Nov 022015
 

Let the shit hit the fan…

 

Let’s recap how things have been playing out of late:

NAS whiskies are still hitting the market with no signs of slowing.  Our mate and stalwart voice of reason, Serge, has taken NAS whiskies to task time and again on whiskyfun via little throwaway comments that aren’t so throwaway after all.  Glenfiddich – and in particular Ian Millar – had won me over big time by coming out in vocal support of age statements on whiskies in an interview with our mate Tabarek Razvi on The Malt Activist (until the recent Original 1963 NAS, that is).  The ever-candid Dom Roskrow has offered loud and resonant disapproval of the NAS principal on his blog.  Compass Box has locked horns (albeit rather gently) with the SWA again.  And more and more individuals are utilizing the comments sections on reviews, features and social media to express their disdain for what is quite rightly perceived as industry interests directly contrary to their own.

And on the flipside?  Well…here’s the thing…there’s an unbelievable silence from some of those that should be speaking out.  Those that have a vested interest in seeing the spirit retain its integrity and quality.  People who seem to have accepted the Matrix as opposed to the ugly reality of the machine that runs it.  Instead of fighting the machine, so many seem scared shitless that the wellspring dries up and perhaps their spheres of influence will shrink.  For shame, I say, as it is a disservice to themselves, us and the spirit.

Now, silence is one thing, but there’s more to it than silence.  There’s an undercurrent of actual industry apologism that I simply can’t wrap my head around.  I mean some of the whisky industry periphery (writers, bloggers, etc) who actually come out in defense of the industry in the face of criticism from the consumer.  If it’s simply vitriolic amateur mudslinging, I get it, but time and time again we’re seeing eloquent, intelligent, reasoned and impassioned arguments made only to be rebuffed by those one would logically assume to be on the same team.  Ok, so be it.  We’ll make it an ‘us and them’ thing if need be.

So where does that leave us?

Well…I know this might disappoint one or two of ‘the resistance’ out there, but I have to change tactics.  My initial approach was to talk about the issue as loud and long as I could, but to draw no attention to the whiskies themselves, either via reviews or purchases.  A boycott, in other words.  While I stand behind not giving the companies money for these whiskies that I stand in moral opposition to, I think I was wrong to stop talking about them.  The proof is in the pudding, they say, and I see time and time again that debates and comments are rife beneath reviews of the malts themselves.  So…can I have more influence by not talking about them at all?  Or can I swing a heavier hammer by writing them up and using the opportunity to state time and time again why we stand in opposition?  To me the latter seems like a more effective way of getting the message out there.  It also allows avenue after avenue for you, the reader, to engage in debate and to allow the brands a window into what we truly detest in their M.O.

Is it almost like an sin of omission on my part if I don’t use my voice properly?  Does it suggest I’m doing less than I should?  Maybe.  Think about the finale of Seinfeld.  You can watch the shit going down and not speak up (and be as tacitly guilty as all the rest for the decline of our beloved blood of Scotland), or you can raise a voice and let the brands know we don’t cotton to this fleecing…and why.

They are listening.  If you’re at all doubtful, have a hunt for the absolute horseshit that Diageo’s ‘Head of Whisky Outreach’ Nick Morgan spouted a while back.  I refuse to link to it again here, as the last thing I want to do is give a voice to such utter rubbish.  I’ve always disagreed with the idea that everyone is entitled to an opinion on any given subject.  Instead I believe that everyone is entitled to an informed opinion, and the fact of the matter is that Morgan’s opinion is nothing more than brand propaganda and condescending ‘contrarians are simply ignorant’ hogwash.  In fact…we’re done talking about him here.

Effective immediately, you will see reviews of NAS malts here on ATW again, but you can bet your ass they will not be politically correct little snippets that the brands will want to use for their marketing departments.  Sorry.  Such is.  Even if the marks are fair (I have to do that) the commentary will not be an endorsement.  It couldn’t be.  I simply can’t agree with the philosophy that supports the concept.

There are simply too many NAS malts on the shelves nowadays to stay silent on them.  Effectively we are giving the brands a pass to continue if we don’t speak out against them at every opportunity.  Let’s face it…I cherry pick my reviews anyway.  My silence on a subject means curious parties will find the info elsewhere.  In which case they’re likely being fed press releases, distiller’s official notes and apologist drivel.  I’d prefer there was a contrary opinion online somewhere than nothing touting the negatives, wouldn’t you?

As to how I spend my own money…no change.  I won’t be stocking my shelves with Talisker Storm, Oban Little Bay, Pulteney Navigator, etc.  This will keep me firmly in line with exactly what many of you are still doing.  My money will be reserved for age-stated whiskies and brands I don’t feel are taking the piss.  What I’m saying is that if some of these NAS malts come my way via tastings, friends, events, whatever, I may review them.  I WON’T, however, buy them.

So has my stance softened?  I’d argue not.  My financial actions are consistent, my weapon of choice is changing.  In the words of poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox: “To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.”

What do you think?  Am I right?Vendetta

 

 – Curt

 Posted by at 9:56 am

  113 Responses to “Sins Of Omission”

  1. Hey, I think it’s for the best. In fact, do the Glenlivet NAS Nadurras right off the bat. I can definitely tell you the Oloroso one is way young and not as good as the other NAS sherry monsters, even after months of air time. Although not sherried, the 16 YO Nadurra blows it away (and is cheaper). That would be a blow against the empire.

    Also disturbing to me, besides the SWA going after Glaser, is the replacement of some NAS whiskies with lower ABV NAS versions at higher prices (Hello, Ardmore!). And going to younger AS versions, again at higher prices (Ditto, Balvenie). I’m at the “Frick you” point and have dramatically cut back my scotch purchases, drinking up my stock and buying bourbon. The only scotch I’ve bought the last few months has been discontinued versions that are still at their old price. I refuse to pay more for worse whisky!

  2. Bravo and Bravo!

  3. Hi Curt,

    I think your right we need to speak up and let the suppliers know that NAS products might be out there but should not be the norm, considering prices keep going up and up. Here in Australia price gouging seems to be a regular occurrence. Good review on the Glenfarclas 25, just bought a bottle, I think it’s good value even at 200 Aussie dollars.

    Keep up the good work, I enjoy your site very much.

  4. Curt, I have a lot of respect for you and for your work on this site. But I gotta say….not sure how I feel about this new development.

    You’re in a position to come across more varieties of whiskies than the rest of us. It just is a fact. You’re well known by the industry, and you’ve got connections. And you run a club that has the option of showcasing NAS product without violating your personal ban.

    Most of us who want to taste a new whisky, well, we have to buy a bottle. So here’s the question:

    Are you seriously advocating that we NOT buy any NAS whiskies that you give good reviews to?

    Say you have your hands on an A’Bunadh batch 55 or whatever, and it merits a 92/100, do you really think that reviewing it and criticizing its NAS status will stop people from buying it? They’ll buy it more than ever!

    If you’re planning to review bad NAS whiskies to highlight the deficiencies, then OK. But giving good reviews to NAS whiskies, whether you buy them yourself or (WORSE!) if you don’t, that won’t get the job done.

    Again, in the same way that saying “don’t buy (good) NAS whisky, oh, but I have plenty stashed away that I’ll drink” weakens the message, this could potentially completely discredit it.

    If you review NAS whiskies as good, even by criticizing NAS, you are giving them publicity and supporting the genre in general.

    • Some good points Skep, but personally I’d like to see more A’Bunadh reviews. I don’t get to try more than one, maybe 2 new batches a year and like to read Curt’s reviews. Tasting vicariously. As it were.

      I would love to hear about batch 42 as I gave my bottle away recently to a friend, untasted.

      I am really looking forward to Jeff’s response…

    • Thanks, Skeptic. And I have much respect for you as well.

      Let’s go back a step though…

      First things first…I am not advocating anyone do anything. I appreciate the efforts of those who do, but ultimately how you choose to spend your hard-earned money is up to you. I do what I do (this whole ATW thing) for two reasons now: 1) for my own personal satisfaction and ego, and 2) because there are people who are actually listening now and want more. At the end of the day though I’ll make the decision regarding path forward on my own merit, not because I worry about how someone will perceive either my intentions or my personal standing. Which leads me to…

      I have a job to do, albeit an unpaid one. I am a whisky writer of a sort. There are readers/drammers who want information. By only sharing the word on good whisky or that which I find aligns with my own personal philosophies I am only telling a part of the story. This is no different than the evening news only sharing details on the sunshine and roses stuff. Some of the most vocal of readers and commenters here have repeatedly clamoured that information is power and that it needed to be in the consumers’ hands. Here’s an example for you: the newest batches of a’bunadh fucking suck. They are more bitter and less fruity than earlier ones and the price has jumped $30 locally. People should hear this and Aberlour should know that we see decline. Is it still a low to mid 80s whisky? Probably (depending on the batch), but I can do more damage with these words than I can by simply not discussing this.

      As to what I have access to or what others don’t…sorry ’bout that. I don’t begrudge anyone driving a Beamer even though I don’t. I do NOT get industry freebies. I share amongst friends…I created a whisky club that has grown to 100 members locally…I have attended (and hosted) countless events over the years…and ultimately I have been a tireless proponent of the drink for close to a decade now, even though I’ve drunk it for longer than that. If I have access to stuff it is primarily through years of efforts. And no…I am not pulling NAS bottles off my shelves. They are staying dutifully corked (and some given away, to be honest).

      I may be contrary to some, but at the end of the day I’ll use my soapbox to say what I want. I built it one stick at a time. 😉

      …and yes…I too await Jeff’s opinion.

      Cheers, all.

      C

      • Really? I heard rave reviews of of the A’Bunadh 47 and 49. I was going to open those on my corresponding birthdays. Oh well…

  5. So far I am with Skeptic on this one. It’s either a full on boycott or it ain’t. I do get your rationale, Curt, but I think what you are proposing will send a very mixed message to your readers. Let’s be honest here; none of us is going to quit buying A’bunadh, Uigeadail or Macallan CS, boycott or not. But Talisker Storm, Oban Little Bay, Glenlivet Founders Reserve, etc. etc.- not required on the voyage as long as there is a much better AS alternative.

    • Chris,

      I for one will no longer buy Macallan CS… unless I win the lottery. The stuff is rarer than hen’s teeth now. A friend of mine rounded up pretty much the last of it in Alberta that was available under $80 a year ago,

      • Bob,

        I have to echo your comment on Macallan CS. I originally saw bottles that stated they were 10 years old, but later bottles had no such age statements. Didn’t matter. I love the stuff. I happened into a small, dusty liquor store which doesn’t get a lot of business in Ohio and they had two bottles on the shelf. I scarfed them up along with one duty one the owner had in back. Wonderful stuff. To make it last – I pour a dram of Macallan 12 sherry cask and mix with one half a dram of my stashed CS.. Wonderful!!!

        I’ve often wondered if the move to NAS is why we no longer have aged CS Macallan. Or any cask strength Mac which I used to buy for under $100 US. They think an awful lot of their new line of Macallan NAS’s valued by “color” (gosh forbid)……all of them more than $100 and not nearly as tasty. (Just my humble opinion)

  6. Hmm,

    Interesting points, all of these.

    I respect your position Curt. This is your site. If the Libertarian party won a majority government you’d probably have the support of the majority of Canadians with you.

    But we live in a society where just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we have top, and just because we have to, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to do things in a certain way.

    “I have a job to do, albeit an unpaid one”. Probably, but this site isn’t it. You don’t HAVE to do it. It’s your wish to do it. And you can do it anyway you want.

    But it being your site doesn’t give your content credibility. It’s what you choose to do on your site that gives you credibility.

    For instance, you say you don’t censor comments. Judging from what I’ve read here, it seems like a truthful (if sometimes unfortunate) statement. It gives you credibility.

    To be honest, part of your reply to Skeptic sounded dangerously like you were acquiring Ralfy’s inflated sense of importance. I think that as his humility has faded, so has his popularity and his impact. His jump the shark moment was his Movember tirade… so beware, the fade can be slow and painful…

    It’s hard to stand on both sides of the fence.

    If you truly want to oppose the NAS trend, I would recommend not reviewing it, just arguing against it. By reviewing it you legitimize it. If you only review the bad stuff you can be accused of ignoring the good stuff. If you honestly review the good stuff it WILL prompt people to buy it.

    You can’t say this is good stuff, but don’t buy it. That crushes your credibility.

    I could go on, but my point is clear. This is your site. I thank you for letting us share your views on YOUR site.

    You can do what you want on YOUR site. But what you choose to do will have an impact on how your visitors perceive you.

    • Thanks for the comment and insight, Athena. Scathing, but no less honest and appreciated for it. Please don’t mistake my slight annoyance with self-importance. I AM harbouring a slight degree of indignation after being repeatedly told here how I should govern my own stance/boycott. Any line I’ve ever drawn in the sand here on ATW has been of my own volition; in the past and in this instance.

      In short…I saw a shortcoming in my own tactics and chose to address this issue in a different way. Whether others agree with this approach or not is, with all due respect to everyone, beside the point. I value the opinions, but in the end I’ll make a decision based on my views, not by way of buckling to appease others.

      I don’t straddle a fence, as suggested above. I am firmly opposed, as I’ve been all along. Further, I am not telling anyone not to buy anything. I’ve already said that. The buyer’s conscience can be their guide as to what they should buy. I am trying to provide a reasoned argument here on ATW. If I don’t do it by presenting all information I am just as bad as the industry in doing nothing more than presenting partial info that comes across propaganda-esque and IN MY OPINION seems rather disingenuous.

      Let’s look to one of the greats: Serge has made no small secret of his NAS dislike, but he has continued to review them WHILE calling them out over and over again.

      Take it or leave it, but it is what it is. 10 months ago I took a hardline stance. I said then (as you can see in that post) that there was no timeline set for a ‘boycott’. And in effect that hasn’t changed. I won’t buy it, but I won’t stay quiet when I should shout from the rooftops that we’re all being scammed.

      …and you’re completely right. I love and respect my readers/visitors. I hope whether or not they agree with this approach they see some value in it. While many do nothing I’ll still be fighting against this NAS charge.

      Hasta la victoria siempre.

      C

  7. Hi there,

    a multi-layered piece Curt.

    First – it is your show you run it as you see fit.

    There is merit in the thought that reviews of NAS or any other whisky gives geeks nerds and other folk an opportunity to comment broadly on a bottling. If the right people read these comments remains to be seen.

    There is a chance that a NAS-ty bottling will be reviewed favourably. After all many NAS whiskies are nice enough for what they are. That they are too expensive for what they might be is evident.

    That they are smoke-screens most of the time is evident as well – at least to me and in my most humble opinion.

    I said it before that I think that many so called NAS offerings do not consist of young unaged whisky alone so that the – misleading – term NAS would be justified.
    Many of them would not be palatable if they were cobbled together of only young basic whiskies so there you have a dishonesty in these bottlings that age does very well matter. It matters for the very young components they start with if they are three four or six years old.
    And it matters even more for the older components in the sense that age does matter in them so that they can pull the NAS whisky up to a level were you can swallow and stand it. Sometimes even enjoy them.

    Not for nothing does the whisky industry emphasize the newfound freedom of the master blender, a poor mistreated creature that was held by water and bread only in dark and damp warehouses chained to casks of at least 20 plus years of storage time and were forbidden to get even near any younger cask for the better part of the last 15 years.

    If there are older whiskies in a NAS offering for the reason given above this more mature stuff is watered down by the younger components but might – might I say – justify the prices that are asked for NAS whiskies these days. If so I want to know what I buy and why I should pay so much.
    I would have less issues with all that NAS-tiness if it had a price point to match. As it doesn’t count me out.

    So please excuse me Curt if I do not take part on discussions on specific NAS bottlings – I most probably won’t have an informed opinion because I do not spend money on such whiskies.

    The same holds true for more and more 10-12yo standard bottlings that are moved to the price range of 40.- € plus by the whisky industry. I stopped buying bottles as replacements for emptied bottles that two years ago were below the 30.- € mark.
    And I stopped buying new 10-12yo bottlings like the Last Great Malts from Bacardi for 50.-€ plus just to try them. I would have done that even five years ago when such new bottlings were around 30.- € but the pricing level that is seen as normal today is much too high.

    So for me boycotting is easy – I just refuse to overpay for any whisky out there.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  8. If NAS is the scourge of the scotch industry, then the proof should be in the pudding so to speak. I say review them and show them to be what they truly are. If they are great, great. If they are awful, say so. Sure reviews influence people, but I think ultimately people have to find out for themselves that NAS tends to be a slippage in quality. When people learn their lesson with their own cash, they will act accordingly. Example – last year I had the chance to buy either Laddie 10 (which I had had before and loved) or the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley (fancy, schmancy new bottling). I chose the BSB, was greatly disappointed by it…then watched as the Laddie completely disappeared from the shelves. Buyer beware yes, but I really felt like I had been cheated when the Laddie was dropped…and was replaced by a more expensive NAS bottling.

    I don’t begrudge the industry for putting out NAS bottlings, provided they are at a suitable price point. If they are cheaper than the lowest age statement equivalent (i.e. Bowmore SB and Auchentoshan AO coming in cheaper then their 12 yo counterparts) then they are at least offering an entry point to people who can ill afford age stated single malts. Don’t people who are buying in this category deserve some critical reviews too?

    The one example I can point to of reviews really leading me to stay away from NAS bottlings is Talisker. I love Talisker and I really wanted to get into buying many of their newish NAS offerings (Storm, Dark Storm etc). I was basically trolling reviews everywhere and looking for any excuse I could to buy them. And I couldn’t find one. Reviews always tended to put the 10yo higher and yet the price point is still basically the same. My point is – without those reviews of NAS product, the curiousity would probably have bit me and I would have bought those bottlings up.

    Conversely, what of the outstanding Cairdeas 2015? No review for a whisky that yes is NAS, but everyone and their brother knows is almost 12 year old?

    If anything, in some cases I think we just need reviews of sh!tty NAS products just for laughable entertainment. We whisky geeks are a super serious lot and could stand to take it down a notch. Didn’t you once review a whisky that comes in a squeeze pouch or something like that? Outstanding!

    • You don’t need NAS whiskies to review a piece of S—. I have a bottle of Lambertus 10 YO Belgian whisky that can take on the worst NAS and win the worst whisky competition…

  9. Good write-up, Curt. Over at Edmonton Scotch Club, where we have a tiny fraction of your readership and your scotch knowledge, I have had similar debated with myself in regards to NAS scotch. I agree 100% with you that it is a bad trend and not good for the industry. But, on the other hand, I have tasted some fantastic NAS scotch that I have let people know about.

    My issue is this…if and NAS scotch is $100 vs. a 14 year scotch for the same price…why is it $100? Are they using first fill barrels as opposed to refills? Is there something unique about the barley etc..? For me, this all comes back to labelling. If all scotch producers were willing to take the step Compass Box took in labeling their whisky and revealing everything about it (casks used, % of aged spirit in the bottle, etc) then the industry would be better for it.

    Let’s take the Bunnahabhain Ceobanch, for example. I love that scotch. I don’t love that it is NAS. If they said right on the bottle that it was a 5 year old whisky matured in first fill bourbon barrels, I would have a much easier time spending $100 on it. Compass Box, in my opinion, is trying to lead by example…we just need the rest of the industry to follow. First step…change the SWA and EU labelling law that only allows the youngest aged spirit to be listed on the bottles.

    Here was a post I made on the Labeling topic… http://scotchclubyeg.com/my-take-on-a-ridiculous-scotchwhisky-labeling-law/

    • OK, but as Jeff (who has been strangely silent on this thread) has said, the great Scotch is not great because it is NAS, but because whatever they have done with it is great. So why not tell us what that was?

      We know that single malts are not reproducible using similar stills and wood even 1 km from the original distillery. A lot of what gives us consistency is the availability of master blenders and batch libraries to ensure the various casks come together to give us what we want (especially for the mass-produced entry level offerings). SO giving out the “recipe” doesn’t actually put the distillery at risk of cheap imitations. No one will produce an Ardbek or Glonfiddich (like a Rolox watch or something).

      So let the companies come clean. If nothing else it will allow us to talk about the whisky again.

      • “The great Scotch is not great because it is NAS, but because whatever they have done with it is great. So why not tell us what that was?” – thanks for the assist – I think that lot of people are going to be very busy repeating that from now on (see below).

        • To be fair… I did attribute the comment…

          • Yeah, but I think you also now believe it – not that you might admit it. Cheers!

          • Well it’s common sense… but I’m still willing to put my trust in people to give me something good without telling me what’s in it. Like a chef I trust, or my wife…not Diageo.

            When it comes to Industry, I think they have the right to obfuscate, and we have the right to not buy. But it seems that the power differential is a little too lopsided in this case…

    • Travis,
      The bottle of Bunna Ceobanach I saw had a 10 year age statement … on the back label.

      • I was going to mention this as well. It could be that they put that it was aged for at least 10 years in ex bourbon on the back label so that they could omit that on a future batch and it would not be missed – but Ceobanach Batch 1 did have an age statement.

      • My bad! It is a very nice whisky! Haha. Bad example, though.

  10. Hasta la victoria siempre – just as well, because solum mortui finem belli viderunt, especially using these tactics.

    Is the point to confuse your enemies by baffling your allies? More exposure for NAS products at the price of “added criticism” that the former format NEVER actually “kept” ANYONE – you, me, or anybody – from writing here in the first place, either in passing or in editorial form? If I was selling/promoting NAS in the industry, I’d take that trade in a heartbeat, but I’m not in marketing and the proof’s in the pudding anyway.

    In terms of quality, reviews will likely be a wash, of course – some good, some bad – but all WILL tend to distract from the main issue: that NAS, ITSELF, is a lie about the nature of age maturation, a point that, lately, I’ve largely been making alone here anyway (although I do appreciate the venue TO make it). No NAS whisky is good or bad in quality because of its label and no NAS whisky’s quality can be good enough to justify withholding its age and so essentially claim that its age is “irrelevant” to the character of that, or of any, whisky”. Relative quality, and by extension, value, aren’t the issue. You knew this when you originally wrote against NAS – remember stuff like “there are good NAS whiskies, but none is good BECAUSE of its label”, etc.? Now you’ve developed amnesia, so we’re going to a have new debate about old and irrelevant things in terms of the flaws of NAS. You’re going to “prove” something about NAS as a class of whisky in terms of its quality? Sorry, can’t be done: NAS isn’t a process or a type of whisky and you can’t generalize about the quality of whisky behind NAS labels any more than you can about whisky behind labels with a bit of blue on them.

    In terms of tactics, you’re getting ready to put the debate on rails and drive it straight into the mud (just like Oliver Klimek did), all around relative and subjective points of “is this a good whisky, or better than that one, or better than the last one”, when the central point about NAS is that it simply and fundamentally DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, whether applied to a good, bad, or indifferent whisky: that age influence, good or bad, is not, cannot be, “label dependent”. Once the debate’s in the mud of unrelated quality judgment/label information combinations, it’ll be interesting to see you get it out – or will you just leave it there, and like other bloggers, leave the NAS issue murkily “debateable” and so much for the value of informed opinion? Certainly Oliver never found his way out, and it’s an open question today whether he, like many other experts, actually believes age matters to whisky if it “doesn’t matter” that age is on the label when producers are “uncomfortable” with the marketing prospects of the number.

    I’m looking forward to watching yourself, and the other “new voices” that are supposedly going to explode from the woodwork, field all of those fresh “but doesn’t this prove there IS good NAS whisky out there” comments that WILL come from these reviews when this all inexplicably, and unnecessarily, reverts to the old and immaterial “quality/value debate” about how good the latest Aberlour NAS is. But, hey, maybe Dominick Roskrow, Dave Broom, John Glaser and all the other celebrity part-time “supporters” of age information will lend you a hand (when they’re not busy promoting NAS whiskies).

    On the effectiveness of this new take, it would be interesting to know if whisky retailers like the Kensington Wine Market would be willing to “take the hit” on negative commentary in order to get the boost from visibility by providing samples, especially going into Christmas. If they would be, it would say something about whether they think the blog policy change actually hurts these products, and I’d welcome Andrew Ferguson’s take on things.

    Certainly this policy move WILL be known by its supporters, including many declared, and undeclared, industry-friendly boosters of NAS. I very much doubt that anyone, including the people who support your move, really sees this as “turning up the heat” compared to outright review boycott, which should also make you wonder about whether those supporters really oppose NAS at all in the sense of actually wanting anything done about it. It’s a rollback in terms of fighting this marketing. The problem has never been anyone’s lack of “opportunity” to criticize NAS; the issue has always been the WILLINGNESS to do so and the FREQUENCY of doing it and, meanwhile, the products now get the visibility that producers crave. I’ll definitely be watching this space to see the difference all this change in approach is supposed to make. It takes a lot less effort to type or paste “where is all the promised NAS criticism” than writing a lot of that criticism myself and, again, the proof’s in the pudding. Somebody’s about to soon make some critical point that they somehow “couldn’t” make before? I’m all a-tingle, and I’m sure it will be profound.

    I really think we DO want the same thing in the long run – and I KNOW that you really get, and object to, what’s wrong with NAS but, then again, anybody would “take” universal age information if it came free (look at the folks here who really “don’t mind” NAS, for example) so the goal alone doesn’t really say very much in itself – the issue is who will work toward it and the best way to get it and, yes, we disagree on the latter. No, you never really advocated a boycott of purchasing – you personally support consumer action but don’t “advocate” it, a bit of a logic problem in itself: boycott was somehow “the only way” to change things, BUT no one’s “telling anyone what to do” in terms of purchasing, YET no one wants NAS to be supported BY purchasing. The whole “I’ll do what I want to” thing, however, is a red herring: the question was never about your “right” to do or say what you wanted, personally or on your site, but whether these things were consistent in their message. Whether anyone built the “anti-NAS” step on their soapbox “one stick at a time” by themselves, I leave for others to judge.

    If this change does somehow result in more criticism of NAS on the part of you or others, more power to it, and to you – and the cause could definitely use more people actually taking the trouble of arguing for it instead of sitting back – but I’m very skeptical (and I’m cranked to 11 already). Folks can atone for their sins of silence and omission if they have them to atone for; my concern is about overall net effect of this in terms of legitimizing NAS AS a form of acceptable marketing, because the central issue IS a matter of principle about information, and truth, about age maturation, and NOT one of relative quality or value in any case. Whether “the newest batches of a’bunadh fucking suck” or are “fucking great” completely fucking misses the fucking point….fuck! If present quality is really what’s wrong with NAS, then we’re at cross purposes, but you definitely have said differently in the past anyway, so, at heart, I don’t really believe it to be the case. I always thought the point of review boycott wasn’t a case of “promoting or not promoting” these whiskies, but that it was a protest against an ENTIRE FORM of marketing which was, and continues to be, fundamentally wrong and dishonest to the consumer – a point many simply miss or don’t care about.

    P.S.: And to Chris, re: “Let’s be honest here; none of us is going to quit buying A’bunadh, Uigeadail or Macallan CS, boycott or not”. I’ve already quit buying them for quite some time (and, no, I didn’t stock up prior to calling for boycott) which is the point OF the boycott IF the target really is the deceptive marketing and not just “whiskies I don’t think are very good” – I’ve always “boycotted” bad products, whether or not they have an age statement. So, “none of us”, whoever “we” are – and it’s obviously a question – isn’t quite accurate. I don’t know where that leaves you personally in terms of “it’s either a full on boycott or it ain’t”, but I can’t sort everything out anyway.

    P.P.S.: In other whisky news, my buddy, the Scotch Guru, proposed that we create a new vat around the new Bond movie “Spectre”. What’s in it? None of your business, because, get this… “it’s a secret”! We’re thinking of proposing it to Glenlivet as a follow up to Alpha – lots of fun.

    • I’ve not developed amnesia at all. You’re dead on accurate when you draw suggestions back to my reasoning that NAS is nothing more than marketing. I stand by that conviction. There may be nothing wrong with the whisky behind the label, but there certainly IS something wrong with the label itself. You’re dead wrong, however, when you assume I am out to debate the merit of NAS malts or whether or not age matters. This isn’t about saying all NAS are good or bad. It never was. It’s about showing how NAS is directly leading to the decline of Scotch whisky. And age absolutely matters. It always will. And to me, knowledge of that age also matters, as it should to anyone who is using their own money to buy whisky. Age is one of the factors that helps us determine value for money. It lets me make up my own mind as to my own idea of perceived value.

      Again…I ask that you don’t forget I am whisky blogger first and foremost. I need to write about whisky, and I need to say the things that ought to be said. I am only a whisky ‘politician’ as an aside. A critical voice is one thing, but if I cranked the skepticism to 11, as you have, I would have no readers. Who wants to listen to the cynical rantings of a jaded snob with unfair access to whiskies? In this day and age if I need subject matter, like it or not, I may need to review NAS. There are fewer and fewer affordable age-stated whiskies available every day without reaching into the indie category. When I stick more to the indies my readership drops, ‘cause let’s face it…only so many people are searching up info on a single cask release of ~200 bottles. Effectively I make myself obsolete.

      I seriously think some of you are expecting me to release sloughs of NAS reviews now. You’re off your rockers if you think that is the case. I have no intentions of bombarding anyone with NAS drivel. I have no desire to help feed the machine. I DO have a desire to throw sand in the gears though. Again…when I do a comparison piece on ‘Laddie Ten vs Laddie Scottish Barley’ or ‘Oban 14 vs Oban Little Bay’ or share the details on some of the latter a’bunadh release (Batches in the 40s and early 50s) you’ll see just what I mean. I think I’ve proven a tireless critic (albeit not as frenetic and angry as some), so perhaps the benefit of the doubt may be just a wee bit merited here instead of fired up responses that hint at nothing less than a betrayal of all of us.

      And I hate to say it but the one true flaw in your argument rests in your seeming disconnect between present quality in NAS and NAS itself as a concept. The driving force behind it all is that no age information on the bottle means that anything can be hidden in there, at any price point, and we have no foundation of knowledge from which to make our assessments. Seeing declining quality in NAS malts ALREADY speaks volumes as to what’s being vatted. Youth, we can only assume. And I plan to say just that. You cannot disconnect these two pieces. The argument will always be against the NAS principle (i.e. the lack of information), but the results that support the thesis – and with which we need to call the industry on its bullshit – are the crappy (and getting crappier) malts that line the shelves. Just as whisky can taste of fruits, oak and spice, it can also taste of ‘youth’. You know this as well as I. So let’s say it. Let’s tell ‘em we see through it. And let’s do it LOUDLY.

      The simple fact of the matter is that it comes back to humility and recognizing my own limitations. If I were Jim Murray or Serge or someone with a “1,000 whiskies to try” book and I refused to review NAS malts (for good or bad) the industry might notice that glaring hole in word of mouth marketing. One little blogger (me) not reviewing ‘em? Are you kidding? No one notices I haven’t reviewed Glenlivet Founder’s except you, Skeptic and a small handful of others. My vitriolic words, on the other hand, may just get noticed. I get it’s not the approach you want to see me take – and I’m sorry we’re at sixes and sevens here – but I truly believe I’m gonna stir up more shit this way than the other.

      Regarding KWM…moot point. I don’t take samples from Andrew at all. Haven’t in a long time. In fact I don’t take samples from anyone other than shared drams among friends. Period. I’ll go on record right here saying that I won’t be accepting any samples for review that aren’t directly passed my way from a personal friend with no ulterior motive. I have one or two reviews in the wings (Port Ellen, etc) that were from samples provided a couple years back. Long sold out and of no relevance anymore in terms of helping sell anything. Age-stated, I might add. Those I will still review and state the sample sourcing in the review.

      Oh, and finally…I said I built my soapbox myself, not that I built an “anti-NAS” soapbox. Let’s be careful with confusing intentions. i.e. I worked to get to a point where I could speak from an informed platform to a fairly broad audience on whisky in general. Do I know it all? Not even close. But I do know enough to know that I speak from a logical viewpoint? Yes. Agree or not, I’m not ignorant. Wrong sometimes, sure, but not ignorant. 

      Thanks for the considered commentary, Jeff. Was waiting for this one. And the rebuttal, of course.

      • Nah, sorry, lot of problems here:
        If you’re going to prove that NAS is making whisky worse with the increased inclusion of young product – a theory I definitely believe in – how will you substantiate it by proving excessive young product (however defined) without age information – which is, of course, the entire point of NAS?
        “Seeing declining quality in NAS malts ALREADY speaks volumes as to what’s being vatted. Youth, we can only assume. And I plan to say just that. You cannot disconnect these two pieces.” – good for you, and I totally agree with you, but how will you show it’s more than just an assumption? I never thought they WERE disconnected, so it’s no flaw in my thinking, but how will YOU connect the two pieces in terms of proving the case? “The problem’s young product and I know because I can taste it”? What if someone PREFERS young whisky – isn’t the far more important issue that age information should be available so that people can find the profiles they like?
        “In this day and age if I need subject matter, like it or not, I may need to review NAS. There are fewer and fewer affordable age-stated whiskies available every day without reaching into the indie category. When I stick more to the indies my readership drops, ‘cause let’s face it…only so many people are searching up info on a single cask release of ~200 bottles. Effectively I make myself obsolete”- ah, so it’s partly about having whiskies TO review, not that the reviews themselves are necessarily going to say anything new or conclusive about NAS.
        “I have no intentions of bombarding anyone with NAS drivel” – if even you know it’s drivel, why deal with it? Sorry, couldn’t resist – carry on. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but I still don’t know what this is going to “allow” anyone to say that they couldn’t say before – but, then again, I’m definitely getting the idea that wasn’t really the point of the exercise.
        Regarding KWM, not entirely not a moot point – the question isn’t entirely whether you accept samples or not (and is that not at all, or just not for a long time) – but whether KWM would consider the new direction “a blow against NAS” or not – and it’s a good, and telling, question. Are you scaring anybody with this?

        My point about the NAS soapbox is that, yes, it’s your venue and you’ve worked hard on it, but NAS isn’t just your cause – other people, including myself, have worked very hard here too – and you’re taking this thing straight into the swamp to prove something about relative quality and value that simply can’t be substantiated, if that’s even the point of it. The issue isn’t that “you don’t know it all” but that, on this issue, you didn’t “do it all”. If and when this becomes a mess, I hope you’ll be far more present to field all the irrelevant “Well, I had an NAS once, and I thought it was pretty good” stuff.

        Thanks for the response – I do know we’re on the same side, though we differ on tactics, and I do appreciate your efforts and the venue. I still think it’s a big mistake for the reasons stated: exposure for NAS products at the price of taking the debate into a quagmire. Who knew there were so many synonyms for swamp? I’m afraid I’ll use them all before we’re done.

        • Sorry about the paragraphing issue.

        • Reposted for readability – sorry again.

          Nah, sorry, lot of problems here:

          If you’re going to prove that NAS is making whisky worse with the increased inclusion of young product – a theory I definitely believe in – how will you substantiate it by proving excessive young product (however defined) without age information – which is, of course, the entire point of NAS?

          “Seeing declining quality in NAS malts ALREADY speaks volumes as to what’s being vatted. Youth, we can only assume. And I plan to say just that. You cannot disconnect these two pieces.” – good for you, and I totally agree with you, but how will you show it’s more than just an assumption? I never thought they WERE disconnected, so it’s no flaw in my thinking, but how will YOU connect the two pieces in terms of proving the case? “The problem’s young product and I know because I can taste it”? What if someone PREFERS young whisky – isn’t the far more important issue that age information should be available so that people can find the profiles they like?

          “In this day and age if I need subject matter, like it or not, I may need to review NAS. There are fewer and fewer affordable age-stated whiskies available every day without reaching into the indie category. When I stick more to the indies my readership drops, ‘cause let’s face it…only so many people are searching up info on a single cask release of ~200 bottles. Effectively I make myself obsolete”- ah, so it’s partly about having whiskies TO review, not that the reviews themselves are necessarily going to say anything new or conclusive about NAS.

          “I have no intentions of bombarding anyone with NAS drivel” – if even you know it’s drivel, why deal with it? Sorry, couldn’t resist – carry on.

          I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but I still don’t know what this is going to “allow” anyone to say that they couldn’t say before – but, then again, I’m definitely getting the idea that wasn’t really the point of the exercise.

          Regarding KWM, not entirely moot point – the question isn’t entirely whether you accept samples or not (and is that not at all, or just not for a long time) – but whether KWM would consider the new direction “a blow against NAS” or not – and it’s a good, and telling, question. Are you scaring anybody with this?

          My point about the NAS soapbox is that, yes, it’s your venue and you’ve worked hard on it, but NAS isn’t just your cause – other people, including myself, have worked very hard here too – and you’re taking this thing straight into the swamp to prove something about relative quality and value that simply can’t be substantiated, if that’s even the point of it. The issue isn’t that “you don’t know it all” but that, on this issue, you didn’t “do it all”. If and when this becomes a mess, I hope you’ll be far more present to field all the irrelevant “Well, I had an NAS once, and I thought it was pretty good” stuff.

          Thanks for the response – I do know we’re on the same side, though we differ on tactics, and I do appreciate your efforts and the venue. I still think it’s a big mistake for the reasons stated: exposure for NAS products at the price of taking the debate into a quagmire. Who knew there were so many synonyms for swamp? I’m afraid I’ll use them all before we’re done.

      • Curt, Curt, Curt…

        “And to me, knowledge of that age also matters, as it should to anyone who is using their own money to buy whisky”

        Really? I have to admit, when it comes to Amrut, I don’t care if they tell me the age or not because their Cask Strength (or near to it) stuff is always good. It’s more an issue of price. Even stuff like the Fusion has increased, likely as a result of demand.

        That said, the only Amrut I’ve bought this year was discounted 60% ABV age-stated.
        ====================================================
        “I ask that you don’t forget I am whisky blogger first and foremost.”

        I thought you had a family, first and foremost. – Time for a reality check/priority check maybe?
        ==========================================

        ” In this day and age if I need subject matter, like it or not, I may need to review NAS. ” and “When I stick more to the indies my readership drops”

        So is it about putting out quality or selling papers? Where are the ads on your site? Oh right…there are none. You don’t depend on ad revenue so you shouldn’t care what riff-raff like me read your posts.

        Are you going for quality or are you out to become an industry shill?

        Sounds harsh, but, wasn’t it your former premier who said to look in the mirror?

        • Industry shill goes WAY to far – the argument is that you have to provide content about whisky that people can actually find and afford or, by definition, you’re just reviewing products nobody really CAN care about – and, yeah, sometimes this is exactly how I’ve felt reading some reviews, good and entertaining as they are – AND minimizing your own voice AS a catalyst for change in the process. I understand that point, and it is valid – but it’s also not exactly the same point as taking on NAS products in review for their own sake.

          • Like assisted suicide…..it’s a slippery slope….

          • Yeah…there’s a lot in that post I’m just gonna refrain from addressing. Questioning my integrity as it relates to family and the honesty and openness here on ATW are two things I’m not willing to wade into.

          • Certainly wasn’t intending to question your integrity re family, more bring in some perspective.

            Sorry it came out wrong.

    • Yeah, you got me there, Jeff. You very easily picked up the flaw in my little diatribe. Let’s change “none of us” to “I”. Actually, the only NAS bottle I have bought this year is Uigeadail. I had to, it was there, I was there, the price was right, and I know it’s good.

      Curt is one of the best whisky bloggers we’ve got. I’m for cutting him some slack here to see exactly how his new approach to NAS whisky plays out. Let’s see a few reviews before we pass final judgement. His last line: “What do you think? Am I right?” remains to be seen. For me, it’s too early to call, but I am confident that someone of Curt’s commitment, knowledge and ethos is not about to suddenly cross the floor or veer too far off the path.

      To quote the great mid-century philosopher Alfred E. Neuman: “Quid, me vexari?”

      • It certainly does remain to be seen, but if relative quality and unprovable young whisky turn out to be dead-ends in attacking NAS, there’s going to be one hell of a big, and unnecessary, mess to clean up, and it’ll take a lot of typing and backtracking to do it. I sure hope everyone else has their brooms and dustpans ready, because I’ll be calling on the people who support this to do it instead of doing it myself.

  11. The Scotch Whisky Association is on Twitter. I plan on tweeting them quite regularly asking for a change to the labeling laws. It’s an easy way to let them know that, as customers, we aren’t happy. It’s a ridiculous law. I imagine there are a few large comapanies keeping that law in place.

  12. Interestingly I find this paradoxical:

    “In this day and age if I need subject matter, like it or not, I may need to review NAS. There are fewer and fewer affordable age-stated whiskies available every day without reaching into the indie category. When I stick more to the indies my readership drops, ‘cause let’s face it…only so many people are searching up info on a single cask release of ~200 bottles. Effectively I make myself obsolete.”

    You want to continue to be a blogger. You get something from it personally. If you fail to review NAS you will have a limited selection from which to draw on, and a smaller audience from which to attract new readership therefore your blogging days will come to an end.

    However if you continue to provide a platform for which people can read about NAS whisky and for some of them, their merits (if you’re being truthful about the contents of the bottle, some of them surely will be good) you end up helping promote their existence overall. In my opinion, the more that the Scotch whisky industry goes down this road flogging NAS labeling, and high priced young malts (they’re addicted to the returns they got in years past on the older more expensive bottlings) the greater the chance they (Scotch whisky distillers) will find themselves becoming irrelevant to the new consumer of spirits.

    So here we are again:

    Review NAS, by proxy it gets promoted, it continues to spread through distilleries line ups, old enthusiasts resist out of principle, new consumers to the market segment get turned off by high prices & low quality, wonder what the fuss is all about and never return. Or they never make an appearance to being with; no age? what makes this special then? why bother? You end up with a shrinking audience, and therefore your blogging days come to an end.

    Better to hold the flame to their feet, give them no press, keep your integrity intact and hope they come to their senses before they burn the barn down. This may all seem like a stretch, but I firmly believe that the industry will find itself at the root of its own demise…sadly.

    Was that not cynical enough for you? How about this, the majority of the owners of the distillers are multi-national beverage (or handbag) corporations. They also sell vodka, gin, rum, cognac etc, etc. While I’m sure the CEO’s would feel it’d be a shame if the Scotch house of cards folded on itself, they don’t really care in the long run, because in the end they’ll get you when you move your interests over to some other barrel aged spirit…hey I hear gin is making a come back!

    • I agree with a lot of the upshot of the sentiment, but not entirely the reason for it. I wouldn’t argue “boycott NAS reviews” just because I don’t want these products gaining more strength in the marketplace – although, no, I don’t want that either; I say don’t review them because the ENTIRE marketing philosophy IS a bold-faced lie, and the industry KNOWS that it is. Age maturation matters to all whisky – its influence DOESN’T vary with its label or whether someone in marketing wants to avoid discussing age to help sales. Win OR lose, NAS should be opposed on principle alone.

      And, yep, many of the folks now busy ruining scotch/whisky DO also own the “malternatives” they they are driving people to as they ruin it. Thank God for all the new stuff the industry is “discovering” every day about fleecing people.

      • Truthfully I think most savvy consumers expect to be mislead, to some degree or other. At it’s core that’s what marketing does. Think about the marketing concept of “anchoring”. The Scotch industry does this wonderfully with things like Diageo’s annual Special Release, Dalmore’s Constellation Series or Macallan’s numerous ostentatious decanters. It all misleads you to think that the other stuff is an excellent value proposition.

        For me, my refusal to buy NAS does stem from not wanting it to grow as a market segment, and less outrage about their trying to pull the wool over my eyes. For the reasons I outlined above; I fear it’ll be the road to ruin for something that I very much enjoy, and I’d hate to have to start drinking Genever.

        At least we can be thankfully for the Springbanks and Benromachs of the world.

        • Fair enough. Almost all consumers do expect some deception but, in whisky, it’s pretty widespread – and has definitely co-opted a lot of the people that I might otherwise trust to, at least, give me an honest opinion about whisky.

          • As an aside, if you thought I was kidding regarding Gin apparently I’m spot on. I was just told at a tasting that I had attended last night by a well known and respected Scotch distiller that Bruichladdich now produces more of their Botanist gin then all their whisky combined.

          • That’s just sad…

          • Oh, I never doubted you. Despite “craft” propaganda, it’s what you get when ownership gets bigger and bigger: you end up with a situation when, in looking at “the big picture”, decision makers care less about individual products.

          • Case in point: Bladnoch.

            New buyer, less idealistic than Raymond, look at the new branding on the website. It doesn’t look good for craft presentation I was used to…

  13. Damn, son! What a shit storm! hahaha love it…

    I wish I could read through all the energetic comments but it’s doing my head in. I agree you should review NAS stuff and so it might be an idea to add a ‘Value For Money’ rating on your reviews. I’m planning on doing that.

    I consider every NAS whisky as a 3 year old. Which means if you’re charging me $500 for a 3 year old spirit no matter how good it is never going to be worth it, in my opinion. As a customer getting value for my money is an important aspect and with a readership like yours it would surely make an impact on people like me.

    Conversely if it’s really good and affordable (you can set the scale) then, hey, guess what?

    Anyway, my two cents. Go fight the good fight, buddy.

    • “Conversely if it’s really good and affordable (you can set the scale) then, hey, guess what? ”

      That’s exactly the point. If it gets a good review people will buy it and industry willuse that to continue to put out NAS whisky.

    • Malt Activist:
      “no matter how good it is never going to be worth it, in my opinion”

      Really? The best whisky in world, aged 3 years, wouldn’t be worth whatever arbitrary price you toss out? Assuming that ANY whisky is worth that arbitrary price, surely this hypothetical best whisky in the world is worth it?

      Prodution costs do not equal value.

  14. I totally agree with your post, Curt. Here, in France, NAS whiskies are everywhere. I am all the more worried since one of my favorite dram, Talisker 10, has completely disappeared from our stores, being replaced by Storm.
    I am afraid this won’t change as profits are more important than anything else and I imagine the amount of NAS bottles that will be sold for Christmas, bought by persons to offer them because the packaging will be attractive… But let’s keep hope and thank you for not dropping your weapons in this fight, Curt! Cheers from France (where we work more than 3 dans)!

  15. Impressive the can of worms opened by your original post.

    I note a few spots where the exchange was getting testy.

    I don’t think anyone here is questioning your commitment to your family. I think that the issue was with your self-identification as a blogger “first and foremost”, and the comment by Skeptic was not about what kind of a father you are, but just to bring into perspective the role whisky blogging plays in the “big picture of life”.

    I think in a way this is a license to actually go ahead and do what you are advocating, because no matter what happens (ie if your reputation is tarnished for some reason) ATW is of minute consequence compared to your family.

    As an example, someone I know ran (unsuccessfully) in the last election. His kids asked him “but what happens if you lose?” his reply: ” I get to stay here with you instead of going to Ottawa”. In other words, to lose was actually to win.

    I think another way to have put it might have been to state that your role “at ATW” was as a blogger, first and foremost. If I had been Skeptic, that is how I would have read your initial statement. Maybe he (she?) was just trying to be his (her?) provocative self.

    As to the issue of being an industry shill, I don’t think that anyone here really believes that you are a conscious, willing collaborator with the drinks industry (as I understand the definition, being a shill would require a specific intent). So again, an unfortunate choice of words.

    However, I think that by going forward with your plan, you do risk giving free publicity to the industry and, as a respected blogger, legitimacy to the NAS genre.

    So it’s your site, your choice, and your reputation.

    And for the most part….. our entertainment.

    • Yeah, “first and foremost” a bit of everyday throwaway rhetoric. Trying to score some point on that is cheap. I actually read that a joke criticism, until it was responded to as serious and re-responded to as serious.

      Weird.

  16. Perception is reality.

    Think about that.

    I’ve hated that statement for years.

    But it’s true. Especially in our instant gratification twitterwebgramfaceblog universe.

    The question is how do you change that perception? Do you have enough ammunition with this blog? Is it enough to do your part when many others are not? Or is it just discouraging enough right now because you’re fighting a monumental uphill battle?

    The reality of the matter is that many are choosing not to fight this battle. As with all things in life, follow the money – almost invariably those that SHOULD know better but refuse to say something are doing so because it will affect their livelihood. Those that can say something without suffering a financial impact are, because of their beliefs, internally obligated to do so. ATW, Serge, Ralfy. I don’t know any of them, but I do follow them all. I think ATW like the others does make a difference. I also see good points above on both sides of the matter but ultimately you’ll never achieve consensus (and if you do you should be awfully damn scared) so go with your gut.

    I can’t afford or simply don’t have access to many of the whiskies here that get reviewed. Friggin’ Oban 14 is $140 where I live after taxes. Yet in the U.S. (and Alberta I believe) it’s cheaper than horseshit Little Bay. Something is seriously wrong and that’s only a single example. So review the spectrum – the Port Ellen’s that shall never pass my lips but are fun to read about; the Cardhu 12 that most here wouldn’t bother with because it’s so timid as to be suitable for breakfast; and the evil NAS whiskies that will send Jeff over the edge.

    It would actually have been nice if you’d been able to some way stock up on NAS products so that you could have done blind taste comparisons of early batches of Macallan Amber versus later, so as to confirm everyone’s suspicion of decreasing age/quality.

    Frankly the way I view it reviewing NAS whiskies allows everyone that follows you an avenue to regularly gripe and grumble about them if that’s their particular leaning. It means we don’t have to dredge up the Dave Broom post over and over again.

    I know what my approach is anyway – buy up as much of this shit as I can while it still has an age statement to go with familiar brands. I have to live in my own price range as it is, with a little extravagance thrown in here and there a couple of times a year. But if a few years down the road the only NAS that Glendronach is producing is their cask strength batches, well, I’ll continue flinging money at them. Oban on the other hand will cease to see my dollars once the 14 (or Distiller’s Edition at 15 y/o) ceases production. There ARE Diageo products I’ll continue to buy but none of them will lack an age statement on principle.

    Greed eventually burns itself out. It just may not be soon enough for all of us. But there will be small distilleries that will figure it out. Maybe even some big ones.

    As an aside, spending a week reading about rum was a miserably disappointing way to consider malternatives.

    • When the dust settles the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. Look at Blackberry. The best platform, the weakest sales.

      When the whisky bubble bursts, the smaller, more humble industry may not have the smaller, better brands. The big ones may be the ones that survive. The others…

      I guess the upside is that in 30 years we’ll have rare cask bottlings to replace the Broras and Port Ellen’s that are long gone. Except they may be called Clynelish, Ardmore, and Benriach…

      • Fair point. VHS vs Beta would also work as an analogy. And most assuredly the big ones will survive, either because of diversification of product or simply market share. I don’t see Glenlivet/Glenfiddich going anywhere. Diageo may lost a brand or two but will otherwise survive intact. Will any of them be wiser? Doubt it.

  17. Hi there,

    a few days ago I read something like „Today 50% of all whiskies on the shelves are NAS“ somewhere but I did not mark it so I could not find it again.

    But I thought „So much for the idea of a NAS boycott“. Sorry Jeff but it seems that the stance and the idea behind such a boycott does not reach the common whisky buyer who is not posting or reading in forums.
    Neither does it reach or frighten the whisky industry it seems because they merrily just go on.

    So the question if there are or there are not reviews about NAS whiskies will not stop the avalanche because its driving powers are far stronger than the need for counter action which is only found in circles like ours. But not with the common whisky buyers it would seem.

    Here a piece that points in this direction. I do not completely agree but it makes a point in case I think.

    http://mixology.eu/bars-en/nas-whisy-debate/?lang=en

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Had to go look at what’s available at my local stores (Manitoba) given that number. Now keep in mind that the number and range of products available to me pales in comparison to many other markets. Also bear in mind that I simply counted off what’s listed on the website, so Glenfiddich 12 year old counts off four times – 50mL, 375 mL, 750 mL, 1.75 L. Same goes for Glenlivet and a few other products of similar origin.

      Blends: 35 (interesting to note that JW Platinum 18 is $60 more than Gold Label Reserve which used to bear an age statement of 18 as just “Gold Label 18” and sold for the same price as the Reserve now sells for – et tu JW?)

      NAS: 44

      Age Statement: 92

      So at this point, locally, age statements are still winning though I expect those numbers are a lot closer if I bothered to factor out the bottling sizes and multi-packs.

      Sadly I noted that some more prices have increased, just in time for Christmas. Ugh.

    • My answer to that Mixology piece has been on there for a while – and that’s guy’s dad, evidently, doesn’t have any more counterpoints than he does. Any way you cut it, NAS is a lie about age maturation. Very few like to admit that because it takes all the controversy out of NAS and ruins the “fun” of it for most people – because they’d much rather “discuss” NAS forever than actually do anything about it. Take the “debate” out of whether this marketing IS obviously horseshit and the issue then BECOMES “what am I doing about it”, and many, particularly “experts” but consumers as well, don’t like that – because then, suddenly, it’s on them, they’re complicit in ruining whisky through their inaction and they realize that, if the shoe fits, they’ve got a new pair of mukluks.

      Many more people right now KNOW that NAS is a lie and/or that it is damaging whisky than are actually opposing this marketing, either by word or deed, on any regular basis. This doesn’t keep them from complaining about NAS, of course, but it’s plainly either someone else’s problem to fix so they don’t have to inconvenience themselves or it’s a problem that can’t BE fixed, so they don’t have to inconvenience themselves.

      Reams of supposedly clever commentary will continue to be written about how whisky’s going to hell in a hand basket because of NAS – and that, geez, there IS an “NAS debate”, as if that’s news in itself – but the number of people taking action against NAS, and advocating that action SHOULD be taken, remains very small, so it’s little wonder that the battle isn’t won: not many are actually fighting it yet. Probably very few consumers this reading this blog, or commenting on it, for example, would object if NAS ended tomorrow, but how many are actually opposing it in any tangible way today? Anyone still confused why it isn’t dead? We’ve now arrived at the real sins of omission.

      As with any issue, there are people who are part of the solution, people who are part of the problem and people who are part of the landscape. With regards to NAS, there are far too many people who KNOW that they are in one of the last two groups, who know that there isn’t much difference BETWEEN the last two groups AND who still choose to REMAIN in the last two groups – but it will never keep them from having an opinion on what can and can’t be done.

      That nothing can be achieved by people unwilling to do anything is self evident, but it doesn’t prove that nothing can be achieved by people willing to act. Boycott NAS!

      Cheers!

      • Oh, and “Remember, remember the 5th of the November” – regardless of what anybody thinks of Guy Fawkes, if he’d simply operated a debating society, no one would know who he is today.

  18. Hi there,

    independent Scottish bottler Gordon & MacPhail just revamped their homepage. There is a interesting read in four chapters.

    Wood Philosophy Timing The Whiskies

    http://wood.gordonandmacphail.com/the-wood/

    I was intrigued by how carefully they omitted the expression NAS or NAS whisky. In my humble opinion the G&M position is a strong counter point to the whole NAS mess by a major player in the Scotch whisky industry.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • I think it’s pretty carefully positioned – acknowledging that, yes, cask influence varies with age (except they mostly use term “time”, maybe to avoid association WITH age statements), but the emphasis is clearly on the wood as a variable that G&M controls to an implied “learned and superior degree” which results in better products. It’s impossible to argue that cask quality isn’t important, but most companies want to emphasize it as a selling/quality point and the net effect in many cases is to de-emphasize age. Use a clock instead of a calendar as your icon for time, and you’d think producers were just baking a cake.

      Taking a look at the label of G&M’s Connoisseurs Choice Strathmill 2000 46%, one definitely gets the idea that “Distilled 2000” is a lot more important than “Bottled 2014”, judging from the font sizes used, and G&M has put out a fair number of NAS products as well. I think that the overall message is “yes, time’s in the mix, but we’re so good and on top of it that you don’t have to worry about it yourself – just buy G&M and enjoy”.

  19. I’m really looking forward to your review of today’s dram, MacCutcheon 60 y.o.!

    From what I’ve heard., it takes like everything and anything!

  20. WOW!

    Someone recommended this site and I can see why! What an introduction!

    First, Kudos to Mr. Robinson for putting together such a fine site. it may take me years to go through such a goldmine of information. I wish I were an internet anthropologist (is there even such a profession? How does it pay?).

    And congratulations on having the skin of a Komodo dragon to tolerate all of the abuse you get.

    Second, I’m not new to whisky or this NAS business but I have to say I haven’t seen as much passion about it on other sites. I think, even with some of the disagreements, this is a strong site to raise the profile of the issue.

    Personally I agree with a number of positions.

    A – there is nothing inherently wrong with the product in the bottle just because it is NAS

    Glenfiddich 12 sucks. A’Bunadh is generally good. Macallan CS is better than the 25. So a number is meaningless to the contents.

    B – There is nothing inherently wrong with a young whisky.

    Octomore is a good example of this

    C – So A+ B = simple marketing and gouging

    Pricing is not just a factor of age. Rarity and ABV also play a role (CS puts out fewer bottles per cask). Quality of casks (better is more expensive).

    I say I don’t care about the age as long as the product is good. But quality and value are not the same. Put the information on the bottle, and let me decide whether you are charging a reasonable price for what you’re selling.

    I’m not one to pay megabucks for a bottle. I can enjoy something for less than $100. If I pay a few dollars more I justify it in that I’m getting 28 portions of it, and paying $5 a treat is not too bad.

    But even if Black Bowmore is the best damn whisky ever, at a price of $16 000 CAD I calculated it at over $400 a (20cc) dram and > $22 a sip. Yes it has a age statement but A’Bunadh is less than 20 cents a sip. I know where my money is going if I have to choose. A Bowmore is worth more than I ever intend to spend on whisky in my next 30 drinking years, or more.

    In terms of reviewing it, I say go for it. But as Athena says, if you review an NAS and say it’s good, it will not only encourage sales of that expression but legitimize the NAS concept to the industry.

    (note I’m not saying YOU are encouraging the sale or that YOU are legitimizing it, just the effect the review will have)

    Fewer reviews or more, your loyal audience will be here. More opinion pieces on a wider range of topics (what about discussing wood?) and less whisky may be a way to maintain interest and not tackle NAS expressions.

    Either way, I may not post much, but I’ll be watching and reading (looks like I have a LOT to catch up on)

    건배

    • Welcome aboard, mate. Appreciate the kind words. It gets a little heated around here from time to time, but I think we’re all kinda family in a way. David, Robert, Jeff, Skeptic, the Bobs, Athena, Kalaskander etc etc keep me honest; keep it fun around here; and continue to help ALL of us learning and on our toes. Would love to get us all in a room one day to clink glasses.

      Much more to come.

      Curt

    • No, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the product in the bottle because it’s NAS, but people accepting that product information somehow “has” to be withheld in order to deliver unrelated quality sends exactly the wrong message: that age can be reduced and covered up without any impact to whisky, that people support the nonsense that “age matters with this product, but not with that one”, and that marketing priorities trump telling the truth about whisky on a very fundamental level in terms of relevant product information (which, beyond being a legal matter, would never be tolerated by consumers with regard to ABV). If, in the future, anyone wonders “what were they thinking when the made this?”: the answer’s pretty clear: they thought that what went into it didn’t matter and they thought that because that’s exactly what people told them with every bottle of NAS sold.

      As for the point about reviews, I entirely agree: the question isn’t one of intent, but of net effect, in terms of opposing/discouraging NAS.

  21. Oh, yeah… as far as I know, MacCutcheon 60 y.o. only exists in fiction.

  22. Why not just buy, drink and review what you want and just wait and see what happens. Once demand drops, aged stocks will return, prices will drop and marketeers will tell again that age matters.

    Just sit out the NAS storm and come back in 10 years.

    • Because a lot of good distilleries will be shuttered when the bubble bursts and stuff that we could have enjoyed will be as rare as the Broras and Rosebanks of today.

    • Yeah, everybody could just sit the bullshit out, but doing so will also extend the life of the bullshit, and the entire cycle of “the truth about whisky is just what the industry says it is” hasn’t served consumers and, it could be argued, even the industry itself, well in the past. Regardless of why we’re seeing so much young product marketed – demand vs. greed – or to what degree it’s actually “necessary”, the entire idea that “age matters here, but not there” is nonsensical. The folks who really want to see the critics “sit out the NAS storm” are found in marketing departments because the intrusion of logic spoils the game.

  23. Well Curt, I am too new to whisky to have a in depth knowledge of the industry and certainly not of this issue – but I do understand business and I understand the struggles that change can bring when it challenges tradition. This will be emotional and the biggest weapon that anyone has in dealing with (or challenging change) is information.

    I am an example; I knew nothing of this demon called NAS until I came to your site, and through you to Ralfy (who I find to be anything BUT pretentious). Now I understand that it represents a threat to the traditions of the drink or at least in keeping its truest incarnations affordable.

    So again from my neophyte perspective I struggle to see why creating a venue, where you can help people understand that there is more to determining the “worth” of a bottle than simply the taste experience, is a bad thing.

    The sad truth is the the cost of “tradition” may have to rise for a time until it can return to the norm OR the new norm may be a tiered whisky market – I don’t know. But I repeat that while the experienced tasters may struggle to see NAS whisky getting air time – someone needs to help the uninitiated understand the world they have stumbled into AND the concequences of their choices as frankly it will be their dollars that provide the incentive to keep producing NAS product.

    Now back to my Arran 18 and coke.

    Scott

    • Not sure I’d put coke in my Arran 18 (you are talking about the soft drink?), but I definitely would in Jura 10.

    • While it’s true that it might be some time before we get back to more widespread, and affordable, aged expressions, I can’t buy any of the “this might be the way things HAVE to be for a while” stuff in terms of product information – using young whisky, even out of necessity, doesn’t mean “needing” to hide its age (which is, by definition, just deception). By the same token, while people definitely have the right to buy and drink as they see fit, I can’t agree to disagree about whether NAS is a lie about the nature of age maturation, whisky itself and the very essence of physics, because it just is. The influence of age CANNOT be magically “label dependent”, with “age matters over here, but not over there, just depending on whether it can be used to enhance sales”.

      Coffee cup-using barbarians – they’re at the gates!

      Hell, they’re inside!

      Not that they’re bad blokes, really…

  24. Here is the SWA’s response to ScotchWhisky.com’s open letter to them about transparency on scotch labels. Kudos to scotchwhisky.com for sensing the open letter. Maybe it’s something more of us should consider doing…

    https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/news/latest-news/transparency-in-scotch-the-swa-responds/

    • There’s a fair amount of fire, but not much heat. The more I look at this, the more I see people playing image politics with it – “It’s not us, it’s them… we’d tell you more if we could, but our hands are tied but, meanwhile, we don’t even tell you what we CAN in terms of minimum age, etc.”. Everyone’s on the side of the angels, theoretically, but no one’s doing very much. From Glaser on down, the point of the exercise seems to be to portray the whole issue as one about which “nothing can be done”.

      “To date, we haven’t had members calling for such a change, but we consult on a variety of topics with them and are always ready to listen. We would of course be delighted if Compass Box were to want to join the SWA to bring its perspective more fully to bear on such discussions.“

      The above could be pretty telling in a couple of ways. Does the SWA tend to “help producers comply with the regulations” mostly in cases where the producer ISN’T a member of the SWA? It would explain a lot in the case of Compass Box and show that “membership DOES have its privileges”. IS the SWA now primarily a watchdog/complaints clearinghouse against non-members (which probably causes a LOT less fuss), allowing any member with an axe to grind to remain bravely anonymous? Wow, I’m sure glad we’ve got the SWA, so that no one has to tarnish their expensive image making sure that that they don’t suffer a competitive disadvantage in terms of product information.

      The other point, of course, is “we haven’t had members calling for such a change”. For all everyone “wants” to help whisky, this is clearly a business organization with marketing goals (one of which is to keep people in the dark about young product), and not a spirits philanthropic society. The current Council of the SWA:

      Pierre Pringuet, Chivas Brothers Ltd (Chairman)
      Peter Gordon, William Grant & Sons Ltd (Vice Chairman)
      Graham Stevenson, Inver House Distillers Ltd (Treasurer)
      Alberto Baladi, Beam Suntory
      Richard Burn, Diageo plc
      Ian Curle, Edrington
      David Cutter, Diageo plc
      Bill Farrar, Edrington
      Laurent Lacassagne, Chivas Brothers Ltd
      Stuart Lowthian, John Dewar and Sons Ltd & Bacardi
      Rosemary McGinness, William Grant & Sons Ltd
      Ivan Menezes, Diageo plc
      Marc Hoellinger, The Glenmorangie Company Ltd
      Leonard Russell, Ian MacLeod Distillers Ltd
      Fraser Thornton, Burn Stewart Distillers
      Alexandre Ricard, Chivas Brothers Ltd

      The overall message is “if only you consumers understood OUR perspective” – but I don’t think there’s much mystery left in the “industry perspective”, least of all that it does very little to help consumers make informed, rather than advertising-based, choices. Frankly, I don’t trust many of the players involved here as far as I can throw them, and I think that there’s only one sure way to get more product information: don’t accept less. Boycott NAS!

      • Wow. The list of people on the SWA board tells me everything I need to know about this issue. What a joke.

      • I suppose one of those winking things would have been in order at the end of that!! 😉

      • Sorry about misplaced accidental repost.

        I am seeing and understanding that is is a complex issue to take on, and I do appreciate being allowed to comment and learn.

        I also recognize that NAS is a fairly blatant attempt by the industry to deceive in principle and practice and so I support the boycotting of NAS whiskey.

        But when I see where the effort is being focused; i.e. industry/producer level I wonder if that this not a tougher ship to turn. Why is there a perception that stating the true age of a whisky (its youngest component) … is a bad thing in the eyes of producers. They must feel it is a risk. Do you think that if a culture was to develop where a value label judgment was not made against whisky with a younger age statement, that the rational for hiding that detail would be less significant?

        I guess my direct question is – what behaviour or buying decision process is happing in the minds of the customer is driving producers to feel the need to obscure the true age of the whisky that may still be an enjoyable product?

        In an attempt to answer my own question with a question; are they using whisky that is so young as to not reach the 3 year minimum that is required to even be called Whisky? That would be the most unfortunate scenario and my hope is that the deceit is not that egregious….

        • My kingdom for an “edit” button – sigh.

        • I think you make very good points, and ones that are central to the issue. Why don’t producers simply provide minimum age statements? I think that it’s entirely correct that many people DO look at younger whisky as being of inferior quality – and, although I don’t support the idea that it’s necessarily correct in all cases, I think what the industry is faced with is the problem that it IS correct in many, if not most, cases. Many people simply HAVEN’T had whisky that’s both confirmably young and confirmably good and, yes, some such products do exist, but they’re few and far between (and often do vary with maturation conditions, say, Scotland vs. the Far East). Compare putting a stigma on your product with an age statement to pretending that it’s ageless and worth $80+ regardless of your cost of production, and it’s a no-brainer in terms of business. Combine this with the idea that nobody wants to be holding a huge amount of stock WHEN the bubble bursts, and the motivation for quick turnover becomes even more clear.

          The far more pleasant alternative, then, is to pretend that age “just doesn’t matter” – yet that’s not necessarily borne out either, forgetting about logic for a minute, but even in terms of subjective quality, and a lot of people’s MAIN problem with current NAS products is QPR, and they’ve got an issue with both the quality AND the price. If age REALLY didn’t matter to whisky character, why DID anyone feel the need to EVER age product for decades? Regardless of what profile(s) anyone prefers, age maturation, unlike NAS, IS a real production process with a real discernible impact. To me, it boils down to this: if young whisky can be, and is, so great, then the first thing that’s necessary to prove it IS good is age statements, if only to first prove that it IS young.
          I don’t really think that anyone is using anything that’s less than 3 years where prohibited by law, if only because it wouldn’t be worth even the tiny risk of forever wrecking their reputation to jump the gun by probably two years at most (ignoring what this would probably do to quality because, no, I don’t think that’s the prime concern). The people at the top aren’t stupid; they just aren’t on our side.

          • A bottle of 50 year old Glenfiddich just sold in Vancouver for $36,000.00. That is just over 4 times the age of their 12 year old swill and 600 times the price. Apparently though, age has nothing to do with that massive price difference. This kind of silliness makes it rather difficult for the industry to sell their contradictory line that age is irrelevant to quality.

          • Absolutely – “So age doesn’t matter? What’s driving the price of this? Quality that only CAN be rated at 100?” To me, though, it also touches on another scandal in whisky: the fact that “experts” consistently won’t denounce boutique bottles as being PHENOMENALLY and OBVIOUSLY overpriced as drinkable whisky. If it’s drinkable, can’t SOMEBODY at least admit that the QPR is in the toilet and, if it’s NOT to actually be consumed, why is anybody rating crystal doostops/whisky trophies as whisky?

            To see one such discussion that, yes, got out of hand, check out: http://whiskyadvocate.com/2013/07/22/million-pound-whisky/

          • I think the real problem we’re facing is a classic catch 22 situation. Distillers spent years and years and dollars convincing everyone that age DOES matter and it drove pricing schemes. Thanks to popularity they find themselves with the conundrum that their products are “too popular” and they cannot maintain sufficient production. What to do, what to do?

            So the marketing geniuses had to come up with a way to push young whisky onto a somewhat unsuspecting public. The result is NAS. To make it appear to be even more exciting though they gussied up the labels (lipstick on a pig if you will) and gave it trendy, hot names that make you feel manly (Storm), wistful (Little Bay), exclusive (rare old; rare old), intuitive (reflexion), colorful (Ruby) or just perhaps perpetually perplexed (Perpetuum). None of the names are particularly meaningful (well, ok, Little Bay has relevance but should Crown Royal release a “Gimli” or “Lake Winnipeg” bottling of their ‘rye’?) but that’s irrelevant because they also gussied it up with fancy packaging, a new label and a solid advertising push.

            Complicit in this little profit exercise are a number of people that really should know better. But that’s where the butter for their bread comes from. Do they remain an authority? Sure they do, notably in the eyes of the SWA. What are they really? Whores, sellouts, shills – pick your perjorative. They’ve no real interest in not supporting the industry, it’s only the independents that can “afford” to do that. As with all things, follow the money.

            Finally, thanks Jeff for listing the membership of the SWA. It clarifies that the fix is in and no assistance will remotely come from that organization.

          • Listen, the 50 YO Glenfiddich (wonder if it’s even good, I don’t like any of the ones I’ve tried) is rare. Price is also affected by rarity. That’s why gems and precious metals have their value.

            Look at Springbank Rundlets and Kilderkins. Sold for <$100, not worth $450. Why? because not many of 'em left.

            Brora, Port Ellen…same story.

            So it's not surprising that it sold for so much. not a lot of 50 YO scotches out there.

            Would buy it? Not even at half the price. But I understand why…

          • I think Brent’s summary is very accurate and the overall situation is also very much a Catch-22 in another respect: the presentation of the importance of age AS being ONLY a matter of perception, as if it were completely under the control of the industry marketing machine, to be manipulated as it sees fit – that the value of the reality about whisky isn’t found in its truth but in some magical ability to be “created” at whim in an ad department, that saying MAKES it so regardless of what’s said. The root of the problem for the industry is that, unfortunately, age DOES matter to whisky in that it’s as much, if not more, important to whisky’s final character as any other single variable in production. For better or worse, every whisky is as much a result of its age as it is its ingredients, physical point of production, casking, maturation conditions and bottling strength. Like these other factors, duration of maturation has a real physicality to it which has real physical effects, which is plain to anyone who has ever baked a cake.

            And with the Glenfiddich, sure, rarity alone affects price, and here age effects not only quality but rarity – there just isn’t that much Glenfiddich held for 50 years – but no one in whisky “authority” would ever say “the age of THIS whisky is irrelevant to ITS quality”, much less that “even though it’s very good whisky, it’s tremendously overpriced in terms of the comparable quality offered by other products at much lower prices”. I have no problem with these products as collectibles, or even with their quality as drinkable whisky, but there’s no escaping that AS drinkable whisky the stuff’s a rip off – yet try to get an “expert” to admit it.

          • Jeff,

            I will agree with you that age will significantly affect the flavour of the glenfiddich 50, but I’m not convinced the fiddichs can produce anything I would like at any age.

            I’m not in any way disagreeing with you about the issue, to be clear. But age in an of itself is not the only important thing. Case in point, the leftover rice from last month in the back of the fridge. Colourful, yes, older, yes, rare, maybe. But butter than 1 day old rice, No way!

            So should we be given the info? yes, but if you want to sell me an “aged” whisky I reserve the right to taste it before declaring it good, especially if I have to pay more for the bottle than for my wife’s engagement ring.

          • I never said that age is the only important thing – although I do believe it to be the single most important thing. As for your drinking aged whisky, it’s all of one piece in a single continuum; unless you’ve been drinking white dog somewhere along the line, all the whisky you’ve drank is aged, and all is a product of its age – the only real variable has been whether or not you’ve always known the age.

            The above is to be taken with a grain of salt, as I’m writing it with Glenfiddich 12 in hand. It’s really not that bad, but it’s really not that good either; just serviceable and a little more aggressive and interesting than Glenlivet. Twelve years didn’t make it into a rock star, but I can only shudder to think what it would be at six, hidden behind an NAS label with a name like “Hart of Speyside”.

          • Thank you – I realize that my “though process” obscured or conveniently downplayed the likely scenario of produces being able to put out a “young” NAS product and rely on advertising and marketing to justify a price that is out of line with reality. Again in my perfect world we have have age statements for all and pricing that aligned with that. Those few exceptions of high quality before their time would benefit from a price premium based on reputation not marketing.

            Now to catch up on the discussion as I have been away for too long.

  25. Jeff: “Hart of Speyside”? I think what you’re looking for is here: http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/09/glenfiddich-launches-first-no-age-statement-collection/

    It may or may not be six years old. I’m somewhat certain we’ll never know.

    • Yep, Glenfiddich Select Cask, Glenfiddich Reserve Cask and Glenfiddich Vintage Cask – it’s all about the wood these days, I guess because they want to use it as a selling point, if only because producers DO have to put the distillate into something anyway. It’s the cask that’s important, never time IN cask; 50 years or 50 months, it makes no difference – until you get to the checkout or taste it.

  26. I came across this review and the discussion that follows is quite interesting:

    http://www.connosr.com/reviews/glenlivet/nadurra/soft-drink/

    I thought Jeff might find it interesting.

    • Preferring some whisky because it’s cheaper, or because it’s younger, is the consumer’s prerogative, but it’s still no argument that the whisky isn’t a product OF its age, whether that age is known or unknown. A whisky without an age statement isn’t a whisky without an age (it’s not “unaged”, just undisclosed), and saying “I like this or that NAS” is just a variation on “there are some good ones”. If the same reviewer got to try a 23 Brora with the label ripped off, and didn’t have to pay for it, he might conclude “I prefer the taste and price of this label-less peated whisky” (I know I probably would) but it says nothing about the effect OF age or the relevance of product information. Tasting blind is no excuse for buying blind.

      As for the review itself, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but I think more whisky experience might be in order before I start handicapping this guy to guide my purchases. A 95 that should have been a 98? Would even brand ambassadors from Glenlivet rate it that high? As for the discussion below the review, sure, your own experience is the best judge, the opinions of experienced reviewers supposedly mean nothing (even handicapped), so just go out and buy everything and try it for yourself and, if you don’t like it, just give it away or pour it out. The industry would love consumers to do that (just like movie makers would love you to pay to see everything that’s released), but most people aren’t that gullible or that rich. What always amazes me with such discussions is this: if it’s always really up to individual taste anyway, and the opinions of others count for nothing, why should anyone care about the reviews on Whisky Connosr when they generally reflect less whisky experience than that of Serge or Ralfy?

      I did try to join WC a couple of times and somehow was unable to – no idea why.

      • there are occasional glitches to joining. try emailing/contact the hosts

      • Keep trying, Jeff, WC needs some livening up.

        BTW, thanks for the link to the Whisky Advocate discussion. I dropped WA from my favourites about a year ago after I realized Hansell is essentially an industry hand-puppet. He invites comments, but got quite testy when your comments did not support his weakly stated raison d’etre. I get that advertisers don’t like it if you say their product is crap, or their prices are ridiculous, but the million pound whisky takes the goofiness to a whole new level. As someone said in that discussion, it could be cat piss in that bottle, but no one will ever know because no one is ever going to open a bottle that cost that kind of money. It’s just another trophy.

        I can think of quite a few instances where the story is far more interesting than the whisky: the Shackleton replica comes to mind. It wasn’t bad, but not worth $200. Richard Patterson, its creator and a legend in his own mind, has himself become more of the story than the whisky he creates. The Dalmores and Whyte and McKays I’ve been able to afford leave me unconvinced of his genius.

        Sorry to get off topic here, but it’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve got nothing else to do.

        Cheers.

        • I agree completely – often the story IS the point with a lot of these products, just like the Macallan Replica series (until they were shown to be based on fakes that Macallan bought and didn’t catch). “What? Refunds? Not a prayer”.

          Hansell didn’t want me commenting on his blog anymore and emailed me so. I’ve had a very dim view of anyone who threatens me with censorship ever since. My mistake was thinking that we all knew something about whisky but didn’t really have an interest in lying about what we knew. I was wrong, but when John said “Jeff, this has nothing to do with value” – on whisky that sold for £987,500 – I lost it. In retrospect, the smartest person in the whole thing was Gavin Smith, if only because he managed to avoid a question that he couldn’t answer without slitting someone’s throat (his own or Dalmore’s). I certainly can’t take credit for it, but I think that was the last heated debate that the Whisky Advocate blog saw; since then, it’s mostly been feel-good whisky marketing pablum that I read to get ready to go to sleep – it’s very relaxing.

          To be fair to Hansell, however, it wasn’t always so – he DID take what I thought were heroic stands against boutique bottles – http://whiskyadvocate.com/2012/09/21/ridiculously-expensive-whiskies-have-just-about-jumped-the-shark/
          – and in support of age statements –
          http://whiskyadvocate.com/2013/04/09/age-statements-how-important-are-they/

          I think that there was a later shift in editorial policy, the source of which remains unknown to most (including me).

          • Maltmonster and I have discussed the Hansell thing a couple of times. Shame he doesn’t really seem too willing to take a stance on the tough stuff any longer.

          • That blog is all but dead.

          • Hi there,

            I think it was when the name shifted from Malt Advocate to Whisky Advocate and John sold to a bigger publishing company.

            Since then the style of the blog has become far less interesting and I quit from visiting daily to read what was new in the business.

            That’s the way things go.

            Greetings
            kallaskander

          • The sad part is that a lot of these people ARE experts – their long and varied experience HAS resulted in a superior level of knowledge – but economics determine the nature of the dialogue; there’s just no money, for anyone, in saying “age matters to whisky” or “sure, this is great stuff but, if you’re going to drink it rather than keep it to later sell it like an antique clock, there are much better values out there of comparable quality”.

            Roskrow had it right: what professional whisky writers do isn’t journalism, it’s marketing. http://thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk/Blogs/domblog/2011/06/20/new-vs-old-media/

            Pound-for-pound, it’s probably the single most important thing ever written about whisky.

  27. Jim Murray’s awards are out (https://blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2015/11/jim-murrays-whisky-bible-2016-the-winners/).

    In the spirit of “true patriot love”, and since Curt is doing NAS reviews anyway, I’d like to nominate Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, this year’s “World Whisky of the Year”, for review. Good, bad or indifferent, I’d really like another (and more trusted) opinion on this product.

    • Coming soon.

    • but isn’t it NAS?

      But if you want a good non-industry influenced review try this:

      http://www.connosr.com/reviews/crown-royal/northern-harvest-rye/3-canuks-part-iii/

      He and I don’t always share the same tastes in whiskies, but he’s a solid reviewer.

      • Yeah, it’s NAS, but you’re either in a time warp or missed one helluva row, above; I’m not buying it, I’d just like to see it reviewed as NAS reviews are happening here anyway. It is a nice review you’ve cited, however. Murray’s got this at 97.5? Why, that’s even better than Black Grouse (94/100) and exactly 10 points more than JW Red Label (87.5)!

        • Maybe he works on a scale from 50 to 125. I quit buying the bible a few years ago after he sucked me into buying Ballantine’s 17, another of his 97 point WWOTY. I also bit on OP 21, a 97 pointer for which I paid a hefty price and was left feeling I could have spent the money more wisely. I await Curt’s take on this year’s WWOTY.

          • I tried the OP21, it was a sample from a friend. I scored it a 77. I really was not impressed.

            I’m learning to be more (pardon me) “skeptical” when I hear people rave about something I must have. I’m learning more how my friends’ tastes contrast with my own. So now depending on how they describe stuff I have a good idea about whether I’ll like it or not. Plus I usually drink at David’s anyway…. much less expensive.

          • OP21 is one of those malts that has definitely been subject to batch variation. Fortunately it is poured at the festivals here every year and I always make a point of trying it. It WAS better in earlier incarnations, but definitely far from a WWOTY in anyone’s eyes. Anyone worth listening to anyway. I’ve preferred the OP 17 time and again. And while I’d score it higher than Skeptic’s 77 (even in newer, lesser incarnations) it is indeed nothing more than on ‘good’ malt.

            Regarding this year’s pick…I have a bottle in hand that will be in a future Dram Initiative club tasting. I’ve not yet tasted, but will do so in the coming day or two and share thoughts. Let’s face it…even having not tried it we all know how fucking stupid this pick is. You will NEVER convince me that with all of the old and rare, special and spectacular malts the white-hatted ‘prophet’ tried in a year that this blended Canadian whisky outshone ’em all. I call bullshit. Hey…it may actually be good (we’ll find out soon), but there is no way in hell that it is best in the world. He’s not merely jumped the shark this time, he’s flushed away all credibility he ever had. It really is a shame that one of the best whisky writers out there (seriously…the guy is hella good at turning a phrase) has become as obsolete as floppy discs and cassette tapes.

            When I need an ‘expert’ opinion I’ll cull one together from friends, various blogs and my own experience.

          • What gets me lately about the whisky bible is the dust jacket and those Jim Murray tawny-coloured eyes; is it supposed to mean he’s full of whisky, or are they subtly warning you that he’s full of… something other than whisky?

            That the world is utterly desperate FOR a whisky bible is proven by this planet having one ONLY as good as Murray’s and it STILL selling like hotcakes. As Curt says, the guy’s a great writer, but many of the marks are so insane (not just in terms of the numbers themselves, but in the quality pecking order that they indicate) so as to make the thing useless as a buying resource. The thing is really just meant to generate shelf talkers for retailers and controversy; I mean, has any whisky ever won back-to-back in the same category? The point seems to be to “spread around the Murray love”, boosting every brand in turn, or in accordance to its relations with Jim Murray. That WAY too much is made over the importance of Jim’s opinion goes without saying, yet there’s a huge portion of the whisky media that’s simply mesmerized, which says that you should be too.

            If anyone can tell us, what I’m really curious about is this year’s “whisky crisis” – one year it was sulfur, another year that scotch has died, and so on. I’d love this year’s “crisis” to be related to NAS, but that’s probably WAY too much to ask whisky Santa for; I know I haven’t been THAT good.

  28. Ok, this is a little off the wall in certain respects, but I’ll throw this out here for all concerned. Back from the U.S. (Minneapolis) after a week there for work. Brought home a couple of bottles, not the best pricing, but I didn’t have a vehicle to get around so had to go to the closest “best” retailer. Got into a conversation about Macallan with the shop keeper once he realized I was a canucklehead. He said he had lots of Canadian customers who complained about pricing (true, given most of the Canadian clientele is from Winnipeg) and availability.

    Interesting point that came out of the conversation is that he said he’d been told that younger age statement Macallan products would cease to be available to him as a retailer in the U.S. within a year. He asked a bit about the color scheme and how the products were and I went all “Jeff” on him telling him I don’t buy that shit. 😉 Actually I did tell him I haven’t a clue because I won’t buy the NAS stuff. He indicated that the NAS stuff like Storm doesn’t really sell well and he’s a little concerned because he sell’s a ton of the 10 year old oak and 12 year old sherry finish Macallan’s.

    So anyone have a clue whether this is true? I’ve not read anything about it happening stateside prior to hearing this but I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me. (and yes, I bought a Macallan 12 and have been stocking up for a while – and yes, it has changed over time somewhat)

    • It’s an interesting question because, when the 1824 “colour-coded” series came out, I think the line was that it would replace everything in sherry and fine oak up to 18 years – but if you go to the Macallan website, it looks as if all those AS products are intact. I still believe the former, but it seems difficult to know for sure and maybe Macallan has changed course.

      It might speak to something that I said before: that even where NAS doesn’t completely replace age-stated products, the new issue is going to suddenly become availability/scarcity. Sure, the 12 is still MADE, but there’s less of it made with all the casks going to NAS, so you’ll pay more for it JUST to know the age of it. And where WILL the age-stated stuff go? To markets that won’t accept NAS, because people get the products that they demand through their purchasing. People AFFIRM that age doesn’t matter to them, or to whisky, with every NAS they buy and, not surprisingly, it’s killing age information and, by extension, age.

  29. There’s a lot of bs from some reviewers. A while back Whiskey Advocate had Crown Royal XO rated 95. Although I’m not a fan of Canadian whiskies, I bought a bottle based on this review. Unfortunately it was a waste of money as I found it totally bland, no better than Glenlivet 12, for over twice the price. Now I still see it sitting on the counters gathering dust at a discounted price. Since then I’ve decided to stick with the three blogs that I find similar in their likes, Whiskyfun, Whiskey Jug and Curt (even though you haven’t been reviewing NAS).

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