking jealously against the progress shown by a movement they recently openly opposed – I could be wrong and they could be true converts. Whatever the case, as the two most peevish and small-minded examiners of my personal drinking habits, they ARE still supporting the boycott, so I think it’s fair to assume that others who are far more generous and reasonable will support it as well, despite all my many failings.
As much as I would thank you for your kind words (and I truly would if there were any), you just don’t seem to be able to take the (more than) hint that you won’t win people to your cause by insulting them.
How are you different than the marketers for NAS?
In their case, if someone asks about age, or questions their rather poor arguments for NAS, they dismiss the criticism and respond with bafflegab.
In your case, when an interested person approaches and raises legitimate questions about apparent inconsistencies in the message, you not only dismiss them but attack them. With mean-spirited bafflegab.
I’m sorry if I’m not a mindless sheep who will do your bidding without question.
If you can’t stand to have your position criticized, either make it stronger or don’t make it at all.
I can tell you there readers of this blog/forum (not everyone posts) who have indicated to me that if you were “the face” of the boycott it would almost drive them to buy NAS just to spite you, because of the lack of respect you have for people who ask questions and expose weaknesses in your logic, and the way you attack them and misrepresent what they say.
I don’t think this feedback will have any effect, but if I’m wrong about you, and you are actually a reasonable sort of fellow, I hope you will reflect on it and look back at your posts, and perhaps see where you could have been a little less, let’s say, “abrasive” (but we all know I really mean “rude”).
It’s true that one can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I’m not trying to attract flies as I find they’re generally full of shit anyway. My words may not have been kind, but they were honest and true. As one of my (and apparently Bullwinkle’s) favourite bands has sung: “I have no heart to lie/I can’t pretend a stranger/Is a long-awaited friend”.
I’m not trying to win David over and, supposedly, I don’t have to; he says he’s on side already and my point’s made. I’m not changing what I’m doing for him or anyone else, so he can disprove his thesis by staying with the boycott or prove it by leaving it (shucks, can’t win ‘em all). Either way, I find his choice of little consequence, and far less ethically problematic, than either accepting his double standards or trying to convince others of them going forward (as it’s I who will be doing the recruiting while he sits back and complains anyway).
I’m not inconsistent in my message; what happens to previously-purchased NAS product can’t affect the boycott, so it doesn’t matter if it is dropped, given away, consumed or flushed (so do as you will), and that’s true of all previously-purchased NAS product – mine, David’s, Skeptic’s and that belonging to anyone who David now claims he speaks for (muppets included). I never asked to be “the face of the boycott” or a “leader”. If it worked out that way it was because, from the very beginning, most couldn’t be bothered to argue against NAS, and that includes David, Skeptic and the unknown masses – and, unfortunately, the situation continues to this day. I don’t say that anyone should boycott NAS for me, but that they should do it for themselves and for consumer interests in general. Some will respond to that message, some won’t. If people do find my arguments convincing, I would sincerely appreciate their support but, like Curt, I’m not begging anyone any more than I would expect them to beg me to act in my own interests.
Could have I been nicer to David and Skeptic about all this? Sure, and I was nicer the first two times I was accused of “looking” like a hypocrite, but answering that baseless charge (see above) as diplomatically as possible had no effect, so I’m done with worrying about who’s “mean spirited” or anyone’s double standard of who’s being “rude” or “feels disrespected”.
It is unfortunate if all of this leaves David or Skeptic feeling rejected or unvalued. If it’s any consolation, they’re probably still far more popular at Diageo than I will ever be.
So, now, putting aside concerns about their alienation, I’ll be getting on with the fascination of the work ahead.
In real NAS news, one of the major flagships for age statements – Glenlivet 12 – is now taking on water and will be replaced in some markets with NAS. (http://www.dramming.com/2015/02/08/glenlivet-12-discontinued-in-key-markets-age-doesnt-matter-so-much-anymore-for-chivas/)
To those who think there’s no ongoing industry campaign to remove age information from the market, think again; Pernod Ricard, one of the last to argue that age matters, has just reversed itself.
If David or I depended on you for our feelings of self worth, your last post would sting.
Luckily we, well at least I, do not need your approval to feel worthy.
I’m glad you see the error in your ways and have admitted you could have been less rude. There may be hope for you yet.
As for flies, there is one thing they prefer to honey, as you alluded, and you are a gracious supplier.
Alright, lads. Let’s ease up. Obviously different views. Let’s leave it at that.
I think the solution is Bladnochs (12) at noon… one for Jeff, one for me, and one for Curt, the referee…
For the record I don’t hate young whisky and yes there some good NAS whiskies on the market right now…………….What I’m in favor of is information, the more the better. How can you be against information. It seems to me the majority of the people pushing NAS whiskies are working for the industry directly or indirectly. The lack of an age statement will allow the distilleries to charge more for younger and younger whisky. Let’s not call it NAS anymore, let’s call it LOAD, short for, lack of appreciable data, because that’s what the industry and their shills are really selling you, a big fat stinking LOAD. To the industry shills I say, have your NAS tastings, spin the NAS into a positive argument, and defend Mortlach Rare Old, because it makes it easy to spot you for what you are.
PS ………Portwood, you really need to post on WWW again, you’re the reason I visit that site.
Bought a bottle of Glenmorangie Tusail this week, and liked it so much I went back and got the last two bottles. I really don’t have a problem with NAS, but wonder what the age is. Glenmorangie leaked that Compata was 60%14YO and 40% 18YO, which is another tasty “NAS”. Tusail comes across as older than the 10YO with less banana and spirity flavor and more earthy, malty flavor, along with definitely more ginger, especially on the finish. I won’t avoid NAS, but think they could give more info as to how they made such a good whisky. The Nadurra change is a different story as it is obviously much younger than and inferior to the old 16, but is priced higher. It’s probably a disservice to readers to not warn them about crap NAS, but that’s your call.
After him Jeff!
Just reading up on your viewpoints about an NAS boycott, and a couple of things come to mind about how Scotch Whisky producers market their products:
– they never mention when caramel colouring is used, only when it isn’t. If caramel colouring was used, this would also vary from batch-to-batch, depending on what was needed to give it the desired consistency/colour.
– they also never mention when a product is chill-filtered, but will never fail to tell you when it isn’t.
Where I’m going with this is that they’re making clear statements through these omissions. I don’t feel that NAS is any different. If there’s no age stated, I think that you can safely assume that they are guaranteeing you 3 years (the minimum legal age for scotch – and any whisk(e)y labelled as such in Canada).
Just as some batches may require more caramel to achieve the desired colour, some batches will require younger (or older) whiskies to achieve the desired flavour profile.
Full disclosure – I am a sales rep (in Calgary), and that doesn’t automatically make me an industry shill. Just like all of you, I am a lover and consumer of whisky first and foremost. I consider it absolutely necessary to try before I buy, because I simply cannot afford to make the mistake of purchasing shite! I also firmly believe that those unworthy products will fail in time, and I sympathize for those who buy into flashy marketing schemes and buy overpriced crap – whether it has an age statement on it or not.
Also – to you boycotters – if you’re paying admission to a scotch show and then sampling NAS whiskies, I’m sorry but you are still supporting them. The more people that try an NAS whisky that I have on offer, the more bottles I have to buy and open.
Hope I didn’t offend – none intended! I’m enjoying the debate, and after weighing all sides I feel that for me – having a healthy skepticism of a product (either NAS or AS) is always going to be required.
Thanks for that angle. And For mentioning me in the end. I’m feeling healthy myself…
I think that caramel and chill filtration are a little different in that current trending is working to see them disappear, and so more “selling point” info appear on these aspects – unfortunately, usually as some sort of “craft presentation” trade for not knowing the age of the whisky.
“Just as some batches may require more caramel to achieve the desired colour, some batches will require younger (or older) whiskies to achieve the desired flavour profile.” – true, but that’s no excuse to conceal age information.
As for the foundations of NAS itself – that age matters in one place but not in another depending upon marketing, while the industry tracks the age of all of its casks – the position is just plainly nonsensical.
Sweet Home Chicago! – lot of crossroads there! Cheers!
Maybe the answer is to change the rules to reverse them. Acknowledge that after a certain point, age does NOT matter (ie after 10 years it’s more the wood itself that has an effect, or something like that) . No age statements are required (or allowed?) above the age of 10. Anything with NAS will therefore be assumed to be at least 10 years old. Any Malt with anything younger than 10 years has to state the age.
Tell Diageo that they can’t state the age of their 25 year old scotches. See what happens then…
More sensible to me is just to acknowledge that age matters to all whisky, and so provide age statements accordingly (and why is any assumption required in the presence of actual information?), and, even after 10 years, there’s still a big difference between most 12s and most 20+’s, whether from wood or whatever.
Tim’s point – “just as some batches may require more caramel to achieve the desired colour, some batches will require younger (or older) whiskies to achieve the desired flavour profile.” (and, in fact, all multi-vintaging) – is actually a testament to the importance, not the irrelevance, of age to whisky; whiskies of various ages are employed to combine the unique properties they acquire through age – if all whisky was the same regardless of age, there would be no point to this (or to aging whisky).
As far as the idea of “if it’s NAS, you can assume that it’s young” goes, that might be some kind of useful rule of thumb – if the industry itself, which we can all love and trust, wasn’t always the first to deny its accuracy; the mantra is always “we can’t put an age statement on it because of all the old (not young) whisky that’s in there”. Messaging to fit the marketing circumstance rather than the simple truth of the situation? Sure, but it’s also the reason that the thinking drinker doesn’t trust industry spin.
But are minimum age statements in any way “unfair”? No, they tell you exactly what they purport to tell you: minimum, not average, age. If the industry would like to see more age (or any kind of) information on labels, it certainly has the lobbying power to get any legislation changed that currently “hamstrings” it. The hands of the industry are only tied where it finds it convenient to claim so – ask Cardhu.
I will acknowledge that Skeptic as a point, however, in showing the contradictions of NAS: if you outlawed high, selling-point, age statements in order to make an even playing field regarding NAS, the sudden paradoxical industry counter arguments (but only for those products) would be hilarious.
OK, how about this then:
Any single malt whisky below 10 years HAS to have an age statement. Anything above, it’s optional.
Because anything above is usually considered an “acceptable” age, most bottlings would likely have a stated age, and for those that might nit, at least we would know the minimum age of the youngest malt is 10 years.
There would be limited advantage to using NAS, and the pricing would have to be more transparent.
For younger malts, you’d know what you’re paying for.
For those producers who wanted to play with different ages to maintain consistency, they could do so as long as the youngest was 10.
When I started buying Scotch a couple of years ago I didn’t know what I liked and wanted to try a variety. Hence, I was buying at a lower price point (starting with every thing they carry at Costco). All of a sudden I’m at Co-op, I pick up a bottle without an age on the front.
Ok, now I’m confused. What is this stuff and why do I buy this over the 10 y/o? At that point price was the main control on what I was buying so I would try mainly younger ones, and I bought a couple of cheaper NAS bottles.
I was very hesitant to buy these bottles though because i didn’t really know what the deal was… am i getting ripped off here? Is this real Scotch? Do real Scotch drinkers buy these bottles? I thought they were all supposed to have this. Years later, many bottles later and after some research and reading these debates I still can’t forget the way NAS made me feel…
I get it… the companies have their reasons, but sometimes I still can’t help but feel they’re trying to take advantage of me. It’s the same feeling I get when I walk into a clothing store and there are no prices on anything.
Indeed the companies have their reasons for NAS (to what degree they are actually based in real available supply and demand, magical multi-vintaging, or just quick, lower-risk turnover before the bubble bursts is a question of serious debate). The industry isn’t irrational on this issue, but its moves, and its motives, are its own – regardless of the reasons, less information doesn’t benefit the consumer in any way and so the consumer has no reason to support NAS marketing. I definitely understand the idea of feeling potentially ripped off in an upward-spiraling market where the industry tells you that one of the major variables in the cost of bringing a product to market is “irrelevant” or “none of your business”.
David’s idea of “inverting rules” on age statements (it has to be at least 10 years to be NAS) is interesting in that it presents a direct challenge to “need to multi-vintage” argument – A’bunadh could still be NAS, provided that it WAS indeed a vat of 13 to 30s – but the reason that such an idea would probably be an industry non-starter says a lot about NAS and industry truthfulness: the industry has a lot of young whisky to sell and such a change would keep it from concealing those ages (which is, I think, the real current point of NAS), but it would be an interesting acid test to see.
If they were to open the books on this issue, however, I’d still rather have mandatory age statements because age does matter (something the industry will publically admit to at least part of the time and on which it has always functioned in private), concealment of information doesn’t benefit the consumer, and when I’m looking for an older or younger profile, particularly within a brand/distillery I’m familiar with, I’d rather have some idea of what it is directly than deal with someone’s guess. Age alone certainly doesn’t tell me everything (particularly where maturation conditions are extreme), but it is valid information, and certainly in the context of familiarity with a brand/the effects of those maturation conditions.
Ok, Jeff, well said. When you’re polite you seem to make a lot of sense.
One thing though. I don’t think that an age statement, the way the rules currently stand, would help me with something like an A’Bunadh.
I concede that a bunch of vatted barrels all within 1-2 years could easily be age-described by putting the age of the youngest malt on the bottle.
But if you have a 30 year old malt “lifted” by some younger stock to give it more vibrancy, or something like A’Bunadh that combine a wide age range, just knowing the youngest is not helpfu, and could actually hurt the consumer by leading them away from a purchase.
Now, if you would advocate that in addition to a mandated age statement, the bottles could be allowed to state the ages and amounts of the older whiskies, that would seem to me to be more helpful.
I believe that they are not allowed to do this at this time.
You can’t hurt consumers by giving them accurate information, and it’s a big (and deliberately unresolved) question about how much 30 is in A’bunadh, for example – is it mostly old stock (not very likely, particularly at current prices and cask strength), made magically “vibrant” (read “taste relatively young”) by younger stuff, or a lot of 13 “tea spooned” with some 30 just be to able to say it’s in there and claim an age statement would be “unfair”?
I admit that I’ve always been sceptical about the “more than the sum of its parts” argument as an excuse for NAS for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s an easy (and unprovable) claim to make – no one outside the industry gets to try the whiskies in question separately, so who’s to say that the combination is really better? Second, and more importantly, however, vatting various ages ISN’T anything even vaguely new – most 12s, 15s, whatever, could always easily have some older stuff in them, but this was never seen as a serious challenge to the integrity of their age statement (and it isn’t – again, age statements tell you exactly what they claim to tell you, no more, no less) until the industry suddenly had a lot of young stuff to sell. It was only then that very young stock acquired fabled properties that “had” to be added in “minute” quantities to make older whisky sellable (too funny!!! – but a lot of consolation to those who haven’t tried older whisky); yet, depending upon style/maturation environment, most current stuff that is verifiably young/immature isn’t really anything to write home about. Young stock propping up “tired” older whisky or older stock making young stuff somewhat distractedly drinkable – you be the judge (and there are variations). I certainly have my own view, but I’m not really interested in telling anyone what to think about various ages or the profiles derived from them (I like both old and young profiles myself, depending on mood), only that they matter and that consumers clearly should have information about this important aspect of whisky. Regardless of whatever profile anyone prefers, if the industry is tracking age and vatting different ages to achieve different product effects, then there’s no denying that age matters to whisky.
All that said, age statements aren’t the end-all of product information – and I don’t argue that they are, only that some information is better than none and that you won’t get more by taking less. As in Curt’s first NAS piece, percentage composition/full product disclosure would be the ultimate goal, but you have to start somewhere (and turn around the trend that says information the industry itself has always tracked is suddenly “irrelevant” at whim).
As for, “I believe that they are not allowed to do this at this time”, again, the industry is only as paralysed as it finds it convenient to be and, again, ask Cardhu about that. The idea that “we won’t tell you all we can because all the new and magical things we’re currently doing with whisky (outside of recent breathtaking leaps in logic) would bewilder and mislead you”, is, of course, hogwash. There’s no point in talking about what consumers don’t know about whisky when the industry itself is willing to mislead people into thinking that the importance of age depends upon labeling.
Well it’s good to see that we can find some areas of agreement. This reminds me of the year (14 years ago) I spent studying for an exam with a friend of mine,.To take breaks, we would play Nintendo Hockey while purposefully taking extreme opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the end we came up with a way to end all violence and to move towards a permanent agreement that would benefit both sides. But we abandoned it because we felt no one would listen to us. Pity.
I agree it would be nice to start with having the youngest whisky listed, but I think the real goal is to remove restrictions from bottlers providing more information. There is no logical reason the industry can give to oppose it, though I agree they would do their best to find one.
I do agree with Skeptic’s assertion that a rule mandating age statements but allowing only the youngest malt to be listed would put the consumer at a disadvantage (as well as the producer). The consumer doesn’t get “ripped off” per se, but I who would take a chance on a 8 YO Glenfarclas 105 at $120 or a 5 YO A’Bunadh? Or something like that. Of course we could try before we buy, but a great majority of less educated purists would say “age does matter” and pass by, when they might not if they knew how much 15 and 20 YO there was in it.
Personally, I would like to try older whiskies to see what they are like (I’ve tried a 30 YO rye I very much like) but in terms od buying for quality I do not look at age as the deciding factor.
Blimey, this handwringing over NAS has now officially become a reductio ad absurdum. Guys, you are familiar with the concept of free will, right? Adam Smith? John Mill? or whoever said we are in control of our own lives and fate is bullshit. Don’t like the look of it? don’t buy it. This debate could be so easily made to go away by the industry if they just told us what percentage of what age is used to make the blend. I really don’t give a shit if A’Bunadh has x% 5 , x% 8, x%11, x%15 and x%25 yo in the mix as long as it tastes good and I can make the initial buying decision based on that age percentage disclosure. But if someone credible tells me A’Bunadh batch 85 is good I will probably buy it regardless of the lack of age disclosure. And if I like it I really don’t care how they made it.
Hey David. If the Palestinians dragged themselves into the 21st century, and the Israelis granted them a homeland and then stayed the hell out of it, who knows, peace in the Middle East? Possible.
Based on your math, there would be 20% of each of the components of the A’Bunadh, so it would weigh towards the youngish end. Interesting concept.
It’s true, A’Bunadh has made a reputation for itself. But the Mortlach (not so) rare (not so) old has not (and it’s meh), and neither have the many others that are being flogged.
Listen, we finally came to an understanding. Don’t mess it up.
I don’t have any issue with the theory of vatting/multi vintaging in the broad sense – that different profiles can be generated using different proportions of whiskies of different ages. I have slightly less faith that the profiles actually generated are necessarily better than any of the parts alone, rather than just often using some small amount of superior whisky to aid some large amount of inferior whisky to make a generally average product. I have very little faith that the average age of many current vattings, given their proportions/age per unit volume, result in such a vastly different figure from the minimum age so as to make the latter “irrelevant” or “misleading” in any way – and as far as any of this being an excuse for concealing age information altogether, well, that’s sheer baloney.
I agree that the industry could easily resolve all of this by simply providing the information that IT knows IS important to whisky but, in the meantime, I still have to oppose NAS. The problem for me is that the idea of “if it’s good, I don’t care why” again represents a “none of your business attitude” and a false (and needless) “trade” of giving up product information for quality (the two just aren’t related and never were and, with that logic, you could, again, end up with labels that just say “whisky” – what else won’t you “need to know” if someone can’t turn it into a selling point?).
Age really doesn’t matter and young, intermediate, and old profiles just somehow occur by chance? Producers do, and consumers should, know better. Make any of the same whisky twice (or half) as old and get back to me. I can rip the labels off all of my best bottles at home and, although the whisky’s the same, it still makes no sense to rip the labels off (and I would never do it just because Nick Morgan told me to if he found it convenient) – and it makes just as little sense to accept uninformative labels from a producer just because Nick Morgan (or whoever) told the label designer, instead of me, to take the age off.
Age isn’t the same as quality, but it is one of the primary reasons that any given whisky acquires the character it does (as Serge Valentin says, “it’s simply consubstantial”). Age does matter (which is a different thing than judging quality by age alone, which is what I think David was referring to, and which I, like him, disagree with.) and, with respect, it’s not less educated purists who believe it; it’s expert whisky blenders who know it and track it.
All said, good discussion!
With respect, I am in support of blending of various casks to create a final product. All the distilleries do this with their standard offerings. While I concede there is batch variation, this allows consumers to buy something that is more or less within the profile of what they have had and enjoyed before. For those who like Glenfiddich 12, they want to know that the next time they buy a 12 it will be similar to the last one.
We know that single cask offerings (and IB’s as well) often have a profile that is different from the “house style”. Not necessarily better or worse. This is great for the anoraks but let’s face it, most consumers value consistency. Even Curt has referred to “goto” drams. Without vatting casks, there would be none, as every bottling would be different. Imagine the chaos. ANARCHY!
It might also lead to increase costs as every cask would become a limited edition. And for people who like a particular distillery it would feed into the obsession to get more bottles. No one would win. Well, almost no one.
But I suspect that you’re not really targeting the standard bottlings when you criticize vatting, because we’re not talking adding really old to young or vice versa.
Yeah, I’m not being critical of vatting, per se, but mostly the use it’s being put to in currently providing an excuse for NAS under the guise of it being some revolutionary innovation which somehow “invalidates” age statements without (by definition) much substantiation in terms of older stock content by volume – which is a false claim in any case because minimum age statements never claimed to represent average age anyway. One could make an argument that average age would tell you more than minimum age, but it isn’t much of an argument that one should accept no age information at all as an alternative on the basis that “that which does not tell me all tells me nothing”.
could appeal to some of us here who have doubts about NAS whiskies.
I applaud the boycott of NAS or LOAD (I like this description) whisky. I did not realize there was this much outcry from the public over this.
I stopped purchasing NAS about a year ago. I have enjoyed some over the years and one is a favourite bottle. I have not opened one from my stash in that time and have no plans to any time soon. One day I will drink them but no rush. I did not have a problem with NAS until regular AS offerings began to be replaced, especially at higher prices. The cynic in me made me lose trust in the distilleries and I began to feel taken advantage of. Somehow it makes me feel better right now not to drink NAS bottles. One of many weird quirks in my personality.
My money is now spent purchasing some AS Scotch but more has gone to AS Canadian whiskies. (Even at the LCBO I can get 18+ year olds for $50-$80. Some great value in some of these bottles.) The rest of my purchases have gone to other spirits such as gin and armagnac. The more time I spend trying other spirits, the more I have found bottles I enjoy and will continue to purchase in the future. Less money for scotch.
Good luck to all.
Thanks for the support – a lot of people know, at heart, that there’s something false about NAS marketing (details above). Cheers!
I respect your decision, but I have to say you tend to get what you pay for.
I know some enthusiasts who are nuts about Canadian whisky, and I’ve tasted some good ones, but because many are bottled at 40%, they just aren’t as attractive to me.
There are some exceptions: I’ve tasted a few Canadians bottled at 43-45% that were big on flavour, and certainly the likes of Alberta Premium 25 and 30 (both wonderful in different ways), despite 40%, are fantastic.
But I would rather spend my shekels on a Amrut Single Cask (which states the distillation and bottling date), even if I can get only one bottle for 1.5-2 of the anaemic Canadian middle aged whiskies.
Yeah. Where to go with this one? Canadian whisky holds very little appeal to me. ‘Anaemic’ is a perfect descriptor. It tends to be a drink lacking in complexity, overly sweet, thin and fleeting and very much generic in terms of actual personality.
I think there are almost insurmountable issues (at least with producers viewing their cash cow as they currently do) in bringing Canadian whisky up to snuff: questionable (at best) wood policies, too short of maturation periods, unregulated mash bills and additives, clueless marketing, practically non-existent craft presentation, etc.
There are occasional standouts, such as the AP25 and 30 pointed out above, but for the most part I will continue to help buoy the Scottish economy with my purchasing choices.
Yeah, in terms of regulation, Canadian whisky’s the Wild West – even direct flavouring is permitted – so, in an age of shortcuts, it’s not likely to be holding itself to higher standards any time soon. We’ll see a lot more new Crown Royal Apples before we see much of anything else. Sort of shows what tends to happen when you give up your standards in favour of “flexibility”.
Is everyone OK? I just heard the loudest crack!
Yup, my suspicions were correct. I agree with Jeff and Hell has just frozen over!
I actually agree with what you are saying. You won’t find a Canadian whisky comparable to Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Lagavulin (my favourite distilleries) but there are some decent bottles at higher percentages. Just less to choose from and stock up when you find them. I equate the Canadians to Glenfiddich 18, decent taste but not challenging. Something to sip on while watching a ballgame. A better bottle demands your attention and that is not always what I want. That is why I stated the Canadians as good value.
For a number of years I have worried the quality of Scotch would decrease. At the very least the quality of water would have a negative effect on production in the future. Due to this I have been stocking up on standard offerings I enjoy and have at least a decades worth now. I am now looking for bottles that have more of a wow factor for me. Since I stopped buying NAS I have been trying more aged scotch and stock up when I find the right one.
I agree with your points here, and value is a tricky thing – in terms of QPR, the scores that many people would honestly give Red Label (and the price they would buy it at) would often make it a better value than Ardbeg. The question’s sort of what level of quality will you except in pursuit of value.
As for Scotch slipping, it may well be inevitable, but I suspect the industry is accelerating this process for the average consumer by pushing younger stock under NAS labels faster than necessary at inflated prices and then blaming it all on supply and demand. Young is the new “good” and lumber is the new “matured”, which is fine if it suits one’s taste, but complexity is being reduced as an overall result (this is real meaning of “flavour-led”) and, in any case, there’s a consistent industry shepherding of tastes toward what it happens to be pushing. Folks who just haven’t tried complex whiskies don’t know what they’re missing and they’re unlikely to find out with current price trending. There’s a lot of profit to be had in young whisky if you can push it under a Gaelic name while concealing its age and expounding the magical powers of multi-vintaging – and just deciding that, as some kind of “small batch/limited release” it MUST be worth $80.
about verything influences maturing spirit in a barrel – but not time.
“Aging & Warehousing
Age is just a number, and the amount of time spent in a barrel is far from the only factor the affects a whiskey’s final flavor.”
Re-education has begun.
Sure, age is far from the ONLY factor. There are a lot of variables that can affect maturation results – but once all those various conditions (ingredients/mash bill, maturation environment, char level, wood selection, barrel size, etc.) are sorted out for any given whisky, the main variable about how they interact becomes time. To talk about how important wood is, for example, but not time IN wood, is ridiculous – unless whisky kissing any given cask for 5 years is the same as for 15 or 50 – and it IS much easier to sell this idea to those who’ve never tried a whisky older than 15 (whether they know it not because of NAS labels) or are being priced out of doing so anyway. These folks “aren’t missing anything because there’s nothing to miss”, and it’s a very comforting message, despite the fact it’s false – and built on a bullshit premise.
It certainly is an “absurdly complete guide to understanding whiskey”, heavy on the absurd, when age is dismissed as “just a number” (and so is price, but I never found it “irrelevant” either). The real importance of age is truly revealed these days by who wants to strenuously avoid talking about it and to whatever increasing degree. The real overall message remains “we can get it to you younger – and cheaper for us – but don’t expect it will be better or cheaper for you even though age is ‘irrelevant’”. The industry isn’t the midst of “reinventing whisky”, only rejuvenating hype.
The piece is pretty funny, but it’s a great way to set up the Bloody Mary recipes promoted at the bottom.
thought you would like it Jeff.
Here is another gem.
“You don’t pick a fruit when it has reached a certain age; you pick it when it’s ripe. And it’s the same thing with our casks. We have hundreds of thousands of casks at The Macallan, and we choose the cask when it’s ready….”
“According to Cox, because it doesn’t carry an age statement, the Rare Cask will be more flexible to make, and the characters may change slightly in the future. “If you buy an 18YO sherry oak, you’d expect the character to be the same from year to year. We’ve been making it since 1982. With Rare Cask, Bob is using a much broader palette to blend with, and can create maybe something with a slightly different character each time.”
After the age statement now consistency is going over board. Next they will stop selling whisky under their brand name….
Sure, they “choose the cask WHEN it’s ready”, but to acknowledge such proves that age IS the important variable. Better at 16 than it would be at 18? Alright, but then there’s NO arguing that the fact it IS 16 is important, is there? And let’s also be frank: a lot whisky is being pushed out the door/multvintaged when it’s NOT yet ready. Many consumers can already tell this by taste, and many more would be able to tell it about a quart of strawberries they purchased if half of them were white.
Macallan, of course, is entirely full of shit on this issue, but the breathtaking nerve to substitute colour for age, but ONLY where they don’t want to discuss the latter, has actually damaged their credibility less than it has that of many “whisky experts” who simply won’t call it for the con it is. The silence is deafening and, no, consumers really can’t trust these people to tell the truth anymore, regardless of how many whiskies they’ve tried or how good their noses are. These people are marketers, bought and paid for. Amazingly, in the quote above, Macallan acknowledges that age statements tend to lead to more consistent products, while Rare Cask “flexibility” (where even colour isn’t important anymore?!?!) is supposed to lend “mystery bottle” results that consumers are to embrace in Forrest Gump candy-eating fashion because “you never know what you’re gonna get” (unless you read the card that comes with every box of chocolates, of course).
And even more incredible:
“According to him (Cox), by releasing NAS bottlings, The Macallan is protecting those flagship expressions that they’ve been making for years. “What we’re doing is ring-fencing enough stock of the right character to ensure we can continue to supply our expressions like 12YO, 15YO, or 18YO, albeit in limited quantities. We will not be able to satisfy the full demand,” he said.”
So there you have it: NAS is the stop-gap measure – the common stuff to be promoted to the masses by whatever means to protect the now higher-priced quality core expressions. And, if “age is just a number” anyway, why are they being protected? Better character/consistency which more discerning consumers demand because they can’t be fooled into thinking “age doesn’t matter”? You be the judge.
The number of people who persist in talking about whisky but who refuse to acknowledge, for various reasons, that it’s created by a time-sensitive process is staggering and, unfortunately, growing.
You had me until you blasphemed against Forest’s momma.
No one insults Mrs. Gump, a woman who had not a single mean bone in her body!
And those inserts never look like the actual chocolates anyway.
But I will agree with you on the minor point of your post About the Macallan issue.
I liked her too, especially when she drove around with Burt and then got those workers to unionize – but I guess she never had a Pot of Gold (they were poor); look at the card, and – boom! – it’s all laid out (buddabing!). If you don’t know “what you’re gonna get”, chances are the chocolates were made NAS by Macallan (No Assortment Stated)!
I don’t remember her as a union organizer but I’ll take your word for it…that makes her even more unassailable in my eyes…
She kicked major ass in Norma Rae (Field won the Oscar), but it’s also a great ensemble cast and well worth a look.
I think I understand now… She didn’t organize the workers in Forrest Gump.
I’ve been caffeine deprived lately, not to mention scotch-deprived.
Effectively NAS -No Added Scotch.
On Kallaskander’s recent theme of the “re-education of consumers about whisky”, here’s a piece which he pointed out on WWW: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/22/are-older-whiskeys-really-better-than-new.html.
Age doesn’t matter now in “certain” contexts (sound familiar?) and it’s certainly true to those who can no longer afford it anyway, now that most whisky over 20 is a house payment or is about to become one.
Recognizing that all of its foreseeable older stock is already oversold anyway in terms of demand, the industry’s trick is now to cut against its OWN age message to make sure the young stuff sells out as well. The dangers of overcasking are a big concern HERE, but not when actually selling a 30, 40 or 50, of course.
“You’re not missing anything with older whisky (or even whisky the age of which you should know but now probably don’t – which SHOULD be pretty important if you’re pushing young whisky; if there’s no guarantee that it IS young in the first place, what ARE these people talking about anyway?)”. Again, comforting messages about products people are priced out of anyway – in Aesop, the fox under the grapes just looks like an idiot but, here, he could be a whisky critic – if he didn’t already drink the old stuff for free anyway and hype young OR old product as needed by the industry. Tastes ARE being shepherded by critics toward the young stuff that the industry can provide in large quantities – “young IS the new good” – and, ironically enough, this is being done in the guise of “independent consumer thinking” – so long as it conforms to the marketing model already laid out for it.
Still no word from these people on how labeling makes age relevant/irrelevant at will, but still, it’s obvious they’ve been busy. I could almost get behind Lew Bryson on this piece if he’d actually call out whiskies that ARE overhyped/overpriced, at least for this article, but far that’s too much to ask for.
we’re really not done… and never will be.
Here is a new – I’d say combinded effort – to hammer the message home once again.
It is mute to say it was to be expected.
What I take kind of personal is the repeated swipes at people with differing opinions diverging from Diageo’s opinion who publish those opinions in blogs and comments and the swipe at whisky enthusiasts and companies who want more transparency. That Whisky Advocate should lend a hand in this….
No matter how small the group of consumers that have a problem with NAS, the main problem for Morgan, and for Whisky Advocate, is that that group is right. It’s not that people who have a problem with NAS “find it hard to see past a number on a label”; it’s that they find it illogical and self serving for the industry to say that age matters in one context and not another, that aspects of whisky production magically become “irrelevant” if they are not discussed, and that the enchantment of a NAS label means that the whisky would be the same regardless of the age of the product behind it if the whisky fairytale associated with the product remains the same. Remember, it’s the Uigeadail label that makes the whisky what it is, not its age, casking, peating, ABV or any other pesky production aspects that industry people sometimes find inconvenient to discuss. Pass your cup, the marketing Kool-Aid’s right here.
If either Morgan or Whisky Advocate had a real argument to make, they’d bring it, and the “tradition” of the industry being two-faced about the importance of age to whisky just doesn’t qualify – the issue isn’t whether NAS is “traditional” marketing; it’s that it’s bullshit marketing. More serious than the predictable party line from Morgan and his ilk is the light the issue has thrown on who among “independent experts” at large can and can’t be trusted to tell the truth about whisky. To say that age doesn’t matter to whisky makes one look like a fool, and to say that it does matter effectively invalidates NAS marketing, so many experts like to stay “neutral” and fall back on old “wise” chestnuts like “love it or hate it, NAS is here to stay” and “there are some good NAS whiskies”. Yet to even try to stay neutral on such a fundamental issue calls into question what these people really know about whisky anyway – would they also be “neutral” on the importance of ABV or casking, or whether Bowmore is on Islay, if taking a side burnt too many industry bridges?
More fundamentally, how does it really matter what you know about whisky if you’re willing to lie about it anyway? It’s truly sad to find out that Morgan is associated in any way with the study of history.
What IS interesting from this WA fluff piece (the industry cheerleading of Caroline Dewar is embarrassing even to read, so I wonder what it’s like to write) is that, evidently, Diageo is planning to stand against transparency going forward, because there’s no way Morgan would be caught taking a position his masters didn’t already approve of. I have to wonder if the entire point of the piece was as a trial balloon to make Diageo’s position public and to gauge consumer reaction. People should give them some.
Yeah, that Caroline Dewar is one hard assed journalist. Really put old Nick on the spot there by agreeing with everything he said and feeding him softball questions that she pre answered herself. Whisky Advocate and every suck holing so called journalist that works for them should be ashamed of themselves for committing this sort of shite to print.
Good luck. I left a comment the day it was published and it got de-moderated.
It’s an illustration of the torn state of whisky “journalism”: many sites just don’t really know if what they do is reporting or promotion, and many don’t like to entertain commentary/feedback that makes them choose and/or find out which it really is and maybe burst their “reporter/analyst” bubble. Whisky Advocate changed its stripes some time ago, and there’s very little chance of getting into a meaningful discussion with the Whisky Lassie either. Oliver will give you a good game on Dramming, but not about the rationale of NAS – the quality of the products is the only issue for him, not the fact that NAS is an huge contradiction/paradox/fantasy concerning the very nature of cask influence/physics being somehow magically negated by labeling. It’s a disappointment, both because the contradiction must be completely obvious to him and because it puts his (official) view so close to that of Nick Morgan that it’s difficult to tell the two apart.
Just curious, Jas, what did you say that made you persona non grata?
I can’t say I was too artful about it, but I said the following point from the so-called interviewer was false:
“Can’t ignore the fact that we’ve been drinking NAS for over 100 years, a lot longer than we’ve had age statements.”
I backed it up with a link to one of the many Whisky Fun posts where Serge drinks age-stated malt from over 100 years ago (found through two seconds of Google searching) and mentions how age statements appear to have been common back then, despite what people in the industry today would have you believe.
It is indeed a circle jerk over at Whisky Advocate, but at least they allowed me to say the following a few weeks ago on the post about the new Lagavulin 200th anniversary bottling of the 8-year-old:
“It’s good to see a young malt with an age statement instead of NAS. I guess at Lagavulin, at least, they haven’t “run out of numbers” yet, eh?”
Nick Morgan’s appearance on the blog soon after was just great timing.
I think any counterpoint over at WA WOULD have to phrased in very careful, almost apologetic, terms to be permitted, and I don’t know what it would take for it to be acknowledged as valid in any way – I’m not sure that evidence alone would do it.
The blog stopped being a venue for anything that could be described as “debate” long ago; Hansell often walked as close to the editorial line of actually saying something ABOUT the industry instead of just cheerleading for it as he could, but then the magazine decided that the blog, and its keynote pieces, should join the rest of its copy in recognizing which side the butter’s on and who pays the bills, and that everything should serve those ends. No one was interested in contrary opinion from that point on, or in anyone saying anything even vaguely controversial and/or that conflicted with industry lines.
But, in the end, WA is also in good company in its editorial stance, if not its prescriptive methods; most whisky writing frequently crosses the line from commentary to active product promotion and back again, and most of its writers could care less.
Does whisky matter? In the larger scheme of things, it can easily be argued that it does not. What’s interesting, however, is that whisky commentary apparently matters enough to some for it to be compromised and/or controlled.
Once again Whisky Sponge was no fool on April 1st. Check out his latest serious essay. Very, very good reading.
not sure I get his intention right but I think the positive argument for drinking younger in Bordeaux wines and Scotch whisky is askew.
That you can drink clasic Bordeaux wines now more easily is due to improvements in wine making and a sharper selection of qualities of grapes. Faster made younger single malts are made by using all possible short cuts from grain to glass.
And using a finer cut for more quality is not the case over all distilleries. It could be the case for small distilleries like Kilchoman but not for monster distilleries like Glenlivet with 40 Mio litres of malt a year very soon.
In my opinion the malt distilleries are going the opposite way not improving standards but lowering them for the most possible yield.
“The philosophy was simple: they were going to take smaller heart cuts off the still to create a finer spirit that should in theory taste better in its youth. And they succeeded. Mission accomplished. Why would they stray from that core mindset now?”
How does anyone know that Kilchoman “tastes better in its youth” when no one’s tasted it as an older expression and there’s no plans to make any? If it’s “mission accomplished” on that score, did the writer spend some time in the Bush White House? If advances in other spirits indicate what should happen in whisky, why not go all the way and just take your model from vodka and produce the world’s best white dog?
And, as Kallaskander points out, even if the unproven assertion about Kilchoman WAS correct, it doesn’t mean that everything else is “better in its youth” just because there’s a clear profit motive to present it and sell it that way. What’s primarily “changed in the booze business” is the idea that realities about whisky are now dictated by opinion (“age doesn’t matter unless we say it does”) and a lot of bloggers are drinking the Kool-Aid, and some are even selling it for their own purposes. K&L Wines doesn’t sell auto parts.
I’ve never had much respect for the industry apologetics of Dave Driscoll anyway (and it’s a good thing that he keeps his comments “off” on his blog, as his kind of ads don’t long survive counterpoint), but some of the sloppy thinking that passes for whisky commentary these days – starting with the proposition that the industry is right in what it does and working backward to justify it – is just sad.
“How does anyone know that Kilchoman “tastes better in its youth” when no one’s tasted it as an older expression …”
Maybe what they mean is that it tastes better in its youth that it would if the cut had been wider.
Just saying… I agree, if it tastes better young (than with a wider cut) it might taste even better older….
I can see the argument for what YOU’RE saying; what I don’t get is what Driscoll’s saying (“Why would they stray from that core mindset now? Their model was never the 10, 12, 15, and 18 year old portfolio. To be honest, I think anyone trying to replicate that formula now is likely setting themselves up for failure.”) – if it’s really about quality, how do you know where your product peaks if you DON’T take it past 10?
hi ho, well said George!
and the response that is to be expected from Ken Grier or other functionaries in the NAS-ty business.
There is one name that begins to annoy me…. “Diageo head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan insists the issue is ‘only really important to the chatterati of single malts’, but plenty, including some in the industry, profoundly disagree.”
Chatterati probably do more for Scotch than paid banes of whisky.
Wished that more distilleries in Scotland were still extended farm operations in family hands. Not to the extensions of Glenfiddich, though. That would be a very big farm.
“‘“Non-age” does not equate to young whiskies. Some of the whiskies may be incredibly old and rare, and some may be more youthful to give vitality and zest to the whisky.” – but non age doesn’t equate to unaged whisky either does it? Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to ruin Grier’s spiel.
What I love is the idea that “it’s maturity, not age,”, as if the former isn’t related to time in any way. More fundamentally, the “do age statements matter” question is an artificial “debate”, framed in exactly that way so that everyone can have an opinion and HAVE a debate, recognizing that talking the thing to death is FAR more preferable than actually doing anything about this marketing. Do age statements matter? This talking head says yes, that one says no and, tellingly, the “conclusion” of the scotchwhisky.com piece, as ever, reaches no conclusion whatsoever beyond the idea that “it’s debatable”, which, by design, it always will be when framed as a matter of personal opinion – some people care about age statements, some don’t and, quite predictably, Tom Bruce-Gardyne “hears” two opposing views, reaches no conclusions and takes no sides. Big fucking deal. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What do you think? Everyone has an opinion.
If any of the whisky “experts” wanted to deal with a real question instead of “what they think” of NAS, they could answer “does age matter to whisky?”. They never touch that one, because the evidence, and the industry’s stance, is undeniable: age definitely matters to whisky; every warehouse attests to it, every blender of every multivintage product depends upon it, and it’s the basis upon which every ounce lost to Angel’s Share is accepted as just the unavoidable cost of doing business. The problem for industry whisky experts is that it IS undeniable, not in what anybody in the industry “thinks”, but it what they all do; there simply is no “debate” about whether age matters to whisky, and so no endless game to play around the question. But, if it’s acknowledged that age matters to whisky, it really doesn’t matter what anyone “thinks” of NAS (or the “idea” that rocks fall down) because NAS simply doesn’t have a logical leg left to stand on.
All that said, George Grant’s defense of age statements and his skewering of NAS and the marketing motivation behind it were refreshing. Like Glaser, he can tell the truth when he wants to; and, like Glaser, what he can’t always do is give you age information on some of his products while he criticizes others for doing exactly the same thing. “There’s a time and place for non age-statement (NAS) whiskies” – yep, the time is when you want to mislead consumers about the very nature of your product, and the place is everywhere.
Thanks for sharing that, K. You are my go-to guy for tracking down posts like these. You’re sort of like the Noam Chomsky of whisky. Not sure how you manage to suss out the good from so much banality, but it is appreciated.
Additionally…huge respect for George for cutting through the shit. I’ll be seeing him tomorrow night and will be sure to thank him in person.
Thanks for that interesting link kallaskander. The Morgans and Weirs and their ilk are very fond of throwing the word maturity around when trying to promote immature whiskies. It’s refreshing to see Glenfarcas’s George Grant debunking and distancing himself from that sort of industry bullshit. An eight year old kid might be somewhat precocious, but hardly mature. Maybe by the time she’s 15 or 18 years old she will have acquired a degree of maturity. As far as I am concerned maturity comes with age, be it people or whisky. Cheers.
And yet, what happened to the “10 YO” 105? Did it suddenly mature and go NAS?
Wasn’t the 10 y/o 105 originally NAS and became an age stated whisky, only to recently revert? It doesn’t invalidate your point skeptic, I’m just seeking clarification.
This will speak to Skeptic’s question as well as a few points below. Yes, the 105 was a 10 year old cask strength malt. They vat to an intentional 60% consistently. Confirmed by George Grant a few months back at an event I was at with him. He spoke to a nasty spell in Scotland that led to a period of temperatures not conducive to their barrels of 10 year old retaining an abv high enough to vat DOWN to 60%. In order to keep the long-running and brand-iconic 105 on the market they have been forced to include 8 and 9 year old malts that have high enough abv. George has unequivocally stated that the 10 year age statement will return as soon as there is sufficient mature stock to support a 60% natural strength. I can respect that. Full disclosure.
But it does not explain why they can’t state the age on the new batches…
Fair enough. I’ll ask him tomorrow.
He said 8 and 9, so 8YO.
Still, why can’t it go on the bottle?
thank you Chris always on the lookout for whisky industry bla bla or other bulls…
As to the 105.
It was 8yo in its infancy and Glenfarclas decided to make it 10yo at some point.
When we visited the distillery in March last year we were told that it went back to 8yo which is no longer stated.
The reason was that they found it harder and harder to find enough casks of sufficient strength in the 10yo realm which could be reduced to 60%abv with just a little water to supply for the demand.
In the 8yo realm that is much easier.
I guess it was not a hard decission to make and I think it would not have hurt the reputation of the 105 if they had put that story on the label.
“I guess it was not a hard decision to make and I think it would not have hurt the reputation of the 105 if they had put that story on the label.”
The above really speaks to the heart of the issue: most people who buy whisky know that, because of various changes in demand, and, importantly, ownership and outlook, whisky is in transition. Whether it’s a case of the “good ol’ days of affordable quality never coming back” or just a general loss of complexity as products become younger can be debated, but a lot of people would just appreciate a more honest dialogue about what is being done and why instead of the current dog and pony show.
kallaskander, thanks for the answer on the 105. I’d happily have bought it, as Jeff described, with that description on the label. They needn’t even have promised some day it might go back to ten. I’m not opposed to young whisky if it’s good whisky – as is seemingly the case with the 105. Unfortunately I’ve adopted the stance of not supporting anything NAS any longer so I won’t pick it up at the moment. If they were to slap an 8 year old label on it I’d try it and if enjoyable would stock up. But as of now it’s a principle type of thing.
Ummm…exactly. Oops. Just posted the exact same thing above before reading this. Sorry, mate.
I thought the 105 story is that’s always batched to hit that 60% ABV target. What, it’s watered?
I can try to find a link if anyone’s really interested in this off-topic point. The source was very definitive—a George Grant quote, I think.
My understanding is that the 105 was vatted to be 60% at cask strength. The reason I was given was that they could not find enough older casks with sufficient ABV to maintain the 10 YO statement.
I am not offering excuses, just relaying what I was told.
well it is possible. You could try to do a vatting of some umpteen casks to hit exactly 60% abv.
It is a heck of a task but it can be done.
It would be much easier to vat to 63.5% or 65.1% or what ever and put it down to 60.0% with just a few litres of springwater.
If George said they vat till they have hit the mark I tip my hat. There is one easier way 😎
I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout nuthin’, but I would think you just mix your batch with stuff over 60%, then add some lower-proof stuff until you get down to 60%. That can’t be too different from adding water for anyone who knows some algebra.
It does call into question what exactly “cask strength” means; just very strong whisky or vatted, but undiluted, whisky – but at least you have the ABV to know the strength you’re getting. I’d also like a binding definition about what “single cask” means; whisky matured only in one cask, or just whisky bottled from one final cask (but saying nothing about previous casks/reracking).
In this case 105 is natural cask strength. No water.
And yes…Jeff’s question is a humdinger. Not sure where I weigh in on that one, to be honest.
I stand corrected. The 105 states it is a cask strength whisky. I did not look closely enough the last time I had a bottle in hands.
According to the Whisky Rules of 2009 which are EC law that means that no water was added.
The “cask” strength of 60%abv is reached by adding whisky of lower proof to come out at exactly 60%.
For clarification: natural cask strength means the strength a cask has reached at the time of bottling. It is only relevant with single cask bottlings as a vatting of two cask does not have a natural strength because it is a mixture.
Not too sure if the latter definition is always used in its strictest form.
Not doubting your info, but do you know the numbers/designations of the relevant parts of the 2009 regs?
a vatting of 2 casks of different ABVs would still be natural cask strength as long as no water was added or taken away, because there is nothing unnatural about mixing two barrels together.
Click to access url
The clear rule is set here, though: Scotch whiskey technical file – Gov.uk
Click to access url
Only water as defined in section (6) of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 can be used to adjust the alcoholic strength.
Adjustments to alcoholic strength prior to maturation, and prior to bottling, are by the addition of potable water, which may be purified, for example by distillation, demineralisation, or reverse osmosis. The alcoholic strength of “cask strength” Scotch Whisky must not be adjusted after maturation.”
That is interesting as
a) only water can be used to adjust the strength
b) a cask strength can not be adjusted after maturation at all
I remember that there have been some “cask strength” whiskies around like Laphroaig 10yo cs and Glenfiddich 15yo cs which like the Glenfarclas 105 always had the same strength from batch to batch.
Here the SWA intervened and the first two were changed. Laphroaig to small batch bottlings with individual strengths and the Glenfiddich dropped the claim “cask strength” and still has 51%abv from batch to batch.
Not sure what that means for the 105 but it could be a nice can of worms.
Many thanks. Cheers!
I would suspect that the rule allowing only water to be added to affect ABV doesn’t apply to 105. In the latter case, it is a mixing of various casks which happen to bring the strength to 60%, which is allowed and is common practice for most standard bottlings. nothing is added to the whisky. It even remains a single malt.
hello Jeff here is a piece that you will just love….
As the link states it is about a new 30yo Laphroaig. What made me think of you Jeff is this:
“John also mentioned in the masterclass that 30 is the youngest whisky in the mix, but there is a proportion of whisky that’s significantly older.
That means that the youngest whisky in this bottle was distilled in 1967, but some of it harks back to the early 1960s.
I had this as a contrast to the 200th anniversary 32 year old, and while that’s a very modern whisky – clean, very defined and quite cereal-y – the 30 is a true old school sherry matured whisky, grand and fun.”
The youngest in the mix is 30yo but the other parts are soooo much older.
You are absolutely correct: age does always matter not only in prestige bottlings.
Yeah, it’s the same old song and dance: you’re supposed to be impressed by a 30+, but not supposed to be unimpressed by an Under 10 – and, in most cases, not even be concerned enough about what you’re buying/drinking to wonder why the age is being intentionally concealed. Most of the people who DO know better won’t say so in order to protect their friends/connections in the industry, the whole thing gets softsoaped, and those who point out the contradictions are just “hotheads” – but this is what the great majority of whisky “expertise” amounts to: just paradoxical marketing for producers.
In other “news”, the parade of repackaged press releases, into’d by “author” Melanie Gochnauer, continues at Whisky Advocate. It’s tough to tell whether to commend WA for the honesty of admitting that it takes no stances outside those of the industry by eliminating the middleman here, or to take issue with the fact that this is just laziness masquerading as editorial copy.
Whisky Magazine’s Joel Harrison catches up with Georgie Bell of Diageo….
and not a word about how good and misunderstood NAS whiskies are and not one swipe against bloggers and commenters…. who speak out against them …. common politeness or learned lessons?
And no actual “myth busting” or even identification of what these “myths” supposedly are – we certainly wouldn’t want this to lead to anyone having to go on the record over whether age matters to whisky. Say it doesn’t and you lose all real credibility. Say it does and you’re unemployed (not sure how either answer would affect membership in the Worshipful Company of Distillers when it’s not clear what they worship). This fluff piece makes some of the stuff done at Whisky Advocate look credible.
In more hopeful news, Oliver’s re-launched with something that actually says something that needed saying: http://www.pourmeanotherone.com/2016/07/25/booze-bullshit-1-speeding-up-maturation-gives-you-the-same-results-only-quicker/
I love this piece, but what follows from it is that time in cask, for better or worse, matters to the final product regardless of the relative desirability of other conditions such as temperature. This being true, I’m looking forward to Booze Bullshit #2: The importance of age to whisky somehow magically varies with labeling, marketing, and various logistical problems within the industry.
yeah, read it, too and mentioned it here in a comment that has not yet been moderated in the Why honest inquiry… thread.
I think Oliver reacted to the release of the first turbo matured bourbon and/or rye…
and he is right of course you can not hurry time.
As I get older, a year passes by more quickly. If I were a cask I could mature a 12 YO in no time at all…
not wanting to be impolite …. but could it be that a cask your age would probably be called a little bit “over-oaked” if bottled? 😎
If you were bottled you’d be probably in the Macallan Lalique range…. pricewise that is?
Hahaha, Maybe Richard Paterson could blend a few of us up into a limited edition bottling. Actually, if my liver was bottled it would probably be found to be “over-soaked.”
I don’t think I would fit into a Lalique bottle…
Either the guys at the IWSC are even bigger pranksters than I thought or they did non’t know what they just did. The Kilchoman NAS-ties contain no whisky older than 6 or 7 years and they win.
All the other NAS-ties do contain older malt and can not win.
A interesting snippet of information there as well.
NAS (Non Age Statement) whiskies now form the largest segment in Single Malt with almost 80% of Scotch Whisky sold not having an age statement, making Kilchoman’s success all the more impressive.
Let that soak in for a while…..
I think the 80% figure must include all blends. It’s a bit confusing as it states NAS is the largest segment in SIngle Malt with 80% of Scotch Whisky being NAS. What do you think?
Oh, and that lame Planet Whiskies is the online equivalent of a weekly supermarket flyer. Industry supported lap dogs with zero credibility. IMO.
I don’t have a lot of faith in the entire “award” scene anyway – it’s mostly just the industry congratulating itself on having gone in the direction that it wanted to go (talk about achievement!) – but the idea that an NAS whisky won an award that, by definition, only an NAS whisky could win isn’t exactly news.
“NAS (Non Age Statement) whiskies now form the largest segment in Single Malt with almost 80% of Scotch Whisky sold not having an age statement, making Kilchoman’s success all the more impressive.” – it might be impressive on some level if it meant that Kilchoman was actually competing against 80% of all scotches made, but there’s no word on how many entries there actually were in the contest category. Then again, more than 80% of everything you read about whisky should be taken as crap anyway, and the figure is probably closer to 95%. Where the barley comes from is a big deal to the finished product, but time in cask isn’t, primarily because producers want to talk about one but not the other. Go figure – consumers get the market they deserve; when it gets bad enough, people will take their “give the industry a pass” thinking to some other spirit and help wreck that one.
It’s certainly true that the industry has a full-court press on to redefine quality as being “bold and flavourful” as opposed to subtle, complex and refined, because young stuff is what it’s prepared to provide to the masses at anything like affordable prices. I remember with fondness reading people like Hansell making all the proper positive noises about current NAS offerings and then boasting about how they probably won’t be doing any purchasing in the near future, and won’t have to, because of all the many bottles they have already, luckily, “bunkered” away. Good enough for you, O whisky aficionado, but not for the people pitching it.
I do not put any trust into any whisky award. One of our leading German whisky experts gave me a sobering answer when I asked him what he thought about the so and so whisky winning the xyz whisky award years ago: „They are all bought!“
I do think that the figure of 80% of all whiskies being sold as NAS means Scotch whisky including blends.
Which is bad news because the single malts now make 10% of all Scotch sold starting from 3% many years ago. But probably 90% of all single malts are now NAS.
I am still looking forward to the years of 1917ff. All those whiskies produced through massive capacity enhancements siunce 2007 come into the maturing range of 10yo.
If they made it that far and did not die premature in a NAS bottling.
Blended Scotch does not fare very well internationally at the moment so that 1% decrease in the sales of blends still hits the industry harder than 10% increase in single malt sales after value through premiumisation makes the industry happy.
All big spirits companies have reported problems with their general whisky sales over the last 3-4 years and only premiumised NAS single malts are a beacon in already gloomy times because customers are not very clever.
With the mention of 1917ff, are you talking about the bubble bursting and the depreciation of whisky?
Blends are still, by far, the biggest game, but I’ve never agreed with the mostly outside industry argument that single malts are just a sideshow that producers engage in just to make customers happy – not that I think that’s what you’re arguing, above. The question of what percentage of single malts are now NAS, or will be in, say, five years, is interesting, as producers not only turn to shorter (and undiscussed) maturation times, but there’s now a clear trend to price many people out of many products with an age statement whether it really has that much age on it or not. Just knowing what you’re drinking is becoming an expensive business as it’s not just age, but information about age, that’s being premiumized.
The industry may pretend to “see the light” and reverse itself on age information (when things get bad enough and it needs a selling point), but the lasting impact of the entire NAS thing for me is what it says, not only about consumers’ gullibility, but about the duplicity of the people among us who are supposed to be the greatest whisky experts and defenders of the spirit’s integrity. Their silence on, even defense of, the completely preposterous idea that the industry can somehow pick and choose what expressions age affects at all, much less that the industry can do so through the simple selection of the labels applied, is utterly shameful. Whisky will, of course, survive, but my faith in many writers will not, and I doubt I’ll ever trust them on the subject of whisky again unless they start speaking out.
Sorry, Did some searches, and I can’t find anything that is germane to whisky directly or indirectly with respect to 1917ff.
I’d be grateful for any illumination
I think Kalaskander (and Jeff) meant 2017, when all the 2007 batches reach ten years old.
ups, sorry for the typo 2017 ff is what I meant.
The first increases in distilling capacity were done by putting the distilleries on 24/7 production schemes and thereby shorteneing fermentation times to the absolut minimum of 55 hours.
The first plans to build new where published around 2005 and new stills were added at about the same time wherever possible.
Build from scratch Roseisle opened October 2010 and will have 10yo malt by 2020…. if it not all ended up in 3yo Johnnie Walker and other NAS blends.
In short there was a lot of additional new distilling capacity from 2005 on and not all of the whisky made at that time is already bottled.
On the other hand that last statement could be doubted when you look at malts like Laphroaig for example. Like Serge Valentine put it in former years you could buy malts from one distillery aged 10 12 15 18 years and NAS. Perhaps a 25yo as well for a reasonable price.
Now it is NAS NAS NAS NAS 10 and a 25yo super premium which you can not afford.
What t leads up to is that the argument if it ever was one that there is no aged malt to sustain AS bottlings will have to be scratched in the 10-12yo range.
Let us see if it will happen.
PS Sometimes edititing one’s posts would be helpfull 😎
ups, sorry for the typo 2017 ff is what I meant.
The first increases in distilling capacity were done by putting the distilleries on 24/7 production schemes and thereby shorteneing fermentation times to the absolut minimum of 55 hours.
The first plans to build new were published around 2005 and new stills were added at about the same time wherever possible.
Build from scratch Roseisle opened October 2010 and will have 10yo malt by 2020…. if it not all ended up in 3yo Johnnie Walker and other NAS blends beforehand.
In short there was a lot of additional new distilling capacity from 2005 on and not all of the whisky made at that time is already bottled.
On the other hand that last statement could be doubted when you look at malts like Laphroaig for example.
Like Serge Valentine put it in former years you could buy malts from one distillery aged 10 12 15 18 years and NAS. Perhaps a 25yo as well for a reasonable price.
Now it is NAS NAS NAS NAS 10 and a 25yo super premium which you can not afford.
What it leads up to is that the argument if it ever was one that there is no aged malt enough to sustain AS bottlings will have to be scratched in the 10-12yo range.
Let us see if it will happen.
PS Sometimes edititing one’s posts would be helpfull 😎
Glenfiddich has a new concept which they introduce with their new experimental series.
“Only by unlearning what we know and collaborating with like-minded mavericks can we try new things, experiment, push whisky boundaries and challenge traditions” .
‒ Malt Master Brian Kinsman
At the launch event here in Berlin Glenfiddich created a unlearning experience which was described thus in the German press release
Zum offiziellen Launch der Experimental Series stellte Glenfiddich auf der BCB (Bar Convent Berlin) neben den Produktinnovationen eine völlig neue Art der Wahrnehmung von Single Malt vor.
Das „Unlearn Whisky“-Konzept überschreibt bisherige mit Whisky verknüpfte Eindrücke und schafft dadurch die Voraussetzung für ein von Grund auf neues Geschmacksempfinden. In einem Sensorik- Tunnel wurden die 5 Sinne aktiviert, sodass auf diese unerwartete Weise Besucher durch inhalierbaren Nebel, auditive oder haptische Erlebnisse Geschmack und Aromen völlig neu erleben konnten.
Vor und nach der Sinnesreise stand ein Experten-Team bereit, um seine Expertise mit den Besuchern zu teilen: Der deutsche Brand Ambassador Markus Heinze, Global Brand Ambassador Struan Grant Ralph, Craft Beer- Experte Seb Jones sowie Robin Fegen von The Robin Collective.
What got my feathers up is the sentence which translates as
The „Unlearn Whisky“ conzept over-writes impressions previous connected to whisky and thus creates perequisites for a new perception of taste from scratch.
In a sensory tunnel the 5 senses were activated in a unexpected way so that visitors could experience taste and aromas through inhaling mists auditive or haptic occurences completely new.
I spent time money and effort to learn my whisky to distinguish good ones from not so good ones.
I resent being told that I have to unlearn what took me years of learning just to be able to appreciate what good a distillery wants to do to me with a new an „innovative“ whisky.
I resent being re-educated. And effrontery.
As part of my job I am fortunate enough to work for a taste panel that evaluates beer. It’s only a small part, but I was interested because I wanted to train my palate to discern not only beer but whisky as well in terms of the component flavors present as well as flaws that may be present.
The whole notion of “untraining” is horse hockey in the words of Sherman T. Potter. There is literally nothing to unlearn – your palate detects flavors in combinations that you will or won’t find palatable and enjoyable. As I’ve learned in beer tasting, not everyone tastes every aspect of a flavor profile so while some may detect cinnamon for example, others may not pick it up. Your palate will also detect off-flavor (flaws) or a degree of immaturity (expressed as particular flavors or even mouth feel).
Good whisky remains good whisky and it will fit an individuals flavor preferences or it will not. Your tastes can evolve of course though it’s unlikely you’ll unlearn anything. Big, big boo on Glenfiddich for pulling this nonsense.
I think there is something to be said about “unlearning” things. In many professions we come to find that what we may have learned a long time ago is fundamentally wrong. In those cases it sometimes requires us to let go a lot of the assumptions that follow from that.
In the case of whisky, many of us have learned to do things a certain way. Canadian whisky is traditionally drunk mixed or with ice.
When we learn that some Canadian whiskies are great neat sippers, it changes our entire viewpoint and we have to recalibrate. it may mean nosing and tasting differently, different purchasing choices.
We used to think that the amount of time spent in wood matters. Now we realize that that just isn’t true… that it’s not the age that matters, but the name…and the story behind it.
Oh wait…. maybe you should stop reading after the Canadian whisky part…
Engage Jeff shield….make it so!
I think for Canadian whisky it is the reverse of what is going on with Scotch whisky. The former is improving and the latter is not. We never had good Canadian sippers until recently, but we always had plenty of great Scotch in the past.
Ok, I’ll be Jeff. It’s not so much that we have to relearn anything, but more that the industry is having to learn how best to spin their current output of crap as something new and exciting. They really think they can convince us that they never said that 15 year old is better than 10 year old and 18 is better than 15 and 30 is better than 18 and that we would have to pay much more as that number increased. No, no, no, that’s some kind of old school thinking that is anachronistic and doesn’t matter any more. Now they are free to “create.” And they have been very creative with marketing bullshit….not so much with the actual product.
But for the fact that with occasional exceptions (Lagavulin perhaps?) the hierarchy for pricing remains status quo. Well, that and many NAS products are more expensive than remaining age stated products, but I digress.
Don’t look behind the curtain. For all that is holy, don’t look behind the curtain.
See? If you didn’t have a Jeff, you’d have to make one.
For all the smoke and mirrors, what it’s really about is letting on that “marketers know best”; they know when age “matters” (when it can be used as a selling point) and when “it doesn’t matter” (when it can’t be used as a selling point). The question isn’t what’s synonymous with quality, as the definition of quality varies with the individual (and these days young MUST be good, because it’s mostly what they’re selling you anyway), but what matters to the product. Unlike the loch out back, the whirlpool out front, the stuff that was sent into space, or the size of the stillman’s shoe, age matters to the product – it’s physics, and the reason that any product is aged beyond legal minimums in the first place. If anyone needs to “unlearn” that, it’s producers, and they should start by tearing down all that excess racking space, save all that product that they “needlessly” lose to Angel’s Share and admit that multivintaging must be a bunch of bullshit – if age doesn’t matter to whisky, then blending whiskies of different ages MUST be hokum.
Marketing can have a strong influence on the weak minded.
if we hadn’t a Jeff we’d have to bake one!
It goes on.
“Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series is designed to explore ‘unusual and unexpected’ whiskies, with a new release set to be introduced roughly once a year.
The range started with the releases of IPA Experiment – claimed as the first single malt finished in India Pale Ale (IPA) casks – and Glenfiddich Project XX, a vatting of 20 different casks chosen by the brand’s global brand ambassadors.”
Experiments – why not? Who’ll do an oil drum finish? Unusual and unexpected – what about a real cask strength edition or a sherry casks matured expression with an age statement?
Sounds like a plan for ongoing senseless extensions of the NAS range to me. So far.
And what’s missed in all this talk about cask “experimentation” is the point that, somehow, the casks matter but the time spent IN the casks does not. As I pointed out on Dramming, maybe it would be enough to make a sluice out of Mizunara oak and just send the Bowmore down it and right into bottles – because, after all, it’s the Mizunara oak that’s “the big deal”, right?; who cares how long the product’s actually been in contact with it? Cask influence is, suddenly, no longer a time-sensitive process. Does anybody REALLY believe that a marketing team can alter physics, as opposed to just lie about physics?
Marketing can have a strong influence on the weak minded. On that note, people bitching about NAS while still BUYING NAS is a waste of time, and wear and tear on keyboards. If consumers don’t care enough about the product and product information to change their buying, they can forget about making the industry listen to a message that they can’t be bothered sending at the checkout anyway (stupid people good, industry bad!).
While people shied away from calling a spade and spade (NAS boycott), it was said here a long time ago – “Jeff is right. This really is the only way”, because glowing reviews of Ardbeg, and tacit support of its continued NAS marketing, isn’t working.
And I guess we’re not done with this NAS thing yet. This warmed my heart – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrwW7qGrq5k
Happy New Year!
Haven’t watched it yet, but hopefully it’s worth watching. Sounds more likely since you’ve endorsed it. I don’t mind Ralfy going on about NAS once in a while and it sure beats his conspiracy theories on banks, government, and medical advice…
Happy New Year!
I’ve watched Ralfy for years, shortly after he started the blog, but the blogs have gotten too long and he spends too much time off topic. Now if I seem to have any difficulty sleeping, I pull up one of his many blogs on whiskies I will never see, much less try, and it puts me right to sleep. If I want real, concise info on a whisk(e)y, I go to Whiskyfun, Whiskey Jug, or one of the many others that regularly review any and all whiskies. About the time he decided to limit his reviews to AS, he went to one a week, lengthed them to 20+ minutes(why?!?), and spends most of the broadcast on other topics. Just my take, so don’t be offended. I still like Ralfy.
I agree with you almost completely, except I would say he went to 20 minutes long before he went AS only…
Maybe they just seem longer with him straying into topics I personally don’t give a “shitte” about.
I agree that I usually enjoy his “tighter” reviews more, but other people seem to like the stories/digressions as part of the “Ralfy brand”, which is all right with me. Pound or pound, however, Ralfy still tells more whisky truth than any other prominent whisky figure I know. For all the people who will sometimes put a number on a bottle, there are still very few who will admit that NAS is just marketing bullshit, let alone actively oppose it, so that undercuts their “expertise” in my opinion. Broom, Roskrow, et al, all know a lot about whisky, but much of their commentary really boils down to equivocation on the topic and they are just ad men under a different name.As for relevance to the average consumer, I like Serge (and respect his reviews) but, in terms of bottles that I will never find/see/afford, his website is a wonderland.
Ralfy’s hobby approach and, importantly, his revenue separation from the industry is the foundation of what makes his commentary unique – if you’re beholden to no one, you don’t owe them any lip service. Too much whisky commentary is bought and paid for to various degrees, and it shows.
To a peaceful and happy new year…!
a peacefull and happy new year to everyone.
Especially us “many self-promoting, opinionated and vocal experts; (with) sadly, so little expertise.”
Whom am I quoting. Right, 100 points out of 100.
When I read this look into the crystal ball I had shivers running down my spine at more than one point.
That is Dr Nick telling them, again! Relentless, unchanging even at the beginning of a new year.
No, we are not done yet.
When Dr. Nick talks about “little expertise”, he should be taken as authority on the subject; he’s the same guy who said that NAS was the result of the industry “running out of numbers”. That Nick can’t separate celebrating scotch from aiding and abetting utter industry nonsense only confirms my opinion of him (and his role within the industry). For all his love of debate, I haven’t seen him engage in any, much less win one.
It’s also not surprising that many industry people want scotch to be “less serious” in the future – not that prices aren’t going to seriously increase in the next year, but the less people think about the bullshit they’re being told, the easier it is to sell that bullshit. The issue isn’t that “NAS is a bad word”; it’s that age matters to whisky and that, logically, age can’t matter in one context and not in another based on somebody’s convenient labeling choice. The problem for the industry is that once people see this point for themselves, they can’t really “unsee” it. To Ms. Grey, I would ask “to what whisky doesn’t age ‘necessarily’ matter”?
As much as I hate to be contrary (let’s face, I don’t hate it at all…) I take issue with your criticism of Mr. Morgan.
98% of that article was pathetic fluff. It is entirely unfair for you to focus your vitriol on Morgan when you could have written paragraphs for each of those. With maybe the exception of George Grant, who didn’t really say anything objectionable but neither did he say anything of importance.
And just to be perfectly clear, because I want to start the year off right and electronic messages such as this one are notorious for not conveying the right tone (which may explain that stupid article as well), the first 2 paragraphs were laced with sarcasm and I agree with you Jeff.
Happy New Year!
Sure, while his position wasn’t explicit here, I’ll at least give Morgan credit for actually taking a position on NAS – although such credit also highlights the difference between just taking a position and supporting that position with real arguments. Even so, people do know where Morgan stands, which is more than can be said of many notable whisky “experts”, amateur and professional alike. If whisky “expertise”, however defined, doesn’t clear the Whisky 101 hurdle of acknowledging that age matters to whisky, not as a matter of preference, but as a matter of physics, I don’t know the real value of such expertise or if it has any.
Georgie Bell just wants all the seriousness to go away. Lumsden’s against cutting costs (and cutting margins was never on the table), so look for ever more expensive stuff from his “labs” in “pursuit of quality”, but not transparency. George Grant wants to book your next trip to Scotland, Ireland, Taiwan, wherever. Ms. Gray (sorry about the “e”, above) has been dealt with, other than she hopes whisky will break into more alcohol trade shows.
Sean Baxter came dangerously close to pointing out that what’s good for the whisky industry isn’t necessarily good for whisky consumers by harkening back to times when sales were lower but more affordable high quality products were being made. Given more rope, Baxter might soon be able to compete with Dr. Morgan in personal noose craftsmanship.
Diluted by later generic fluff about “creativity”, “craftsmanship” and “celebration” that any ad person could babble, the most prophetic bit came, probably quite unintentionally, from Max Warner: “There will be more no-age-statements, which will eventually mean that consumers will understand that age is important…”. Indeed, Max, it probably will teach them that.
Happy New Year!
Looks like synergy may be even more fun than animosity…
2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
you can find a very diplomatic answer to the NAS question following the sub-headline
“You’ll have to stick with me here, but you’ve mentioned both the 10 Years Old and the 18, I’ve heard a lot about age-statement/non-age-statement, do you think age is a sign of quality?”
You mean non-answer
To give credit where it’s due, I think it’s a good answer and I agree with it as far as it goes: age is not synonymous with quality (as quality is in the eye of the beholder anyway), but it does make a difference to taste (which is why whisky’s aged in the first place). So age isn’t the same as quality, but it has a big influence on whisky character, which is why, in context, it’s important production information. Those looking for a cask strength Glen Grant experience should be able to know if they have one by what’s on the label, and the same goes for those looking for an 18+ y.o. Glen Grant experience. For the money they’re spending, people should know what they’re buying.
If whiskies “plateau” at 34, then knowing both that and the age of what you’re about to buy is important, and shouldn’t be denied to the paying customer on the basis of whose sales it might hurt
I’ve been enjoying Glenrothes Vintage Reserve for the last couple of months. It has no age statement, but they give the vintages of the 10 distillery years in the bottle (1989-2007). Is this okay with the SWA, as Glaser only is disclosing his ages via email, with a promise not to tell anyone? I find this bottling quite good, so I’d hope there’s not an issue, especially at only $42 a bottle. Need a review.
Anyone know any issues SWA would have with this public listing?
It’s a interesting question – both because just knowing the year something was distilled, in itself, doesn’t tell you as much as how long as it has been in cask, and because the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 do seem to cut against Glenrothes approach here:
12(2): A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way that includes a reference relating to when it was distilled unless—
(a)the reference relates to a single calendar year;
(b)all of the whisky in the drink was distilled in that year;
(c)the presentation of the whisky also includes a reference to—
(i)the year of bottling of the whisky;
(ii)the maturation period of the whisky; or
(iii)the age of the whisky; and
(d)the reference to the year of bottling, the maturation period, or age of the whisky appears in the same field of vision as the reference to the year of distillation.
Beyond the issue of referring only to a single calendar year for distillation (a), it seems, from the above, that you can’t legally talk about distillation dates without disclosing age in some way (c and d), either by age statement or by bottling year – and, if the bottling year IS disclosed, you basically have the same situation, only with a single malt vs. a vat, that you had with Compass Box and which drove it to only reveal age info online.
It’s an interesting situation/question.
In the meantime interested circles seem to go on lashing critics they can not control.
I do not know Tobias Gorn, director nor Campbell and Gorn. But while some bloggers felt a kind of despair and were questioning the sense behind what they were doing last year their impact still seems to be felt uncomfortly by the whisky industry. Some in said industry seem to wish that critical blogs be not.
That is a good thing in mey eyes.
“There’s also a need for more unbiased objective professional journalists to balance the opinion pieces by ‘expert’ bloggers or social media superheroes. In some cases, for the general public, factual calm tasting notes and stories are far more educational and fun than loud private opinions, but it is good to have both of them out there”.
Whether it’s more “fun” or not, a ton of tasting notes aren’t going to “balance out” those who point out that NAS is self-contradictory nonsense because the former are subjective opinions (“this one is better than that one, I think”) and that NAS is nonsense is just cold, hard, fact. Age matters to whisky, and you can’t change physics through a labeling choice.
The LAST thing the industry wants is unbiased objective professional journalists (which is why it spent so much time, effort, money and complimentary liquor buying off the few journalists whisky had) because such people WOULDN’T spend their time doing cozy product reviews – they’d be denouncing NAS marketing for the sham it is. This entire “whisky is for ‘celebrating’, not thinking/speaking out about” spiel is the surest indication of an industry that stands AGAINST consumer education.
Jim Murray’s self-promotion not withstanding, the single most prominent critic of the industry’s current direction is Ralfy Mitchell – and, if he ticks the industry off, good for Ralfy!
As to whether the SWA would have a problem with what Glenrothes is doing as opposed to the issue of whether it’s illegal, I think that the two questions are, hypocritically, quite separate. I’m beginning to think that that the main reason to join the SWA is to keep the SWA from having unsolicited discretionary “legal opinions” about what you are doing after you join – and I think Compass Box’s experience is good evidence for the theory. So far, the “process” seems to be a SWA member complains about what someone outside the SWA is doing – which makes the latter “fair game” – and the SWA then makes threatening noises on the basis of “guarding scotch”. Looking at the above, I can’t see how Glenrothes is in the right if Compass Box is somehow in the wrong.
here is an open word from Europe’s greatest whisky drinking nation. It is on the state of the nation.. ah no sorry the state of whisky in the French nation and I was not sure if it is right to post it here in the NAS thread or somewhere more current.
La Maison de Whisky is one of the big shops and importers in France.
Is there anybody out there to heed the warnings?
It’s a good piece and it makes a good point: if, in a perfect, “unbiased”-by-fact, NAS world, one whisky tells you no more than the next about what you’re buying, what IS the sales point around premium brands like Macallan? Colour somehow tells you more when age (always selectively) tells you nothing? One nondescript NAS follows the next, all reviewed, all “alright”, but people keep running back to A’Bunadh and Uigeadail to justify a form of marketing that can show no link BETWEEN it and the quality they trumpet with an ever-shrinking percentage of products. It does help when you’re selling to a bunch of newbies ready to lap up the company lines on the current “exciting times” for scotch, but the problem is that even very inexperienced (or stupid) people will only stay in the dark so long. And if Macallan isn’t a stand-out, what is the chance of anyone else being a stand-out at the meat-and-potatoes sales level of under $200?
The “new and exciting” NAS stuff keeps hitting the shelves with such blinding speed and regularity that only those drinking on the cuff have the ability (and, indeed, the interest) to keep up with it all. Someone else is drinking for free in exchange for saying nice things about largely indifferent whisky? Say it ain’t so! Just in case it IS so, however, a lot of consumers are also wising up to the fact that somebody else’s cozy corporate relationship does Sweet Fuck All for them. Put that together with the fact that our “experts”, like the companies they take their cues from, want to talk AROUND cask physics (or invent new ones out of thin air) and one of the major results of NAS has been to largely discredit blogging, just as the professional whisky print media was discredited by industry lip service long ago.
Now it’s also just as true that all the production information in the world wouldn’t keep indifferent whisky from being anything but indifferent, but the idiocy of the entire “we DECIDE if and when age matters” attitude is the just the added insult to injury which is helping to damage scotch – and will damage other whisky categories as well as these categories reach price saturation/tipping points. Not having older stock is one thing, but telling me that the age of what remains somehow “doesn’t matter” is just a flat-out lie. Somebody ELSE just “reinvented” whisky by playing with casking/maturation environments? Fantastic! – and all I have to do is believe that time IN those casks IN those environments has no impact? Sure, I’ll play your fool at $100+ a bottle. Where do I sign up?
Despite all the “traditional/craft/hand-selected/single cask/small batch” nonsense (and NONE of those terms has a binding legal definition – apply them all to your latest expression at will, no one will sue), another point made in the article also rings true: it really doesn’t come across that a lot of current whisky IS the product of the distillery rather than just the parent company that owns it. When the people working in the Talisker gift shop on Skye don’t carry, or know, all the products bottled under their distillery’s name, you can forget telling me about “traditional” methods. Like it or not, one of the largest facets of production that sets scotches apart, both from other spirits and from each other, is cask time – without it, you’re just as vulnerable to NAS rum as to NAS bourbon in terms of sales. This might well suit the folks that run the parent companies now (who often own all three spirit types anyway), but turning whisky into vodka while everybody cheers about all the “innovation” involved does make me wonder what, or if, people are thinking.
‘For years, Scotch whisky distillers knocked down the market by dumping huge stocks below cost price in order to drain the “whisky loch”,’ says Julhès. ‘But they don’t sit on those stocks any more. Then they threw themselves into the premium rat race. And, let’s be honest, the premium category is probably the most bloody boring one these days.
‘They keep launching very old single malts nobody can afford or dull NAS no-one cares about. The Scots should count their blessings that Japan is short of stocks; they would be in far bigger trouble otherwise.’
And it’s true – when even people like Jim Murray can’t really get excited about Scotch anymore, the canary in the coalmine might well be breathing its last.
Notwithstanding your points about NAS (which I am not disputing at this time, though more time to think about it wouldn’t matter… at least according to the industry),
The fact that Murray isn’t excited about Scotch is actually a selling point to me. Any palate that chooses Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as the best in the World is so out of touch with reality that I would go after what he would not choose.
I think that both points are well made. First, that, by score, Northern Harvest is as good as ANY whisky that Murray has every tried (97.5!), which has GOT to call his judgment into question with many people who have tried it.
More importantly, second, Murray’s gospel thrives on controversy – yes, real or not. This year’s book didn’t have the equivalent of a crazy CRNH news hook to it and, comparatively speaking, very little was written about the release of Murray’s book this year. It’s true that Scotland might not be a whisky wasteland, utterly ruined by sulphur, just because Murray says so (in the spirit that, if it wasn’t this “crisis,” it WOULD be another one), but Murray IS a whisky booster, sometimes crazily so, willing to “find” 90+ whisky gems where other people say “what ARE you talking about”. The fact that, like Julhès, Murray can’t find much exciting about scotch doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong in this instance either.
Even a mechanical watch without batteries is right twice a day…
I thought about EXACTLY the same watch – it doesn’t say much for the overall usefulness OF the watch, but it’s also still true.
That was supposed to be an emoji smile in response to Jeff. Oops
a bit older but still interesting. And not all about NAS but some interesting insights on how some people think.
“It’s crucial more blends innovate he says. ‘You can’t make up a five percent loss in blends with a 10 percent growth in malts. They need to solve the malt and the blend problem.’”
I do know nothing about the standing of this publishing company. But they seem to manage to spin a concise yarn.
In 2012 they wrote this http://www.beveragemedia.com/2012/04/28/blended-scotch-comeback-a-struggling-category-sees-salvation-through-premiumization/
and I must say I did not at first realise that it was 5 years old when I read it but thought it was fresh from yesterday.
It’s a bit of a self-serving narrative too – that, as always, there’s a “crisis” in whisky (as if anything BUT constant sustained growth constitutes a “crisis”) and this is what the industry is doing to “save” itself – you can’t blame the industry from reacting to a “crisis”. It all sounds FAR better than “here’s what the industry has just decided to do, just because it can, and you better brace yourself, because it’s not better for you (IF you know that you’re just a consumer, and not a distillery operator).”
In the first piece cited, NAS is “here to stay” because “demand outstripped supply” – supply of… what? Numbers? Well THAT is Nick Morgan’s take on things.Nobody faces the fact that hiding age is just premiumizing stuff that couldn’t otherwise be premiumized, selling to many people who haven’t tried, and now largely can’t afford, anything older than 15 years BECAUSE of the prices now assigned to everything under 10 – yet, remember, “age doesn’t matter”.
Then you get Lumsden going on about “flexibility” again because telling people what they’re buying somehow results in his inability to make something. As I said, we’ve been sold on this bullshit idea that information is the enemy of innovation, while all the “experts” in whisky just sagely nod their heads in agreement. It’s exactly why I don’t trust any whisky pundit who won’t confront the industry about its nonsense. Whether Lumsden is lying about how many people ask him about the age of Uigeadail or not, there’s no age on it forthcoming – and it’s STILL the flagship for the argument about why ignorance is bliss, even though most NAS-labelled products are a far cry from Uigeadail.
“Innovation” has also just become a code word for “change” – this VERSUS that – but is no longer one for improvement. No one is going to “reinvent” whisky, so the real way to make people happy with what they’re getting is convincing them that young profiles somehow constitute the new idea of “good”, while leaving the old idea of complexity far behind. Hipsters want to believe that they’re drinking “the best”, so the industry tells them that they are, while prices skyrocket as a result for those who can’t be fooled.
Overall, it’s a great job of selling consumers on the idea that the industry’s problems are the same as their problems, and on making the producer’s narrative the only one discussed. Assemble the usual industry suspects, have them talk about THEIR problems as if they’re yours so they can justify how they’re going to solve them at your expense.
just a note, not a big thing and it is probably only my twisted mind but when I found these two things on the same news site this morning I found the juxtaposotion strange to say the least.
Brewers rediscover oak aged beer.
and an expensive Johnnie Walker Mastery of Oak does not mention age as a factor but generally speaks of maturation which can be 3 years short or 30 years long.
Mastery of Oak I begg you…
On a more funny side of things the comic of whiskyfun says it all.
Yes, both the sales pitch and the cartoon speak to the same thing.
Global limited release of 5,588 individually numbered decanters…
The fourth limited edition in a series…
Limited to only 134 bottles in Singapore…
Purchase at S$1,200 (US$848) including GST…
Bottle No. 1 and other auspiciously numbered bottles including 88, 1888, 2888, 3888 and 4888 are also available for sale here…
The master blender, Jim Beveridge, along with fellow blender Aimee Gibson created three vattings to construct the final blend…
They began with active American oak…
For the second vatting, which was called “the heart of the blend” by the company, they focused on finding the most beautifully balanced refill casks in their reserves…
Finally, they chose solely American oak combinations from these experimental casks…
Phew! That sure seems like a lot of information for a bottle of whisky – except that you don’t know how long it’s been in all of those oh so important casks. If you made a sluice out of the barrels and just ran the whisky through it, would the effect be the same if it’s only the barrels and not time in them that matters? Maybe it would – if your main concern is to get “auspiciously numbered bottles including 88, 1888, 2888, 3888 and 4888” anyway. It’s the active and expanded intervention of the clueless that is wrecking whisky.
Conclusive evidence that time in the cask is irrelevant. This video proves that a 3 month aged spirit is as good a s a 3 year old scotch:
Or does it?
Yep, proof positive that not talking about a product’s age somehow makes the product’s age “irrelevant” to its performance – the same can be seen to apply to food and automobiles on a daily basis. The sad part is, many of the same people who won’t hesitate to call this stuff (as well as many 3-year old scotches) shit will STILL defend the colour-coded nonsense of Macallan and the “age doesn’t matter” nonsense of the “doctors” at Ardbeg and Diageo. “Age matters here, but not over there” – the “magical” effect of labeling on physics continues; the double standard is not a matter of reason so much as a matter of whose oxen (or sales) are being gored. It’s just whisky, folks, and whisky is “supposed to be fun”; feel free to check your brains at the door and step into the mushroom nursery.
I think the point of the video was to point out that the stuff was crap, and to agree with you that age time is an important factor. In terms of fun, I would very much like to get my hands on some of that because in discussion (on Mark’s discussion thread on Connosr) he says this is worse than Lambertus, a 10 YO grain whisky that I said reminded me of infected diabetic ulcers, and he’s tried both.
Sure, I get the thrust of the video – and thanks for the link – and I don’t think we disagree on the importance of age. The larger point, to me, however, is that most people – and almost all of the “experts” – only “agree” on the importance of age part of the time, depending on who is inconvenienced by it and when. When the nonsense comes from some upstart in Holland, it’s “just nonsense”; when it comes from Nick Morgan, it somehow isn’t nonsense any more – it’s somehow one side of “an NAS debate” which has to be taken seriously. Why don’t Lumsden or Broom come riding to the Dutch guy’s rescue if age really “doesn’t matter” – or does it only matter in Holland?
I agree the stuff would probably be interesting to taste – not sure I want a bottle all to myself, however.
Just as a follow-up, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FvdtCvIAAc
“Because, I think, with age, Auchentoshan and Bowmore – both in quite different ways- they achieve this… this paradise on the tongue, this elixir, that is like nothing else you’ve tasted on this planet; it’s just heavenly”. – Rachel Barrie (at 25:18).
One has to wonder:
1. Is this interview one of the reasons Ms. Barrie was heading to BenRiach and;
2. Where this quote will fit in the next time either she or her team has to pitch an “age is irrelevant” NAS product;
3. Would Auchentoshan’s 3-month old “deluxe” be any better – or any more “ageless” – than that made in Holland? Why or why not?
The people actually making this stuff know the truth about it – it’s just that the lies, and the products based on them, are “good enough” for you and me.
a wonderfull openly cynical take on NAS – from an expert on such things.
“And what about the backlash (in some quarters) against the NAS 1824 range? ‘People forget. Whisky is all about innovation, trying things, whether it’s quarter cask products, products without an age statement, craft whiskies or finishing. And that’s fantastic, because with innovation you get younger consumers coming in.’”
Or one could say Ken Grier on re-education and re-creating of whisky consumers.
Yes, leaving all the balderdash about the need for “secret recipes” to one side – the people who will tell you that each distillery’s production is already unique by its very nature are the same ones that will tell you that everything must be kept under wraps to prevent others from duplicating it – it’s amazing how folks will still treat innovation as being synonymous with a lack of information/documentation, not to mention the refusal of acknowledgement of cask physics.
What is so “innovative” or “craft” about leaving an age statement off of a label? No one actually seems to know.
especially as until not so long ago whisky was all about tradition and quality. As I seem to be to old to go through as a millenial who knows no better I must make more efforts to remember to forget.
That absolutely IS the other doublethink: people are supposed to get all sentimental and impressed about “time-honoured traditions” – unless they stand in the way of what the producer wants to do and/or push anyway, then it’s all about “new thinking, new things”… like making a whisky magically immune to the effects of time by simply not talking about its age.
I only today stumbled across this early gem… I think.
“Joy added that as many consumers seemed to be unaware of the whisky-making process, the industry had a responsibility to educate buyers as to what true quality meant.
“There’s a big education job to do.
We are the most modern market in terms of whisky, but we’ve still got a long way to go. An age statement doesn’t give you any clues as to quality, but this [The Macallan 1824 Series] is one of the ways around it.”
I guess it’s “lazier” to bother giving the paying customer age info than it is to say “ah… fuck it”.
An age statement might not give you “any clues as to quality” (about what you personally call good or bad, because an age statement, or any other piece of information, can’t read your mind on that question), but it might give you important clues as to profile. In the context of their maturation environments, young, intermediate and older profiles don’t “just happen”; age maturation is deliberately manipulated to produce them – it’s what all the warehouses are about.
For industry purposes, “true quality” is just what producers happen to be making at any given time. To fully indoctrinate even all the newbies on this, the industry has a big brainwashing job to do. Unfortunately, in the absence of counterpoint from a lot of people who should know better, the industry’s got a pretty good start – which is also why the vast majority of current whisky commentary really isn’t worth shit (don’t tell me about your personal take on nuances if you don’t know basics). Such are the times we live in, while many wonder how and when things will improve. Maybe it is time to debate what the advent of the bubble bursting will look like. Is it even possible? Can even such obvious nonsense continue ad infinitum?
What did she say? something about people expecting the 18 year old to be better than the 15 year old and the 15 year old to be better than the 12 year old? What the hell are we supposed to think when the 18 costs twice as much as the 15 and three times as much as the 12? Does that not imply that older is better? Anyone who has been into whisky for any length of time is not buying the current spin on the sudden irrelevance of age. If age doesn’t matter why does age cost so much more?
I think Talisker got the message that we are not going to pay more for Storm than the venerable 10 year old. But, at least in this market, they didn’t drop the price of Storm, they jacked up the price of the 10. My ass is starting to get seriously sore.
They have medications for that…
The Older is / is not better is a different issue than NAS.
I think Jeff would say that time spent maturing matters and I don’t disagree. Some people like the flavours imparted by longer maturation and some like younger whiskies. I won’t argue that one is right and the other wrong.
But it’s the lack of age listing that allows them to jack up the price of younger whiskies, and it has caused the price of the entire genre to go up.
Why didn’t I buy Diageo stock 5 years ago?
Quite right, David, it is a different issue, but no less annoying.
It’s probably irrational, but I don’t mind paying for an 8 year old at a decent ABV presented in a so called craft presentation. I know that 8 years is the youngest and there could well be some older content in there. I do resent being charged high prices for offerings that could be predominantly made up of 3 to 5 or 6 year old whiskies and bottled at 40% ABV, chill filtered and coloured. I feel I have a right to know what I am buying. Every other food and beverage product is required to disclose its ingredients.
Well, there is the issue of scarcity, however artificially created. In most lines, there are probably fewer casks held for 15 years than 12, and fewer casks held for 18 years than 15. Older bottles are more profitable individually, but it’s volume sales of the younger stuff that keeps the lights on. I agree, though, that the “prestige”, if not quality, of older expressions continues to command a paradoxical and disproportionate premium, particularly in the context of the new “ageless” age of whisky. Age “doesn’t matter”, except at the cash register and that won’t be changing.
Older isn’t necessarily better, but it does call into question what a person calls “good”; if complexity is one of the things that you value in a whisky, you normally find more complexity with older expressions (as opposed to just the complication created by stacking multiple finishes on each other with a whisky that’s 15 or less).
That said, I agree with David, both in that “older is better” is a miscasting of the issue of NAS (which really boils down to the nonsense of people supposedly trading product information for quality while allowing the industry to “decide” where and when age matters), and that NAS has had the effect of premiumizing both younger and (declared) older expressions across the board. You now pay more for younger whisky because you can’t tell it’s young and pay more for older whisky if you want the luxury of knowing what you’re drinking. For every cask that will now go to Ardbeg An Oa going forward, that’s one less cask, by definition, that can go to the 10. More folklore/magic/local geography bullshit, while Lumsden pretends that he invented the solera. As the Scotch Guru says “maybe he’ll do the wheel next”.
Just more nonsense and, when it wrecks things, a lot of folks can look in the mirror for the explanation.
a timely coincidence
We’ll see if a trend is enough to change the game. I think not. Better NAS is still NAS.
And you Jeff might argue that it is a partial admission that age always mattered. And always will.
“You know what happens when you take the age statement off a whisky label, but don’t lower the price per bottle as a result?”
Well, yes… yes I do: you pay the same price for a whisky with less product information that can now be adulterated at will in terms of its age, regardless of what you do with its price in the future. Why doesn’t Dave Driscoll know that? Because Dave is an industry mouthpiece and is only as smart as his suppliers permit him to be. Consumers simply can’t afford to only be as smart as Dave Driscoll anymore.
As for the rest, sure, you have to understand it’s a business, but the industry “gets it” now(?) and is working “harder, better, smarter” … blah, blah, blah. It’s all getting better, the cheque’s in the mail, buy some more whisky.
“From what I’ve been tasting, many big companies are starting to put in the work.” – right but, as Dave Driscoll has already made clear, the people who sell you whisky don’t owe you the truth at all, much less if it stands in the way of sales… and Dave sells whisky:
“The K&L Spirits Journal is not a journalistic news source. It has never been, never claimed to be, nor will it ever be. This is mainly because there is no such thing as booze journalism as far as absolute truth is concerned. There is only booze romanticism or booze antagonism. The president can be held accountable for lying to the general public, but booze companies cannot be, nor should they be. Unlike publicly elected officials, it’s not their job to tell you the truth. It’s their job to sell you something. As consumers, it’s our job to decide whether or not to give them our money.” (http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com/klwinescom-spirits-blog/2014/4/19/what-isnt-the-case-with-italics.html).
And, to be clear, Dave isn’t just a fellow consumer (if he ever was) – he’s a salesman and, in his world, that gives him licence to lie. And I guess booze companies could also lie about ABVs or age statements anyway (if they provided them). It would be OK with Dave.
I don’t trust Driscoll at all, much less on questions of quality but, even if I did, “improving” quality is no excuse for the transparent shell game/bullshit that’s going on; calling something “delightful” doesn’t make its age irrelevant. Call it good, or redefine good, and you have something that’s “good”, by (re)definition. Sure, but what is it? Fluffy ad copy isn’t product information and Driscoll’s assurances, by his own admission, are completely meaningless. Some people DO get it, but Driscoll and his cronies aren’t among them.
Dave did, quite backhandedly, stumble upon the solution though:
“When customers vote with their dollars it’s a far more effective method of protest than a Twitter rant. Global corporations answer to shareholders and the bottom line, not social media.”
Yep… if you want to see a better whisky market, actually boycott NAS. Don’t just think about or talk about it, just do it. To get them to listen, YOU HAVE TO HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS.
And even Dave Driscoll knows that.
Incidentally, does anyone know who “the most basic customer” is? That’s a really weird label to put on someone.
“There are too many good options still on the market for even the most basic customer to buy a shitty bottle of NAS whisky.”
Dave forgets, of course, that the industry has also been actively pricing people toward its shittier options for some time. What, you want the tried and true, or just want to know what you’re buying, instead of somebody’s new innovative mystery Frankenwhisky with “revolutionary” casking and a complimentary Gaelic fairy tale? You’ll need a lot more money for that.
Yet if what Dave says is true, then the industry might well be in bad shape because it HAS spent a lot of time and money making shitty bottles of NAS whisky for the people “who only care about taste” and not “simply a number on the bottle”, as if taking numbers off bottles made shit taste better instead of just enabling its initial creation and overpricing through concealment.
As I said about Lore:
“And, importantly, fair enough to all those who say that an age statement WOULDN’T make this taste any better. Very true, but if the marketing climate wasn’t what it currently is, with ages hidden behind nonsense labels and people lapping up both the crazy reasoning and pricing, WOULD this be constituted as it currently is and/or priced at anything like $200?”
But that isn’t the question on Driscoll’s mind.
“The question I have is: are we living in a whisky world still built on taste?”, poses Dave.
The question I have is: according to Driscoll’s model, has it EVER been about taste for him or just about “selling you something”?
Has whisky been tasting better, in general, since the surge in NAS? Has all the “freedom” and “innovation” actually resulted in better whisky, or just in more shittier and overpriced products while paid-off assholes try to convince you that shit is the new good and everything is new and improved – while they spend most of their time drinking something better or that they had bunkered away? If Dave and other industry mouthpieces weren’t full of shit on NAS back when, why does anything need to be fixed today, and can you count on con men to do it?
Nah, this one’s on us folks… we have to fix it. Some people don’t like it, because it’s “hard” and, in some cases, because of the (sometimes covered) bridges it will burn with industry contacts, but boycott is the only way. People who tell you differently have their head in the sand or they’re selling something.
If, on the other hand, I’m wrong and nothing’s amiss, then I’m just wrong – or you have Dave’s assurances that the same industry that took advantage of you before is “listening” to you now and everything’s fixed.
But, if I’m right, and people don’t act, things will just get worse. I like my odds on which is true, even if I don’t like the possible fallout.
It’s up to us, but it takes action, not talk.
Today’s NAS synchronicity continues as Serge reviews a pile of NAS Macallans. Anyone reading this blog is like to have already read THAT blog, but even so, I wanted to make the connection to quote this bit from Serge’s review of the current Sienna:
“Isn’t this vatting younger on average than earlier batches? I was having Sienna at no less than WF 90, but that just can’t be this time.”
If Serge drops his score of Macallan Sienna by five points, does that, by Driscoll’s reckoning, constitute Macallan “upping their game?”
more like Macallan is out of this world. And it is.
“I was having a conversation this week with one of the more entrenched brand ambassadors in the Scotch business about the rise of a nobility class in the world of single malt. “Macallan has become something beyond other distilleries at this point,” I said while sipping on a sample of the upcoming Edition No. 3 release; “It’s like Château Latour or Prada,” with a gigantic following outside of the enthusiast world that dwarfs the customer base responsible for its initial success. When you reach those lofty heights as a brand, price no longer becomes a barrier. Luxury brands aren’t here to provide value. They exist to provide both inspiration and aspiration. If you told me Prada shoes aren’t worth the money, I’d probably respond by saying there are a number of less expensive brands that also provide style and comfort. But…they’re not Prada. Just like there are many single malt whiskies out there in the world today, there is only one Macallan.”
At this heights there is no upping or downing. Just lots of money.
We already have this imagined nobility. Or why is every new whisky super-premium these days?
Just a remark a little bit off the topic.
The perception of being super premium is its own reward, as is the silly idea that being unique speaks to quality. There’s only one Macallan, just like there’s only one Dalmore, Glenrothes and Donald Trump – it doesn’t say anything about quality, only that you’ve cornered your own market, by your own definition, on sourcing… yet it didn’t make Trump Steaks taste any better. It’s always been a sticking point between Forbes Magazine and Trump that the former thinks the Trump brand is vastly overvalued by the latter.
I think Glenrothes wants to be Dalmore, while Dalmore wants to be Macallan, all based on the added revenue generated while people who don’t know very much about whisky try to impress other people who don’t know very much about whisky.
That said, I sometimes do like Dave Driscoll’s approach to things in that, many times, he’s so transparently obsequious in his service of the whisky industry that he calls many of its positions into serious question. Many of the same people who would probably buy Macallan based on its reputation, just hoping for a good whisky in the absence of other information, would also probably recognize that being a brand slave to something as pretentious as Prada is just fucking stupid.
“you’ve cornered your own market”
See, this is why you can’t just skim through Jeff’s long posts.
I guess we truly are NOT done with this NAS thing yet.
I think that what people have to realize is that NAS isn’t done with them – not by a long shot. Consumers didn’t request less product information for their money, much less on some fantasy premise that it would give producers “the freedom” to make “better” whisky; it was entirely a con that was sold to them by people who knew they were lying at the time.
“Age is Nothing but a Number
The world of whisky has expanded and diversified far beyond the traditional Scotches and blends associated with the category. This year’s IWSC results have debunked the long-standing myth of ‘the older the better’, with a range of no-age statement whiskies taking the sector by storm. Turning the focus to the art of the blend, rather than the prestige tied up in age, the trophy this year was awarded to Richard Paterson’s The Dalmore Valour Single Highland Malt – a rich, chocolatey elixir with warm orange and cinnamon aromas.”
So will yo please shut up all you un-educated? 😎
Great Drams, one more industry puppet blogger I will never again read. I love that shit about “the myth of age.” They have simply created a replacement for it with “the myth of no age.” And bloggers like this asshole, entirely for their own gain, are happy to perpetuate whatever myth the industry wants to promote.
It’s interesting, because here’s a different opinion of Valour from 2015, back when it was not so highly thought of (73/100):
“Dalmore Valour is a true Dalmore: no age statement, low strength and a few tricks with casks. Like most of the new travel retail bottlings by the way, it’s not just a problem of Dalmore.
In this case, the trick is to mention ‘maturation in 30 years old Matusalem sherry casks’. Are the casks 30 years old, or does it refer to the fact that the sherry used to season the casks is 30 years old (on average)? While it may make the whisky look better, what really matters is that the whisky itself is much younger. The other trick was to blend it with whisky from ex-bourbon casks and use Port pipes for the finishing. A bit of everything for everyone.” (https://www.whiskynotes.be/2015/dalmore/dalmore-valour/).
If age truly doesn’t matter, why does Dalmore pivot off of the “30 years old Matusalem sherry casks”? How do you necessarily debunk “the long-standing myth of the older the better” by simply removing age information from something altogether, and can I help with the “debunking” by removing the labels from the products I have at home? Can I become “ageless”, or immortal, by burning my birth certificate?
Does removing the information change the products themselves, or suddenly imply that they aren’t the products they are, in large part, because of their age? If each had been aged for twice (or half) as long in cask, would they all taste the same as they do now? Why not, if age is “only a number”? NAS doesn’t “show” that age is “meaningless” to whisky, only that a lot of people simply don’t want to discuss it for their own purposes.
As a footnote, my response to Great Drams itself was “moderated” to oblivion.
Copy and paste here!
perhaps a very long shot from the NAS question to the piece of David Driscoll here
but on the other hand a simple explanation that by changing the template you can come from whisky with an age statement and much older whisky in the bottle matured in the times of the whisky lake to NAS whiskies with an average of 5yo in a jiffy.
Over simplistic perhaps but new materials e.g. dwindling mature stocks require new tools as virgin oak and new templates.
“The story of a bottle has become almost more important than the quality of the liquid within it. ”
I agree. Give me 2 equivalent bottles that I’m interested in. The one I pick up at the store will probably not taste as satisfying as the one I had to go on a few adventures to procure…
Of course, that’s a personal story… not marketing fluff I have to read. I actually find myself turned off by the legend of the spirit and become more skeptical the more I hear…
The “quality/fun/drinkability/flavour/whatever before/instead of information”… uh, “argument”… is simply bullshit in a modern era in which producers want to redefine “quality” and “fun” as just whatever they happen to be making at any given time. What goes into whisky, whether it be quality casks or time in them, translates into tangible – and costly – resources… and a lot of people currently want to invest as little as possible in their products while pretending that cutting corners will not make any difference to the final result. The best way to avoid answering questions about changes in the products is to simply eliminate the information/metrics that document/call attention to the changes so, suddenly, “ageless” whisky is all the rage. You’ll never notice if this goes from a ten to a five, just like you’d never notice if it went from a ten to a twenty(?). S’all good, man… but mostly because producers define “good” to suit themselves and to brainwash the newbies, whose analysis, and demands, of whisky often now don’t go beyond “tasty”. So goes the “necessary” dumbing down of whisky and its target demographic.
In the absence of real production information, yes, we instead now get “authentic” but irrelevant stories, legends, fairy tales and geography lessons, but Driscoll taking about the “trivialization of authenticity” enters into the theater of the absurd – and his wanting to “focus” on “flavor, fun, and drinkability” is nothing more than diversion, substituting one set of fluffy intangibles for another, all in the name of selling – not changing or improving – the same crappy products… and those to come. If ” “flavor, fun, and drinkability” is really all that matters, then why Dave’s call for transparency, and how long will it last if the information itself turns people off of new products more than the honesty turns them on to them? Stay tuned, Dave is blogging all the time. Next week’s topic: “Romance, Sense of Place, and What Transparency Simply Can’t Tell You”.
Taken a step further, those who want to know what they’re buying/drinking MUST now be the problem because, even though it IS their money, I guess many simply won’t play ball to help Dave make his sales quotas any more, which is all that matters to Dave. Maybe, in Dave’s mind, the people who want information are all collectors who don’t actually drink whisky. Even if these people WERE only collectors instead of “drinkers”, what does it matter to Dave what they do with a bottle so long as they buy it (and when did Dave really ever give a shit beyond that anyway)? Dave’s understandable problem in terms of rapid repeat business, however, simply put, isn’t one of “authenticity” (beyond his own) – it’s that quality is generally on the decline because resources are becoming too diluted and people are starting to wise up instead of drinking the Kool-Aid for him. Then again, Dave doesn’t really care what he says anyway so long as it helps sales, so analysis of his “points” can never be anywhere nearly as much fun as deconstruction of his “tactics”.
“How could so many terrible bottles, each with their own unique story, be making their way to my desk otherwise?”
Think about it a little more, Dave – part of the answer’s right in your mirror. After turning a lot of the whisky market into crap by pretending that you and others were oh SO much smarter than the people you’re selling to by spinning and supporting silly yarns, you suddenly have problems with repeat business, and not even Dave could see it coming? Perish the thought.
When you no longer really have craftsmanship, what you have LEFT is originality, which is exactly where Driscoll and others dropped us with their unending diet of the “new and exciting” rather than the “tried and true”. Remember all the crap about “innovation” and “thinking outside the box” when what a lot of it amounted to was buying cheaper casks with histories of dodgy previous contents and calling it “wood management”, and talking about colour while avoiding discussion of cask times as some enlightened protest against “ageism”? Judged by the now-irrelevant standards of yesteryear, there are many products that are being made today that are truly, and authentically, reflective of declining quality – and a lot of people repeatedly spent a lot of money, and spouted a lot of self-serving nonsense, to make it so. I put Driscoll among them, even if he never will.
“The story of a bottle has become almost more important than the quality of the liquid within it.”
So, now, here we are, thanks to all the people who helped to make it possible, Driscoll included.
when I read the Driscoll piece I was thinking of Highland Park’s Viking frenzy. An induced or false or outright faked authenticity if there ever was one. And a quality that is oriented towards their own marketing b…s more and more. In HPs favour I have to say they are not the only ones on this path.
The entire idea of “Viking whisky” is pretty paradoxical – “there were once Vikings here, so…. what?”. I mean, Orkney was annexed by Scotland in 1472, and HP didn’t come along until 1798. The funniest part of the story is that the people at HP quite baldly just went looking for a product motif, if not really a product heritage, that they could lay claim to.
But, it’s true – HP aren’t the only people looking for a topic of conversation. My current favourite is this:
Blood will always tell… until it tells you something different and that you’re wearing the wrong costume. Supposedly, one third of current Orkney residents have Viking ancestry. Boost Kyle’s personal Scandinavian ancestral makeup by 5% and you could argue that he’s “as Viking” as HP is… if, by HP’s standards, he’s not a Viking already.
more NAS yarn…
“These days age statements are becoming less important,” Murdia insists. “Younger consumers entering the category care more about other things, like the nose and the taste. You’re likely to see fewer and fewer age statements in the future.”
“Age statements are more important in single malts,” says Andrew Nash, vice president of whiskies at William Grant & Sons. “If I have a limited amount of 18-year-old Glenfiddich liquid in barrel, it makes more sense to sell that as a Glenfiddich 18-year-old at $100 a bottle or so than to sell it as part of a blended whisky under the Grant’s name for $60. You gain a real premium in selling single malt with an age statement compared with blended Scotch with an age statement.”
Small wonder I’d say. But it goes on….
“The blended Scotch business above $60 is a pretty small niche now,” Carr observes. “But it’s a great opportunity. Young people don’t really need tradition. They want quality and they want something that’s new and exciting.”
Wonder if they will find quality in the way of NAS bottlings….
„Price plays an important role in blended sales. Jack Backman, owner of the single-location Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs, Colorado, carries Dewar’s White Label in 1.75-liter bottles ($39), but it doesn’t sell well until it goes on sale at $33. His current wholesale cost is $28. “I used to be able to sell that bottle at $29.99 on ad, and it flew out of here, but the companies have been raising their prices and sales are more challenging,” Backman says. For a 1.75-liter bottle of J.&B., Backman’s wholesale cost is $33, resulting in an everyday price of $42. “At that level, customers will step over to a lower-end single malt as an alternative,” he explains. “My cost on that J.&B. was just $28 five years ago, and I could sell it for six dollars less and really move it.”
A trend towards NAS in blended Scotch is nothing new. At least not here in Europe where the Bell’s Scotch loses its 8yo age statement everytime sales of it go up. We have only a Dimple or Pinch as you know it without age statement at the moment.
Anyway I just find it strange that the drinks giants should try to transfer the NAS misery from their single malts business to the blended business as well. That will not further the sales of blended Scotch in the long run nor immediately.
$42 is a pretty good price for a 1.75 litre bottle of run of the mill blended whisky. l would like to see the 1.75 litre bottle of decent single malt that I could buy for $42.
Wow, MSM, I am very surprised that a decent single malt can be had in that size format for that price. I would have thought you might get a 750ml or a litre, but not a 1.75. Good to know.
Who said it was decent?!
I certainly wouldn’t argue that it’s the be-all/end-all of whisky opinion, but I did go to Whiskybase on Bradan Orach when I saw the 1.75 litre bottle – usually a red flag from travel retail on down (or up, as the case may be) – https://www.whiskybase.com/search?q=Bradan+Orach
I’m not sure if we’re talking the one rated 58/100, the one that’s 74.80/100, or one of the two in between. The aggregated critics’ score on Winesearcher is 88/100, while one user rating gives it 3 out of 5, so there’s a lot of different opinion on this stuff
Part of this also speaks to the inherent contradiction in today’s youth/newbie-oriented whisky market: people are attracted by the traditional allure of whisky, and particularly scotch, but they don’t particularly want to “learn about whisky” – just way too much work for folks who think that the world hangs on their next Tweet anyway – so much as they want to simply rewrite the traditions that attracted them to it in the first place. This is exactly where the industry finds such fertile ground for its modern message of “all you need to know about whisky is what you like (essentially, only what you want to know/think about whisky or can just define for yourself)”. All the rest – age doesn’t matter if you think it doesn’t, blah, blah, blah – follows directly from that. For myself, I’m not really interested in being part of a whisky “community” that is so dumb that it simply ignores the obvious physics that it is avoids being aware of, much less has any answer to – and as for “caring more about other things, like the nose and the taste”, I don’t really count saying “this is tasty” or “it smells smoky”, all while calling something “good” and doing some industry cheerleading, as analysis. Whisky is being systematically dumbed down so that more people can consider themselves well studied, while most of the real experts have simply been bought off to facilitate the process.
When the only question isn’t what effect age has on whisky, but only what effect age has on whisky sales, you know you’re on a bullshit slippery slope greased by con men. In single malt, of course, EVERYTHING is now “premium”; you pay more for older whisky because it’s older (or, today, just because you can know how old it is – premiumisation of information) and you pay more for the younger stuff because its just “so experimental and innovative” for reasons that no one can clearly explain.
I’m not disagreeing with you, but as a counterpoint to your statement “In single malt, of course, EVERYTHING is now “premium”; you pay more for older whisky because it’s older (or, today, just because you can know how old it is – premiumisation of information),” I offer this:
It might be vaguely similar to what I offered Chris a above. 🙂
Alas, I believe Jeff, like many of us, reside in the Great White North and outside of the Nirvana known as Alberta. https://www.saq.com/page/en/saqcom/scotch-single-malt/speyburn-10-years-old-highland-scotch-single-malt/368050
That’s one link to the Speyburn 10 you linked above, but you’ll note a price discrepancy and the bottle is just a wee bit smaller. If you’re not in the right market I believe Jeff’s statement stands on its own quite well.
not exactly on topic but close enough to help explaning what has been going on for a while.
And interesting reading in itself.
Click to access sherry-casks-in-the-whisky-industry.pdf
You’re right. This has nothing to do with the NAS issue.
It does, however, have much to do with transparency.
I would point out that some of the Macallan packaging I’ve seen does talk about “sherry-seasoned” casks. Others do not mention anything.
A shame they can’t transport these casks to Scotland and dump them into fresh casks to do the seasoning there. It would solve the suphur issue.
With the seasoned casks of the last 20 years or so no sulphur is used in the process. It’s a thing of the past but of course there are still some sulphury casks in rotation.
but sulphury compounds are a natural occurence when grapes or other things ferment. The notice of “Containes sulfites” on wine bottles – even when the wine never saw the inside of a barrel – and even on labels of organically produced wines does indicate that. It does not indicate that sulphur candles have been used to treat the barrels.
And thank you for the insights Ruben.
I thought this was fun: http://whiskyadvocate.com/top20/
This list is interesting in that it takes price and availability into account – we’re not exactly in a world anymore where being able to find it, let alone buy it, isn’t on the radar just because some people get samples sent to them for free.
The last paragraph, however, is a little revealing:
“Our Top 20 is a selection of whiskies worthy of your attention. The list includes great values that might otherwise be overlooked, whiskies that are best in class for their style, and highly accomplished bottles you should be looking for. Most importantly, each of these whiskies generates excitement and marks a highlight across a year of tasting.”
Value, style and quality all take a back seat in this list to “generating excitement”. Who should be excited, and why, and what does it serve are best left to the imagination, but the object of analysis and the objective of promotion, once again, apparently, face no conflict – and An Oa is as good as, just different from, Spice Tree Extravaganza (and Ardbeg 10), for that matter).
Anyway, it’s a list of stuff that some want to sell, so it’s a list of stuff that some will buy.
yeah that’s tellin’ ’em!
‘Age is just a number,’ says Logan when we caught up with him after the masterclass to talk about what’s going on in the world of Scotch whisky. ‘People have been educated that age matters, and now we’re trying to un-do the work.’ This, he says, is because the quality of the barrel has far more influence on the whisky than the amount of time spent in it.’
There is more of course and the gist is that Bruichladdich is doing NAS whiskies for the right reasons.
Yep, you can’t multivintage and provide an age statement, it’s all in the quality of the casks and age doesn’t matter.
Except age statements don’t keep anyone from multivintaging, there’s no reason to believe with increased demand that cask quality is remaining steady, let alone markedly improving, and producers track the age of every cask so they can later tell you that their NAS is really a blend of five-, seven-, eight- and nine-year-old whiskies (while you’re certainly not going to get a blend of fifteen-, seventeen-, eighteen- and nineteen-year-old product at the same price).
Across the board, consumers want smaller amounts of better-quality spirits, and craft, terroir and provenance, but they’re not supposed to care how long a product has been matured because age is “just a number”. Why isn’t the grain used “just an ingredient”, where whisky is matured “just a place” or the cask used “just a container”?
Transparency in Scotch whisky is a fairly alien concept, but bullshit is still time honoured and going strong. Sincere and honest? Guess again.
I think cask quality (and characteristics) are more important than age per say.
10 years in new oak, 10 years in a “tired” cask, in a seasoned cask, in a solera cask…these all have an effect.
Jeff, I don’t want to start your motor. It’s still X years in whatever cask. So 2 yrs in new oak is vastly different (unless you ask Livermore) than 10.
The difference is that no one is denying that cask quality has an impact vs. some industry “expert” saying that age is “just a number”. You want to talk about this aspect vs. that one while he wants to talk about this one vs….. nothing.
Even so, Bruichladdich, apparently, can’t stay on message.
“Along with these production methods and an emphasis on good wood (better quality barrels over longer ageing), terroir is one of the three fundamentals of Bruichladdich’s approach to making whisky.”
Why does “an emphasis on good wood (better quality barrels over longer ageing)” matter if age itself is just a number? Forget whether anyone actually believes this nonsense – does anyone actually edit it? Who is the intended audience and does it matter what’s typed?
Surely the effects of those various cask type come about only after the spirit spends a certain amount of time in them.
Why does that make perfect sense to schmucks like us but apparently not to the brain trust behind the whisky industry?
Marketing has put whisky knowledge in retrograde. The industry has oceans of young product it wants to sell at premium prices and talking about its age doesn’t help that, so now it’s suddenly “debatable” whether age matters – or if it matters when NAS labels are arbitrarily applied to it, because no one wants to do any real damage to the premium age-stated market either. Various whisky talking heads chime in (or sometimes take the Fifth and look the other way while they compliment the industry on something else instead) and so we now have the “age debate” the industry needed to foster to meet its sales and pricing objectives for NAS. If there was a sudden shortage of oak that required use of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-fill casks, we would then also have a sudden “debate” over “just how important IS casking, anyway?”, with the same usual suspects lined up and prepared to help out producers there as well. There is simply nothing that can prevent the industry from making – and selling – “quality” whisky, not even the removal of many of the elements that contribute to the quality and character OF whisky, because all you need is a fabricated “debate” about what “doesn’t matter” and a redefinition of “quality” using whatever elements remain.
Those who don’t buy into the nonsense have to be marginalized, ignored, called “hot heads” or they just “don’t know very much about whisky” because the “debate”, as baloney as it is, has to be kept within the parameters set for it to be useful to sales – and, if it’s of no use to sales, it’s of no use. We’re “schmucks” because that’s all the messaging can allow us to be.
“In retrospect, many previous expressions were maybe “too raw” in their casking, and going to more well-seasoned casks has allowed us to address and remedy that.” – a quote for industry reps to use, gratis, if the “casking” debate ever becomes an unavoidable economic reality.
well then…. another gem as to the importance of casks.
Component #1: Ardbeg 10
“This is the heart of Ardbeg An Oa,” says McCarron. “It really is just the absolute example of what Ardbeg distillery is.” If you’re not already familiar with Ardbeg 10, it’s a 10 year old single malt whisky matured “all in ex-bourbon [barrels], some first-fill, some second-fill, and a lot of refill”, bottled at 46% abv with no caramel colouring and no chill filtration.
“What we’re trying to do is basically keep the spirit character in this,” explains McCarron. “You want about 70% of the flavour to come from the distillery, and about 30% of the flavour to come from the casks… That’s why we use a lot of refill. It allows the whisky to mature, but it doesn’t flood it with woody flavours – that’s why it’s so intense, that’s why it’s so raw, smoky, so Islay and so Ardbeg”.”
70% of the flavour to com from the distillery vs. 80% of the flavours coming from the cask – any cask! Because no cask no whisky.
It is surely true that the more used the cask is the less influence it has on the maturing spirit. But even a cask so often refilled that is referred to as plain oak does influence the maturing spirit.
The more so the longer it is kept in that cask. Show me the cask that doesn’t matter.
And no info, of course, as to what “Ardbeg fully matured in Pedro Ximénez” and what “Ardbeg fully matured in new-char white American oak” means in terms of duration of maturation. Casks matter (because that can be talked up) while time in them doesn’t (where it can’t be talked up), and all this on the heels of Kelpie, its “Black Sea oak” and the huge transfusions of Ten required to make it drinkable at prices far eclipsing the Ten.
Maybe what whisky needs is more real journalism and fewer intimate lunches in London hotels.
the sentence of the year: Dr Bill Lumsden: ‘Many whiskies have, in my opinion, become much less mature.’ Written under Dr Lumsden’s picture at
But further down he puts the responsibility to an unlikely source.
Lumsden says: ‘The establishment of so many new distilleries has inevitably led to the bottling of three-year-old stocks, so from this perspective, many whiskies have, in my opinion, become much less mature.
‘While some of these have been interesting, most do not have this overall sense of “roundness” that I believe perfect whisky should have, and it is only with a reasonable ageing (at least six to seven years, in my view) that malt whisky will truly become mature.
‘There should be a nice balance between the raw spirit character, the sweetness from the wood extractives, and fragrance from cask-driven oxidation. Very young whisky cannot achieve this.’
6-7 years is not immature?
In this context a rather strange sounding prediction from
“All in a number
For the past few years, non-age statement whisky has stolen the headlines, but this year the age statement will come back with a bang, with a host of new products from some big names. This is also the year of the independent bottler, with the number increasing and the demand for their products rising as people look for whiskies that are limited.”
“Dewar’s 25 Year Old is a new premium blend that will replace Dewar’s Signature in travel retail. They are replacing a NAS expression with an age statement, that’s nice to hear.”
A Happy New Year for everyone ! (?)
the sentence of the year: Dr Bill Lumsden: ‘Many whiskies have, in my opinion, become much less mature.’ Written under Dr Lumsden’s picture at
But further down he puts the responsibility to an unlikely source.
Lumsden says: ‘The establishment of so many new distilleries has inevitably led to the bottling of three-year-old stocks, so from this perspective, many whiskies have, in my opinion, become much less mature.
‘While some of these have been interesting, most do not have this overall sense of “roundness” that I believe perfect whisky should have, and it is only with a reasonable ageing (at least six to seven years, in my view) that malt whisky will truly become mature.
‘There should be a nice balance between the raw spirit character, the sweetness from the wood extractives, and fragrance from cask-driven oxidation. Very young whisky cannot achieve this.’
6-7 years is not immature?
In this context a rather strange sounding prediction from
“All in a number
For the past few years, non-age statement whisky has stolen the headlines, but this year the age statement will come back with a bang, with a host of new products from some big names. This is also the year of the independent bottler, with the number increasing and the demand for their products rising as people look for whiskies that are limited.”
“Dewar’s 25 Year Old is a new premium blend that will replace Dewar’s Signature in travel retail. They are replacing a NAS expression with an age statement, that’s nice to hear.”
A Happy New Year for everyone ! (?)
As was said in “Back to Barter” some time ago (http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?p=3178)
“The reality is that there are less and less great whiskies being released. No, this is not a cynical statement meant to evoke the ‘decline’ arguments we engage in here so frequently. It’s simply a statement that whiskies from a decade ago were arguably of a consistently higher quality. No finger pointing. Just an acknowledgment that before demand took off through the stratosphere there was a lot more mature whisky on the market.”
So it seems that Dr. Lumsden might well be on to something there, and there’s little rocket science involved – until you try to talk about whisky that’s getting worse overall without acknowledging that we’re in a period of overall decline, or that Ardbeg’s new offerings are becoming “more raw” while those of other producers are “too raw”.
The SW article itself is, of course, bullshit. Everyone downplays age as if ten seconds in a perfect cask would give you “maturity”, because to say that age matters to whisky – a factor that every producer tracks on every cask – means that age should matter to the consumer and NAS is left without anywhere to hide. Wood is conveniently everything where it’s just a matter of calling a cask “high quality” anyway, but time in wood in a time-sensitive process that no one wants to acknowledge AS time sensitive is simply talked around. Such is the honesty of whisky’s current experts. I’m sure that all the very best casks are going to Laphroaig QC and that all that musty old 30 is being overoaked in substandard casks – even though there was much less pressure on supplies of quality casks 30 years ago than today, when everybody is scrambling to make their next bourbon-vanilla-flavoured wood-managed “discovery”.
“Meanwhile, for Glaser, maturity in NAS is a non-issue. ‘The issue is not the maturity, but more the price,’ he says. ‘The drinker is knowledgeable enough to realise that the whisky is younger, and yet it is offered at the same price as an older whisky. Why are you being charged more?’”
While he’s right on the point of pricing, Glaser should get out a little more if he doesn’t think that maturity is an issue with many an NAS expression – or he and Lumsden should do a tasting session together.
“Let’s give the last word to Richard Paterson… ‘Maturity brings complexity with charm. But to enjoy the maturity of your whisky, you also have to drink it properly, hold it in your mouth long enough.’”
I’ve watched Paterson spit out a lot of Whyte and Mackay, so I think that speaks for itself.
I know I know.. and yet…
I was quite shocked that Edrington of all the whisky companies in the world will issue a new whisky range with age statements.
Did I read correctly?
“The move is a departure from the vintages – bottlings containing whisky distilled in one single year – Glenrothes has become renowned for since introducing them in 1993.
A spokesperson for Glenrothes said: ‘Premium drinkers are more confident when choosing a whisky with an age statement, as it acts as an important cue in navigating the range.
‘What’s more, to them, the age statement is indicative of a whisky with better taste and a higher quality.’”
That shocking news in connection with the fact that more Macallans appear with age statement albeit not neccessarily better than the NAS bottlings they replace lets one doubt if there really a propper re-education programme has bein going on the last 10+ years.
It could be simply the fact that all that malt that was projected to be drunk by Indian and Chinese people sat and sits in the warehouses and never made it to the Eastern part of the world. During its wait it has become pretty overexpensive, though.
“The move is a departure from the vintages – bottlings containing whisky distilled in one single year – Glenrothes has become renowned for since introducing them in 1993.”
And maybe a wise, or at least logical, move – vintages alone never made much sense to me, particularly in the modern NAS era. This is a distilled product, so I don’t really worry if it was a particularly good year for the grapes, especially if the duration of distillate casking is “irrelevant” when casking has such a profound effect on the distillate. If distillate vintage matters, then what was subsequently done with that distillate matters at least as much, if not a helluva lot more.
“A spokesperson for Glenrothes said: ‘Premium drinkers are more confident when choosing a whisky with an age statement, as it acts as an important cue in navigating the range.”
True, but it’s also a sign of confidence that both drinkers and producers are on the same round Earth within the same physical reality. This is a spirit aged because of the obvious different effects that can be produced in that spirit as a result of the manipulation of the duration of aging. Thus age matters, is tracked by the producer because it matters, and should be declared because it matters. People who don’t understand that are hurting whisky because their getting hung up in Whisky 101, or refusing to graduate as a favour to the industry, is dumbing down the field for everyone else. In a time when gushing positive opinion in whisky is as suspect as it commonplace – and there’s a relationship there – people saying how much they do or don’t like a whisky simply isn’t a substitute for information dealing with what went into the whisky itself. For everything that we’ve “discovered” in whisky lately, the idea that wiser consumers make better markets continues to elude us.
‘What’s more, to them, the age statement is indicative of a whisky with better taste and a higher quality.’
Not necessarily – some people might value the complexity which more aging tends to produce in properly casked products, some might like the simplicity and vibrancy of youth. Many like both, but many also like knowing WHICH it is that they just picked off the shelf and are about to pay for. Many like to know if they are buying a new or used car for reasons that are not identical, yet somewhat similar. I may like a distillery’s 18 and 10, but want to skip its 12, 15 and anything it bottles over 25, while someone else might have exactly the opposite take. Age statements help us to keep out of each other’s way and keep producers honest about what’s being sold and for how much. An age statement isn’t, in itself, an indication of quality, but it is an indication that the producer can be honest about important production information that will affect product performance.
The real problem with the industry’s age vs. NAS reeducation program was that the industry only did it half ass for, as always, reasons of its own. The industry knew that it could never convince many drinkers, both experienced and inexperienced, that age didn’t matter to what they were buying, so the industry tried to have it both ways – age matters on some releases, but not on others. It helped to premiumize a lot of young product, both on its own and in huge dollops in multivintaged releases, usually at the continued cost of making various whisky experts look like idiots to such a degree that most of them don’t/won’t discuss age anymore.
Glenrothes’ move is a welcome one, even if the marketing continues to skew and obscure some of the issues around age and age statements, and it’s a big step forward over anyone saying NAS was the result of “running out of numbers”.
it is not really a comparrison comparing Glenrothes with Macallan because it is the same overpremiumisation-happy company which is parent.
But even there the age statement is moving towards a new hayday.
How much age matters sometimes you can see here.
Enjoy! And please let me know your opinions when you have tasted yourself through this new standard range.