No one really gets a pass in regards to the NAS thing, but there are a couple of distilleries (Tulli, Ardbeg, Laddie, ‘Glassaugh, etc) that have a slightly better reason than others for doling out these contrived concoctions. Namely, sustained closures that led to substantial production gaps. What they end up with then is a finite amount of older whisky and a growing store of very young whisky. The logical options then become twofold: release the old stocks at high prices and decimate your ‘sure thing’ or release immature and underripe malts and reap the wrath of poor reviews that are almost guaranteed to follow. The latter, of course, means that you may tarnish the brand and risk not recovering your reputation. The former means that you alienate many due to price point and run yourself out of mature bonded malt. Neither option sounds too appealing, right?
Here’s where things get shady. You can also choose to ignore the two well-trodden paths and forge ahead on a new path of marrying the old and the young. Doing so means that almost no one in their right minds is willing to put a 7 year age statement on something that may be substantially composed of 20 year old whisky. And as we all know, the SWR states that only the youngest component malt may be stated on the bottle. Hence we end up with malts like Sovereign. And pretty much any NAS release ever.
But enough of the philosophical nattering for the moment. We’ve heard this story many times.
Sovereign is an easy handshake of a whisky. A pleasant meeting – enjoyable enough while it lasts – but not likely to make much impression in the long term. Nothing wrong with that. I count Compass Box Asyla in the same stable, and thoroughly enjoy that one when I have it too. These are just not whiskies that keep me loyal, however. They’re a little too simple and one-dimensional to make me want to buy ’em. Good enough stuff though. Well made.
In simplest…kind of a meandering little dram that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
Nose: Mandarins in syrup. Lemon. Tangerine. Quite clean and very naked. Touch of ginger and pepper. Vanilla. White bread. Actually a rather pleasant nose.
Palate: Flat. A notch down from what the nose would have us believe. Slightly drying after a moment or two…like a green tea in ways. Grassy. Pancakes. Vanilla-heavy cream. Quite sweet, but not as easy to pin down fruits as on the nose. Fair enough.
Thoughts: This is a breakfast malt. Nothing offensive, but nothing really special either. Exactly what an entry level malt should be.
– Images & Words: Curt
I first came across this distillery when I saw an article about a glass Chanukah menorah that was filled with Tullabardine and then when drained it was bottled and sold to raise money for charity.
There was a single cask 18 YO sold at a Calgary chain called Crowfoot Liquor in 2011 (I believe) and my brother in law and I got a chance to try it. I really don’t remember much but I liked it, and a bottle ended up under the tree for me that year. I still have it, and I suppose one day I’ll give it a try…
I don’t think I’ve had any since.
Breakfast? now there’s an early start…
Toast, Tullabardine, milk, and crunchy chocolatey cocoa puffs!
“Doing so means that almost no one in their right minds is willing to put a 7 year age statement on something that may be substantially composed of 20 year old whisky.” – all the more reason to reform labeling law, except that many of the same people who will tell you NAS is “necessary” in this context are the very same people opposing the reform of labeling law. I’ve never been a booster for the “only a teaspoon of young stuff ruins the age statement” line, even as the industry tells me how it’s running out of older stock (and so I’ll have to pay MUCH more for that), because, if true, that means we’re really not talking all that many bottles of “unfairly” labeled whisky or we’re really not talking about teaspoons anymore (if we ever were). After all, the same people spinning these yarns will also tell you that age only matters in certain (marketing) contexts, so their expertise and/or veracity in the area of whisky is pretty suspect.
Age only matters if it turns a profit…
Exactly why I don’t trust more than 90% of people writing about whisky today: either they’re defending that nonsense to help out the industry or ignoring that nonsense to help out the industry. When you ask a whisky pundit “what’s the central issue with NAS?” and they tell you it revolves around issues of quality – yet they’ll quickly tell you, in another context, that age information tells you nothing about quality anyway – you know you’re being flimflammed. Today’s NAS whiskies wouldn’t be any better in quality for having age information (I can take the entire label OFF a bottle at home and it’s still the same whisky), but they would far more honest about admitting how they became the whiskies they are, and what people are paying for – and they wouldn’t be denying the reality of cask physics in letting on that age doesn’t matter. People who really haven’t heard of cask effects or don’t know that they’re time sensitive aren’t whisky experts.
Reformation of labeling law is all I really want, to be honest. Well, that and fair prices.
You’re in good company in terms of what you want, and none of it is unreasonable; the question, as always, is what people are willing to do to get it.
Quit buying? Not my first choice, but fast becoming the only option.
Yeah, people who want more product information, or better values, won’t get it by saying that anything less is OK through their buying. 7,000 backing Compass Box hasn’t done anything to date; 700 speaking out on whisky forums, endorsing and arguing for boycott, would look like a revolution compared to the steady fare of “What bottle have you opened recently?” and “Do you think that Dalmore is smoky?”.