Sep 202015
 

From Whisky Advocate, Summer 2015:

“No Age is also, as I’ve said before, a perfect way to explain the difference between age and maturity, to show the whisky maker’s art.  To do that, however, the new whiskies must be as good if not better than the ones they are replacing.  Too many high profile examples have failed to do that.  There is no transparency as to what goes into the bottle, what the principles of NAS are, why it is happening now.  Again, it’s a failure to engage.”

 – Dave Broom

 Posted by at 5:30 pm

  64 Responses to “Dave Broom”

  1. Look, I think we all agree that replacing an age statement whisky with an NAS is unforgivable. I’m especially pissed at Glenlivet over the Nadurra business. I’m also none too pleased with Macallan over dropping the 10YO CS, their switching to “Colors” and their overall greed with their 50% price hikes (same for HP). I also don’t like Balvenie dropping the regular 15 SB down to a 12 AND raising the price, then bringing out a sherried 15 SB for 60% more $’s.

    I don’t have a problem with introducing new NAS bottlings while keeping the rest of the line, as with Talisker and Laphroaig, as long as they don’t screw with the good AS ones. Same for the “special bottlings” from LVMH’s Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. Both still put out their great 10YO’s at a very reasonable price. And I enjoy those special releases, too.

    • Am I correct in saying that it looks like Glendronach has joined the NAS game using up stock normally aging for its main line? One of my all time favorites, the Revival 15 year is being discontinued supposedly for three years. Yet, they have had a series of NAS releases, rather successful Cask Strength Batches 1 through 4. I cannot help wondering if those wonderful whiffs of sherry and sweet taste came at the expense of my favorite and fair priced Glendronach Revival 15?

      • Aaarrgghh! Say it ain’t so!!!! Although I guess the 18 will still be available (yeah!) and I can grab about 6 bottles of the 15 off the shelf tomorrow to last me the three years! Or I can just say “F… It!” and buy something else (I am out of Clynelish 14). Gotta think the decrease in scotch sales will hit these guys at some point soon and AS will be pushed again (and prices eased).

        • I don’t think there’s really much of a correlation between between Glendronach’s Cask strength releases and the short-term discontinuation of Revival. Wordsofwhisky.com did a good job of outlining the actual ages as they related to the shutdown from 1996 until 2001 here: http://wordsofwhisky.com/glendronach-is-a-lot-older-than-the-label-says/

          If you believe it, then it’s quite likely that Glendronach used older whiskies for a time to re-establish the brand and the cost of bottling older whiskies. I’ve been buying up 2013 bottlings of Original as they should be 17-18 year old whisky and I enjoy what I’ve tasted. So it’s quite a bargain. In markets where the product moves faster and even some stores around me, we’re well into 2014 bottlings and true 12 y/o whisky. They had little choice with the base 12 year old product.

          Moving forward though a hiatus for Revival means they aren’t willing to use current 19-20-21 year old stocks just to maintain the release. I suspect those are going into Allardice and Parliament bottlings as they should. I also wouldn’t be surprised, based on the age chart, to see a hiatus for Allardice and Parliament down the road.

          I think the Cask Strength bottlings are just a simple foray into the NAS market to see how it would be received. The production runs, IIRC were rather limited in comparison.

          There was a rumor floating around about a year ago that Glendronach was moving away from age statements but they’ve released a number of new products since that rumor started, including an 8 year old (Hielan) which seems to be a “different” response to the NAS trend by actually bottling younger whisky instead. Some of their wood finishes also are either new or changed ages: Sauternes went from 14->12; Tawny Port went from 15-18; a new Moscatel 18 was released into the lineup. That suggests to me they are still interested in releasing age statement whiskies. As it’s my favorite distillery, I sure hope so.

  2. While I do appreciate Mr. Broom’s effort to at least talk about NAS, I find parts of it a little misplaced and he largely misses the boat on the topic to instead, rather all too predictably, focus on issues of relative quality. The “there are some good ones” NAS defense has now been turned into the “there should be more good ones” call for NAS “reform”. “The new whiskies,” Broom says, “must be as good if not better than the ones they are replacing” – implying that if NAS-labeled products were better, all would largely be well, something many others might agree with, but I do not. Problems with a spirit’s quality and the duplicity involved in hiding its age are two separate issues, and always have been.

    Quality problems come and go, and are largely in the eye of the beholder. The real lasting and central issue with NAS, however, is the ridiculous idea that a maturation process which the industry itself intentionally undertakes and tracks at very significant and passed-on cost can supposedly have its relevance switched on and off by a marketing/labeling decision to simply not discuss age where it’s found to be inconvenient for sales purposes. The problem isn’t the quality of the products that NAS is or isn’t applied to; it’s that the marketing itself has no internal logic: age, and age information, matters here but not over there, and we’ll make that decision for you while tracking our casks. Comment on that from an expert? Not a prayer.

    I’d certainly agree that there’s a lack of transparency with NAS (not counting the transparent cash-grab aspects), but I find it strange for Broom to say that it works against the “principles” of NAS because obfuscation IS the only principle behind NAS. Those who view NAS as some type of whisky or process (and it’s not multivintaging) should reflect upon what NAS means: No Age Statement. As a designation, it ONLY refers to what you’re NOT being told, nothing more, nothing less; it refers to an arbitrarily-imposed lack of information and, again, not a process (beyond obfuscation, that is).

    This touches on another point Mr. Broom makes, which is “no age is also, as I’ve said before, a perfect way to explain the difference between age and maturity, to show the whisky maker’s art”. If the point going forward is to show that age is immaterial to whisky quality (which, I think, would be very challenging to do), then the first thing that’s necessary is to document the ages of ALL products involved in such proof, because you can’t show age to be immaterial where age is not known. This NAS is better than that age statement? Ok, but, if there’s really no age information on the former then, for all anyone officially knows, the NAS is older than the age statement (and, while educated guesses are nice, if we’re dealing in facts then facts are what we should be dealing with), so it proves nothing, in and of itself, about age.

    The overall thrust of Mr. Broom’s comment seems to be to outline where the industry could do a better job in selling NAS to consumers. While it’s impossible to reject any call for quality improvement or more meaningful industry engagement, Broom, unfortunately, like many others, just doesn’t deal with the elephant in the room: NAS simply doesn’t make sense – not in what it says about marketing and greed, but in what it says about whisky maturation. Avoiding that issue is central, of course – indeed vital – to presenting the idea that NAS is a form of marketing that CAN be reformed – that arbitrary omission of age information to suit sales would be “alright” if quality were “high enough”. On that, we disagree. If quality were somehow “even higher”, would that make it “ok”, in principle, to conceal more information – filtration, ABV, etc. – on the basis that the surest way not to be prejudiced by any product information is not to have any in the first place? Like to taste blind? Maybe you should buy blind as well. The industry, for reasons of its own, is working to help you.

    The overall tone of Broom’s comment is one of a “friend to the industry” but, if he and other experts stepped further outside the conventional scope of that self-designated role for a moment and told the truth about NAS, they might prove to be the best real friends that the whisky industry, and whisky consumers, ever had. Remember those old ads for personal hygiene products – “sometimes, even your closest friends won’t tell you”? That applies here: something clearly and fundamentally stinks about NAS and it’s the industry’s closest friends who are silent about it.

    Mr. Broom is completely right, however, when he says that NAS represents “a failure to engage” on the part of the industry. It is, in fact, nothing less than giving consumers the mushroom treatment: keeping people in the dark and feeding them shit. Yet, on the other hand, if there is some case to be made about why NAS is good for whisky and for consumers (as opposed to just good for industry coffers), it hasn’t been made yet – not by the industry, and not by Mr. Broom.

    I know: I should be more grateful that any expert has lowered themselves to say anything critical about NAS – even though it is, without question, one of the most important issues in whisky today and going forward. As criticism, however, Mr. Broom’s stuff here is pretty weak, and conciliatory, tea. Others may be happy that any expert says anything that’s less than congratulatory about NAS, but I see it here mostly as damage control/distraction/redirection from the main issue which experts still avoid like the plague – that NAS makes no sense – so…

    Boycott NAS!

  3. Damn Jeff, I love your passion.

    By and large I do boycott NAS and I certainly will NEVER buy a new product that has come along to replace a former age statement whisky that I previously enjoyed (Little Bay vs Oban 14; Macallan Amber vs 12 y/o, etc.). I will buy a few NAS whiskies from distilleries that regularly maintain their age statement lines (A’bunadh, Glendronach cask strength) so that aligns me a little more with Robert’s post above I believe.

    That said, I find Talisker Storm (and Glenlivet’s NAS) to be troubling. They might well be sharing shelf space with established age statement products but to me they are huge red flags waving around on the shelf saying “try me, enjoy me, buy me again” with the hidden intent of removing those AS whiskies from the market. Storm where I am is $99, 10 y/o is $91. 10 y/o isn’t catchy and “seems” youngish. Storm is sharp marketing with fancy packaging. I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet that Storm outsells 10 y/o locally by a good margin because people seem to think price and fancy packaging are indicators of quality. I often hear “oh that Ardbeg must be good, because it’s $94!” Well, yes and no. Ardbeg 10 is a very nice whisky if it suits your taste profile, but you can pick it up in Minneapolis for $39. Price indicates little.

    When I can buy a Macallan 25 for the only double the price of the former 12, I’ll accept that age statements aren’t relevant.

    • But even people like yourself and Robert, who still buy some NAS-labeled products, see, like me, that there are issues with the marketing separate from any quality involved – which is what I’m saying. As Robert says, replacing an age statement whisky with an NAS is unforgivable, and people see through the Macallan “colours”/”age doesn’t matter” thing as the bullshit it is. Macallan currently has three(!!!) profit-driven stances on age – it matters (but only with age-statement products), colour matters more (with the 1824 Series) and neither matters as much as selling the stuff (Rare Cask). Now NAS does have a long “time-honoured” tradition within whisky, but so does belief in a flat earth in the realm of geography, so maybe what makes sense and has consistent internal logic should take precedence over what just has a long track record, and people are starting to pick up on this. Belief in a flat earth and NAS are quite understandable in terms of their respective observational and profit-making origins, but does either actually make sense in terms of the shape of the earth or whether age matters to whisky when even the industry hacks who push it can’t stick to a single narrative? Forget about me contradicting it; this crap is SELF-contradictory!

      As NAS is not a process/type of whisky and labeling has no bearing on quality, it’s really all just about removing the age metric from products so this stuff can get younger (and cheaper to produce, but not to buy) without notice, and you’re completely right that products like Storm are being presented both as trial balloons for future NAS-labeled products and as “premium” products through higher-end packaging/pricing.

      But even if NAS marketing doesn’t always see full-blown line conversions, and age-statement products are maintained beside NAS ones, NAS is not harmless to the former products. Within the essentially zero-sum game of whisky production, every cask that goes to Dark Origins is one less that goes to/is saved for HP 12 – thus making HP 12 a more “rare” and “premium” product as well. How would you feel about paying more for whisky, not because of HOW old it is (12 vs. 15 vs. 18), but just to know WHAT its age is (12 vs.???) based on the new “rarity” of finding that age-statement expression on the shelves? Forget about the premiumization of age itself; we’re now talking about the premiumization of age information.

      “Yeah, we’ve still got HP 12, but the price went up – apparently, they’re not making as much of it any more”.

      Sláinte!

      • Agreed.

        Changing topics slightly, what hasn’t gone up lately? In 18 months Glendronach Parliament has jumped from $130->$165->$192 locally. I’m not even sure they brought in any new stock. Both the Original and Revival jumped about 30% over the time period as well. And of course the Macallan spectrum collection is not going up, but remains remarkably similarly priced to former age statements: 10 (gold), 12 (amber), 18 (garbonzo bean), etc. So the actual age went down but the price went up, ergo price increase. I thought the bubble was over.

        And btw, my only real weak spot is A’bunadh. I confess I bought a bottle of Glendronach Cask Strength, but that preceded even the Macallan switch, so I plead ignorance on that one.

  4. On a family trip to Scotland just a month ago, my mother’s cousin asked my help to pick things for her to taste, as she wished to learn more about Scotch. Over the second week of the trip, I used her taste requirements to pick out her drams. All of which she enjoyed. Things like Tosh Three Wood, Dalwhinnie 15, Balvenie 12, Glenkinchie 12, and a mini of Glenfarclas 21. She also nosed my dram of Talisker 18 in the dining room of the Sligachan Hotel on Skye. Magical…. but I digress.

    Last two days of the tour in Edinburgh, I tasked her to go whisky shop hunting for something for her to bring home. I told her to get help in the shops by listing things she had liked so far, sticking to bottles with clear age statements, and if possible, independent bottlings since we don’t see them in Ontario much. Nicer to bring home a rare item.

    While shopping the Royal Mile, on her second attempt, she found a very helpful young man. He listened to her criteria, and said he knew JUST the thing. Gordon and MacPhail, 10 year old Glenburgie. Not available widely in OB, light, sweet – perfect. Great experience, and having sampled it, very nice whisky.

    This brings us to her first attempt at a competitor shop. I wish she remembered the shop names so that I could send them an email. At the first shop, she walked in full of wonder and decribed her needs to the first person willing to help. She was then directed to several NAS bottlings. She mentioned that her guru told her to stick to age statements. The sales person pushed back with tasting notes and stories of craftmenship and artistry. When she stuck to her guns about what she wanted, she was told “if labeling is more important to you than flavor, maybe you should look elsewhere.” W T F?!
    You HAVE want the customer is requesting, but you’d rather have them shop elsewhere if they won’t be steered in the direction you want them to go? That’s terrorism in the form of marketing. Thank God she would not be bullied, and thank God she had a complete opposite experience immediately following that one.

    Now whether this sales person is just die hard NAS brain washed, or worse, in the pocket of the large distillieries, I won’t soon forget this. It felt like a sign that lines in the sand are forming. I’ve enjoyed plenty of NAS, and I fully agree with Jeff. I believe the producers (not all), are trying to change consumer’s ideals slowly but surely. As just one whisky hobbiest, that bubble will burst for me eventually, and I will spend my money elsewhere, and just enjoy the collection have.
    I think some Green Spot would be a nice bottle to try next, instead of Scotch.

    – Mike

    • My last trip through Calgary airport in hopes of snapping up some whisky at Cloud 9 behind security met with my slow shift already.

      Plenty of whisky, some I wanted. Could have bottle a bottle of GD Allardice but decided against it. To my dismay, the Glenfarclas 105 was the new, NAS version (though I’ve been told the ten only existed for a relatively short number of years, having been NAS prior to getting an age statement). A few other bottles I was after I can get cheaper in the U.S. when I’m there next month.

      So not wanting a Storm or Gold and finding Perpetuum overpriced (many of the prices went up at Cloud 9 it seems, not the bargain it was in January) I opted for rum. I grabbed two bottles of Pumpkin Face rum, only one of which was an age statement. But I find myself buying age statement rum more frequently as the Scotch industry dickers around deciding how much deception they can get away with (don’t be a Volkswagen would seem to fit in this instance). I like rum very much and it’s a good deal cheaper in most instances than a similarly aged whisky. Far sweeter of course, so it depends what you like.

      Good stories about the retailers btw, too bad no names were recalled.

  5. Hi there,

    couldn’t help it, I wanted to know the bigger context of Dave Broom’s statement and found this

    http://www.nonjatta.com/2015/08/Dave-Broom.html

    Could be the source of ” No Age is also, as I’ve said before,”.

    In the bigger context – in my eyes – the statement quoted above is even more weakend as a stance against NAS-ty whiskies.

    “Another recent development is the proliferation of no-age statement whiskies and the exponential increase in cost for the consumer. Understandably, fans moan a lot about this twin trend. Do you think it’s likely that this ‘trend’ will be reversed, or do you think we’d better get used to this state of affairs?

    They are two separate issues.

    No Age [NAS] is an inevitable consequence of an unforeseen upturn in demand for whisky globally. Distillers around the world – be they in Scotland, America or Japan – could not have foreseen this 12, 15, 18 years ago. Consequently, there are not sufficient stocks. NAS is the result.
    When well handled, there is nothing inherently wrong with a NAS whisky. Taking an age statement off the label allows the whisky maker to use younger and older whiskies to achieve a balanced and complex result.

    You could argue that age statements gave the false impression that ‘older = better’. That’s not true. There is a difference between age and maturity. Age is a number, maturity is a character. That said, the NAS whiskies which are appearing should, in my mind, be as good if not better than the whiskies they are replacing, especially if they are more expensive. Many are. Some, sadly, are not…..”

    As a consumer I am not amused about this which is the direct continutation of the quote I gave:

    “Will the trend be reversed? I think we will see age statements creeping back as the stock situation eases but there have also been a lot of positive learnings from NAS so they won’t go away.

    On price. The rise in the very top end is eyebrow-raising certainly. That said, looking at prices in the UK and other European markets over the past decade, you’ll see that standard malts haven’t risen dramatically (apart from a couple of notable exceptions), and while premium has moved up a little more steeply in general, the whiskies are still fairly priced. It is the top end which has gone ballistic. In other words, there is still value to be had.

    You could argue that whisky was seriously underpriced for too long. The industry was giving away its finest whiskies and we all got used to the fact. It was great! Those days have gone. We have to get used to the fact that at the top end there will be bottles which we cannot afford. The prices aren’t coming down again.”

    Seriously underpriced for too long? Man, the price hike is not only in the realm of +40 years where age very well matters.

    To quote another whisky author:
    “The dirty little secret of the Scotch industry is they’ve become addicted to high prices, but they’ve run out of old whisky,” says Ian Buxton, the whisky expert and author of 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.”

    10-12 yo whiskies for more than 40.- € are not in order.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Looks like I’ll be having to cosy up with my friends with stockpiles… then I won’t need to worry about the NAS-nonNAS issue, because I’m being priced out of the market.

    • Yep, thinking over the discussion, the quote from Buxton definitely came to mind – and it’s as close to the truth about NAS as Roskrow’s famous defense of real journalism was about professional whisky writers really being marketers; where age can’t be used as a point for premium pricing, we now see age ignored (where inconvenient) in favour of the “exciting new release” angle.

      At heart, I don’t think the real driver for NAS – profit maximization on young product – is a mystery to anybody and making it a case about “which is better than that” is still a separate, and intentionally distracting, issue from whether NAS makes sense or whether the significance of age maturation can be turned on or off by a decision to withhold information for marketing.

      Selling more young product at higher prices may well be an inevitable outcome of higher demand, or it may just be bean-counters making hay while the sun shines – I certainly wouldn’t trust Dr. Nick Morgan to tell me which – but even if driven “by necessity”, using young product and the “need” to withhold its age aren’t the same thing. People who don’t care about age so as not to be put off by no age statements are put off by low age statements? Is everyone who just wants to know what they’re drinking really any more “ageists” then the “ageist” distillers who mature whisky for an “unnecessary” 20, 30 or 40 years? If this old stuff would really be “just as good/the same” at less than 10 years “with the proper casking”, then why are “the experts” losing 2% per year TO age it WHILE telling me that I’m “a hothead with an age fixation”? But, regardless of what anyone thinks of the final result on any given whisky, age maturation is intentionally undertaken to change a whisky’s character and, that being the case, age is not “irrelevant” for any whisky, whether its age is hidden or not.

  6. Oh looky, Dalwhinnie has released a NAS for our ‘enjoyment’: Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold. From the information at Master of Malt, and I shat you not:

    “It’s made only with spirit that has been distilled between October and March, and interestingly enough, they suggest that you try serving this expression frozen!”

    Ralfy must be spinning above his grave, if this doesn’t put him in it.

    • And now we also have the “GLENFIDDICH 1963 ORIGINAL SINGLE MALT” – from the fluff ad copy:

      “Our Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, recreated the Original 1963 from our unrivalled collection of aged whiskies with the recipe uncovered from the Glenfiddich family archives.

      While most whiskies today mature in oak, sherry casks were more prominent in 1963. The result, then and now, is a spirit contrasting many of our other expressions.”

      Somebody should at least review this stuff before it goes out, because the impression that’s created is that there’s a “Glenfiddich family” and that sherry casks aren’t made of oak – are they made of sherry? Does that “recipe” include blending instructions referring to malt ages/proportions. But how can it? Such things aren’t important to people who “really know whisky” are they?

      “The result, then and now, is a spirit contrasting many of our other expressions.” – yes, many still have age statements.

      As my buddy the Scotch Guru said, “we may have just seen Glenfiddich’s take on Sienna”.

      • “Most whiskies today mature in oak…” – This sounds exciting. I would be very interested in trying a whisky that has been matured in something other than oak.

        • Yep, just ask the good folks at Springbank. They’ll tell you on every label how THEIR whiskies are specially aged in oak.

          (I love Springbank.)

    • You know Ralfy’s profession is an undertaker…..

      • Actually I did not know that (unless you’re yanking my chain).

        What Diageo brand hasn’t released a NAS yet?
        Caol Ila
        Cardhu
        Clynelish
        Cragganmore
        Dalwhinnie – Winter’s Gold
        Glen Elgin
        Glenkinchie
        Knockando
        Lagavulin
        Oban – Little Bay
        Royal Lochnagar
        Singleton of Dufftown
        Singleton of Glendullan
        The Singleton
        Talisker – Storm

        I’m saddened by the Glenfiddich release, though I’m least surprised by they and Glenlivet doing so given they are two of the largest exporters of single malt. It would stand to reason that they may sell more than all the rest. I’m still miserably disappointed that they’d do it. And that press release sounds like a blatant rip-off of Glenfarlas’ Family Cask line.

        • I can attest to the profession professed to by that professor of whisky, Ralfy. He has mentioned it in some of his earlier videos.

          In fact, he “dug a hole” for himself in one of the first ones, “Drinking and Awareness” or something like that. Very entertaining how he gets himself deeper and deeper in discussion alcoholism…

          Rivaled only by his 13 November 2011 discussion about prostate cancer and (“ouch”) self-screening. I only hope he doesn’t practice what he preaches….. I used to show it to medical students and ask them to “spot the medical errors….”

        • But you gotta admit (sorry in advance Jeff), the NAS Caol Ila cask strength (58% version) is a real cracker!

          • Sure, but, as we know, the arguments against NAS aren’t based in the quality of the products involved anyway. The issue is that no one can argue that the Caol Ila CS, whatever its age or whatever anyone thinks of its present quality, would be the same whisky at twice or half that age, so there’s no evidence that, just as with other whisky (say, the whiskies involved in this Glenfiddich), its age is any more “irrelevant” to its character than the fact it’s a cask strength or made by Caol Ila (or Glenfiddich).

          • But whatever age it is Jeff, it’s REALLY GOOD! They should put out more of it. And whatever age it was that made it it so good, they should keep is around that age and keep making it.

            And yes, they should tell us what that age is, and those of us who know good whisky when we taste it will not care if it’s 3 or 4 years old. because we know it’s good, and will still buy it.

            And it’s not like there’s that much of it available. If a young age puts off some buyers, who cares? More for the rest of us to buy (I make the assumption that you’ll like it… you can try mine and then buy it if they ever put an age statement on it, and it if you don’t like, I’ll buy more and drink it more often…).

          • Thanks for the response because it brings up a lot of interesting points.

            And whatever age it was that made it so good, they should keep is around that age and keep making it.” – Absolutely, and short of even more detailed (and desirable) information concerning its age/formulation, the surest way to keep it as it is, I think, to put an age statement on it, so that at least its minimum age can’t change without notice.

            “And yes, they should tell us what that age is, and those of us who know good whisky when we taste it will not care if it’s 3 or 4 years old. because we know it’s good, and will still buy it.” – Absolutely again!!! – and this is EXACTLY the sort of rationality about the issue of age that I wish both the industry and consumers would embrace; if the industry’s message is that “it’s quality that matters, not age” then it IS quality that matters, and there’s no reason to hide age.

            Related to this, if on a tangent, I’d like to say that I DO understand that many people’s issues with many NAS products do center around current quality and value – my only point on this is that the products would not be of better quality, as currently formulated/marketed, simply by putting an age statement on them. It might well be that some of these products have quality problems founded IN age/maturity, but those problems aren’t founded in, or wouldn’t be fixed by, age/maturity information.

            On the issue of value/price, however, age statements might WELL bring some of these prices down and values up. Whisky scoring only 80-something (so no stunning Octomore) currently costing (in Ontario, say) $90+ might well not have its price supported if it were known it was 8 y.o. – which is, of course, why such ages are hidden. Furthermore, and it’s a point Curt made at the outset long ago, this might be where any REAL sense of ageism with the consumer is found: consumers don’t reject young whisky on the basis of quality – as shown by NAS sales – but they reject the idea of overpaying for that quality where there is no demonstration that producers incurred any such proportional costs in bringing it to market. In sort, maybe people aren`t as prejudiced against young whisky as they are prejudiced against being ripped off. While it’s “true quality’s the thing”, with so much (only) 80-class whisky being produced today, there’s just no reason, from the consumer’s perspective, to reward a producer more for bringing a non-descript 8 y.o. to market than a non-descript 10 or 12. While I don’t base my own objections to NAS on these issues, I certainly do understand people who do.

            “And it’s not like there’s that much of it available. If a young age puts off some buyers, who cares? More for the rest of us to buy (I make the assumption that you’ll like it… you can try mine and then buy it if they ever put an age statement on it, and it if you don’t like, I’ll buy more and drink it more often…).” – now THERE’S the real rub, I think. I know that you’re talking about not being put off high-quality products by low age statements, but I think that’s only a small part of the issue for the industry. As currently formulated/formatted under the rapidly-growing aegis of NAS, I would suggest that there is, in fact, a huge amount of undeclared young whisky being sold at proportionally inflated prices and that, from the above point, low age statements would put off a lot of buyers, not over ideas of quality BUT of value/producer cost – and that this problem/issue is going to progressively get a lot more pronounced. No one knows how old it is, but HP Dark Origins is now $99.95 in Ontario, the old price for Ardbeg 10.

            This is, in fact, why industry defense of NAS is so staunch (if illogical about what it says, not about business, but about whisky): the industry cares very much if young age statements put off ANY buyers for ANY reason, perceived quality or value, because, as aged stocks continue to dwindle, getting people to disproportionately overpay for young product via NAS is seen as the new cash cow going forward. Furthermore, it’s exactly why the tastes of young consumers are being steered toward the idea of “young is the new definition of good” with “tasty” and “flavour-led” products – that which is “bold” and “assertive” and, yes, in many cases, less-than nuanced, is pronounced as high quality because it’s what the industry in now able – or is now willing – to provide. This is particularly true as bean counters look to quick profits while waiting for their own bubble to inevitably burst as people wake up and say: “whisky was once pretty good, but the value’s really not there anymore and, if producers don’t care (and treat me like an idiot in the bargain), why should I?”.

            Again, thanks for the reply because it helped me to better think about some aspects of this I hadn’t considered before.

            Sláinte!

          • Always happy to help out…

          • All great points Jeff and it’s why I continue to stock up on known product while I can, where I can, but it’s not locally.

            I’ll go back to NAS in a moment but along those same lines I’m a big supporter of Glendronach. I don’t know but I don’t believe they set local pricing; they simply sell their product and the market decides what it’s worth. Our local liquor commission (Manitoba) just this week raised the prices of Glendronach Original (12) and Revival (15) by $8 and $6 respectively. No rationale given and with the knowledge that Glendronach is ceasing production of Revival for a few years, this is nothing more than an annoying price gouge. Only 26 months ago I could pick up the 12 for $48 – it has very nearly doubled in price. Revival was available for $65. Are those price increases warranted? I seriously doubt it. But I’m honestly shocked that people still buy liquor locally. I know a ton of people take their kids to hockey tournaments in Grand Forks, only two hours away and in the U.S. Why would anyone support this pricing? /Rant.

            But that little aside factors in as well. NAS is in many cases more expensive than a known age statement whisky. Talisker Storm is $7 more than the ten year old. I’m no Talisker guy but guys I know that are and have tasted both won’t by Storm because it’s not worth more money. So your points are all well taken because the industry is doing it’s damnedest to shoot itself in the foot for the sake of short term profit. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that Macallan 12 isn’t what it used to be, so it’s even pervading the age statement side of things. I can even attest to the notion that Macallan 12 (one of my previous go to whiskies) isn’t the same because I have a bottle from 2009 and one from 2014 that I’ve tried side by side (both opened at the same time as part of a test of the suggestion). I find it absolutely fascinating to watch the self imposed destruction of the “aura” of Scotch whisky.

            I don’t drink as much as many do, perhaps 6-10 bottles in any given year. Knowing when my uncles largely stopped drinking I need about 20-25 years worth of stock. I’m afraid it will consist largely of whisky distilled prior to 2016 and will have been purchased only in the U.S. and Alberta (though your pricing seems to be wavering of late and I have to admit I think Notley will impose a PST in the next budget). I expect I’ll miss decent products along the way, but not that much. I also know that I can pick up Ron Zacapa 23 year old Centenario rum for $34.99 stateside. I like rum. Quite a lot. If that’s what the Scotch Whisky Association wants me spending my sheckels on then so be it.

          • “If that’s what the Scotch Whisky Association wants me spending my sheckels on then so be it.” – that might actually be part of the problem; many of the SWA producers who are actively driving people to look for “malternatives” also own the malternatives. As an old-school economist might tell you, “real competition always benefits the consumer and that’s why you see so little of it”.

          • “– that might actually be part of the problem; many of the SWA producers who are actively driving people to look for “malternatives” also own the malternatives.”

            Fair enough, but 23 year old rum @ $35 is a lot less money in their pockets than buying fuschia Macallan @ $150 or whatever the NAS du jour happens to be. I may still be lining their pockets, but far less efficiently than they’d like. With the caveat: until they raise that price/remove that age statement as well. I’m a gatherer – I’ll have more than enough soon enough. If I still see value, I’ll keep buying. else I’ll stop. But you’ve given me a new project anyway – see who owns the rummies.

          • Fair point that some divisions of beverage companies are more profitable than others. As applied to the scotch/whisky industry, I just wish that many distilleries were much closer to the small, craft-oriented businesses using time-honoured methods that they often portray themselves to be instead of one small division of a far larger enterprise where big decisions are made at a higher level. I remember reading one story (and it might well have been here) of someone asking about a Talisker NAS missing from the distillery gift shop and no one at Talisker knowing what they were talking about. It turned out that the product was blended offsite and the gift shop (and the distillery) simply hadn’t been notified or sent their consignment yet.

          • If it’s not good enough to spend money on I won’t buy it. I have enough to last a long time, and I suspect there will be one or 2 bottles that will make the grade over the years so I won’t ever run out. And if I do, I’ll just put a new cartridge in the sodastream (if they still exist), squeeze a lime, and voila!

  7. Hi there,

    is this the way it is now?

    “The Ardmore Port Wood Finish is an excellent whisky for anyone looking to try something made with traditional methods but offering a taste that sets it apart from everything else. The addition of a 12 year old age statement further showcases the credibility and premium values of the whisky.”

    http://www.thewhiskybusiness.com/2015/10/the-ardmore-launches-new-port-wood.html

    Is it really enough to add a AS expression to a range of three NAS exprssions to “further showcase the credibility and premium values” of any whisky or spirit?

    Whom are they kidding?

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Whom are they kidding? Perhaps no one. But maybe it’s the first chink in the armor? Probably overly optimistic but I’m taking it as an admission of error.

      • I’d like to think that things might be changing but, to me, it’s another sign of the need for the industry to provide “something for everyone” – the group provided for in this case being the one that can’t be fooled into thinking that age is irrelevant to whisky, which isn’t exactly the same thing as people who say “I don’t care about age” (particularly concerning the increasing number of whiskies where they don’t have the option of knowing age TO care about it anyway). If taste is what matters, I’m not at all convinced I can taste E150a and I’m a little more convinced that I can taste the difference NCF makes, and I’m in favour of natural colour and flavour for all whiskies just on principle, but any discussion of the difference “traditional production methods” make WITHOUT dealing with the impact of age is simply ridiculous because the taste variation induced by maturation makes caramel and NCF look small by comparison.

        If one watches what the industry does, instead of just what it’s willing to say (depending on the product, of course), there’s very little evidence that anyone in control of whisky actually believes the bullshit they peddle about NAS: cask ages are still recorded and maturation, with attendant constant product loss in Angel’s Share, continues apace with no whiskies put forward that are “the same” at 5, 15 and 25. This is the real upshot against NAS: if no one in the industry really believes in NAS – and it’s pretty plainly offered as a way to sell young product while helping its purchasers feel that they haven’t overpaid for something the industry itself produced relatively cheaply – why should anyone else believe it? For all Diageo now supposedly believes in “flavour-led” products, check out the new special releases (http://blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2015/10/diageo-special-releases-2015-first-look/) – they even tell you the Clynelish is really a 15 just to support the price.

        • While frustrating on so many levels I will remain cautiously optimistic that echoes of our shouted complaints are reaching the high towers of decision-makers. An age statement and a seemingly affordable dram. Let’s cross fingers, though I’m skeptical for the same reasons Jeff points out.

          It’s also worth noting that we should harbour some reservations as to what happens if we DO indeed get our way and age statements become the norm again. In this age of withered stocks and empty warehouses (or so they’d have us believe, at least in relation to MATURE spirits), I can only imagine the stepped pricing policies that would follow an entirely age-stated line. What we’ll get in response at that point will be a whole new argument from the brands. “Well…you wanted age-stated whiskies. If you want it all matured to this point there is a price to pay. Our 12 year old is now $100”.

          One other note…I do differ too on thoughts related to chill-filtration. I think it is one of the most impactful factors in whisky. Age and chill-filtration. NCF malts will almost universally carry a higher abv simply due to the aesthetic requirements to keep the malt clear and unclouded. In essence it is a twofer for the consumer. With chill-filtration comes higher bottling strength.

          I just wrote up a wonderful 21 year old Bushmills that fires on all cylinders except in terms of proper IMPACT when you sip it. Thin and watery. The flavours are all there, but there is no linger…no finish…nothing residual. If it had been NCF and ~46% I probably would have had it around 90 points. Just sayin’.

          Great chat here, gents.

          Kallaskander…I never cease to be impressed with how much information you manage to cull out of the industry. I see it time and again in your comments on forums, blogs, etc. You’re a credit to us whisky geeks everywhere. Cheers!

          Curt

          • All very good points, and it’s true: you don’t see NCF whiskies at 40% ABV, although this does open up the question as to whether they are preferable just because they are thicker whiskies, or because of NCF, or quite probably both.

            The points about “be careful what you wish for” are very well taken, and I’d be the first to say that universal age statements aren’t going to correct everything that is wrong with whisky – it would only be an improvement on two fronts (maybe three, see below). It would take down NAS, which is a barefaced LIE about the nature OF whisky itself, and is worth doing for that reason alone – and if folks, particularly “experts”, WON’T resist THIS obvious bullshit, what else should the consumer swallow? Furthermore, universal age statements would, by definition, provide consumers with more information about what they are already buying anyway; it wouldn’t be a change in the landscape itself so much as just having a better map of where we’re now walking/buying anyway.

            As a side note, the number of non-industry people who really do know whisky and yet will not loudly and clearly denounce NAS has been the single most disappointing, if not surprising, part of this exercise for me. These people cannot defend NAS and, as a result, will not debate the topic. Like the industry itself, they choose to ignore it and, on the basis that NAS itself hurts consumer interests for the industry’s benefit, the entire matter has really shone a light on many I thought that I otherwise could trust on the topic of whisky. I wish that those who think they can defend NAS would get off their asses and do so and that those who know it to be a lie would get off their asses and say so. Failing that, I’m living proof that one can be a whisky critic but not a whisky expert, while others prove that they can be whisky “experts” but not really whisky critics. I’m losing my interest in whether they “detect a hint of jasmine” or what premium bottle they just managed to procure if they let NAS pass as somehow “debatable”, but not debated. The crickets know more; at least they are talking.

            Back to cases.

            We’ve always had tiered pricing based on age (and God knows, not really on quality, and certainly not in terms of proportional value), and that system might well become more extreme, but I think that we’re also seeing something new that should be stopped: the premiumization, not of age itself, but just of age information. It’s not just “you want a 12, here’s what it’s going to cost you now”, it’s also now becoming “what, you want to KNOW it’s a 12 or an 8 or whatever, well THAT’s going to cost you too” as the sheer number of age statement-products (and their individual supplies) become reduced with the trend TO NAS. Unless it becomes a right, at point of purchase, to know what you’re drinking, it then becomes only a privilege – and one the industry wants you to pay for – again. If ABV weren’t law, would I have to pay premiums for “ABV-stated products”?

            A larger question, about whether – or importantly, to what degree – NAS is driven by supply and demand, as opposed to just being a method to overprice undeclared young whisky always hangs out there, and I’d like to be able to take the word of industry people on it. Unfortunately, these are the same barefaced liars who claim that the effects of age maturation are somehow label dependent (or that they even CAN be), so if they told me the time, I’d check my watch.

            If the industry wants some new “straight dialogue” with the consumer, it needs to stop bullshitting first and, unfortunately, it needs some consumer help to overcome its addiction – and Kallaskander ALWAYS helps where he can.

            P.S.: It is kind of funny to find all this filed under Dave Broom but, then again, he’s not doing much to help either, and people should know that anyway.

            Sláinte!

  8. Yeah, now go back to a tasty and economic base whisky at 46% and NCF. Oh wait! You had that and dropped it.

  9. Hi there,

    hi Curt, hi Jeff thank you very much. You’ll make me blush yet…

    I find it not strange that all this is appearing in a thread about Mr Bloom or something he said or wrote. After all it all, all our troubles and complaints about the state of whisky comes down to the question of consumer trust and how all those things that happen in the whisky industry undermine and errode it even if industry officials preach to the contrary. So any remark in that direction ignites a discussion on the state of the industry I guess.

    If it can be any comfort to us… other spirits categories have their troubles as well but it all happens more quietly.

    http://durhum.com/here-we-rum/

    This is the translation from a French rum website. What NAS artificial colouring and chill-filtration is to whisky sugaring colouring and adding glycerol is to rum.

    So Curt could implement a standing thread about “What irks me about my favourite spirit” or something and this thread would never end …

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Absolutely, turning up the heat on some of these people is well warranted. As per the distinction between an expert and a critic, I don’t really think the issue is about what anyone knows about NAS as much as what they’re willing to say. It’s not brain science that NAS is currently used to over market/overprice large amounts of young whisky in undisclosed fashion and it’s not rocket surgery to know that claiming the effects of age maturation somehow magically vary with labeling/marketing is an outright lie concerning the very nature OF whisky – and, yes, physics. The question isn’t “who knows what”, but “who admits what”.

    • Why am I not surprised. Thanks kallaskander for the link to the rum information. Rum is my alternate beverage of choice and that table is very illustrative. Unfortunately confusing given that due to cost you can’t really tell if they’re adding vanillin or not. C’est domage.

  10. Hi there,

    I post that here because Dave Broom is speaking out again.

    https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/from-the-editors/#7578

    The reason is a play from the mad-house.

    Compass Box was giving all details about the whiskies used in their newest Flaming Heart blend… and somebody set the SWA on them because revealing all ages of all whiskies used in a blend is aqgainst EC law.

    The rule seems to be that you can state the age of the youngest whisky used – or non at all!

    This is madness.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Quite a can of worms. I’ve never bought the “flexibility” argument for NAS; the industry has always blended the whisky it wanted to (or thought it “had to”) in the past, so the issue isn’t one of “freedom of action”, but “obscuring what we’re doing”. The thing about “NAS is fine, so long as it’s better than what’s replaced” is, for me, utter nonsense – age matters to whisky, so it’s not an issue of “if this is good enough, can’t we all pretend the ages involved are irrelevant so we can hide them”. Again, would any of that fly on the topic of ABV? What else don’t consumers “need to know” in pursuit of quality that hiding information can’t get for them?

      Interestingly enough, Broom then goes on to champion transparency:

      “An integral part of that education, I’d argue, is being transparent. It’s not just a matter of what’s going on, but what’s going in. After all, what’s to hide? If the whiskies being used include young and old, then why not tell us the age and the cask type?”

      So is “nothing wrong” with NAS or IS the issue one of obfuscation? Mr. Broom can split the hairs of a bald man – as per his separation of “age” and “maturation”, as if they aren’t related in any way.

      All that said…

      Mr. Broom might be getting on the stick about the SWA and its regulations – they’ve been changed before and can, probably, be changed again, and he even calls out the producers who stand against more, rather than less, age information – AND points out the paradox of the SWA having its “hands tied” by regulations upon which it has, historically, had so much influence. I really don’t want to be too cynical here, but one could also look at the piece and say its whole message is, “hey, it’s not me, and it’s not John Glaser and it’s not the SWA either, it’s now the evil EU and everyone’s hands are potentially tied… by foreigners!”. Right, nobody can do anything (except hide age where it’s convenient for the industry) – “we really DO want to give you more information, but — oh lamentations!!! – we CAN’T!”.

      Although I disagree with any comparison between age statements and the Cardhu “Pure Malt” silliness in terms of “descriptors are confusing to the consumer”, I certainly agree with Mr. Broom in this:

      “Saying: ‘I know it’s wrong, but I’m afraid it’s the law,’ is not a credible defence.”

      In a breath of somewhat fresh air, John Glaser said this:

      ‘We believe Scotch producers should have the freedom, but not the obligation, to disclose all of the components of a blend,’ said Glaser. ‘Consumers have the right to know.

      ‘In the past, when consumers asked the question [about what was in a blend], the industry response was: “We can’t tell you, it’s a secret,” which was always marketing bullshit.

      ‘If they are now going to say: “We can’t tell you because it’s against the law,” how ridiculous is that? It will make consumers sceptical. It will hurt over time, so we need to look at it as an industry.’

      This might all well also be about image positioning as well, but I give Glaser the benefit of the doubt – I guess the term “marketing bullshit” won me over. Just a quick question then: if consumers have “a right to know”, why don’t producers then have “an obligation” to disclose? Are we talking about a right, or a marketing gimmick?

      What’s to hide indeed?

      • It will be disappointing if Compass Box, as it did with the Spice Tree “staves controversy”, rails against the industry (and milks the situation for free publicity around more “illegal whiskies”) and then caves in and just settles for the same “it’s not us, it’s them” blame game/image-marketing gimmick. Even so, while present regulations might well keep Glaser from giving us all the information “he wants to” on some of his products, that doesn’t mean that he has to withhold minimum age as well and make them NAS. After all, consumers have a “right” to know… right?

        • Would Compass box be allowed to list all the component whiskies on their website, or is that also illegal?

          • As I understand it, it would be “illegal” to list all the components anywhere. The SWA (Stupid Whisky Association) finds yet another way to stifle competition and thwart access to information. This time they drag up some obscure, and probably unenforceable, EU regulation.

          • Well, then it’s perfectly understandable that Compass Box is not allowed to provide information that its consumers may want. So why all the fuss?

        • Cult figure that he’s become, a lot of anorak orthodoxy would hold that almost any criticism of Glaser is too much or is ill founded, yet, I’m far more reminded lately of Bill Burr’s bit about Steve Jobs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew6fv9UUlQ8). Glaser says consumers have a “right to know” what’s in whisky – but he also paradoxically says that producers don’t have an “obligation” to disclose this same information (so their “right to conceal” apparently trumps consumers “right to know”), and he doesn’t disclose even minimum age on his current NAS products, which NO ONE keeps him from doing. I know he’s a genius and all, but what he’s done is blended/vatted some pretty decent whisky, done a lot of self promotion and left a lot of age statements off labels (either because the information would somehow be “deceptive”, or just to boost sales) – what a maverick! There’s no way he could EVER fit in at Diageo today – just too outside the box. Glaser didn’t invent whisky, blending, casking or even staving – he’s promoted them while paying valuable, and superior, attention to detail – good for him and it’s all reflected in the quality of CB’s products and their success, but no one’s re-invented, much less invented, the whisky wheel.

          As for his challenges of the industry and its laws, I’m sorry but, after Spice Tree, he HAD to know it wasn’t just going to be case of simply “sneaking something by” or industry regulations folding like a house of cards when he was caught – that, yes, IF he was serious, he was going to have to fight so, failing that, what’s left, as with Spice Tree, is a publicity stunt. I hope it’s not the case this time. The upshot, so far, this time? Everyone’s hands are “tied” by EU regulations, yet they mirror previous UK regulations in this area AND the complaint came from “an unnamed brand owner”, not some arm of law enforcement. People’s “hands are tied”? No, people are hiding behind these laws for their own marketing benefit, yet NONE of it keeps ANYONE from revealing minimum age.

          I know they’re all whisky experts, but show me five whisky experts who both know that age matters to all whisky and will say that such information should be shared with consumers on the basis of that principle alone, regardless of how it “fits in” with marketing/image plans. So much for the value of whisky “expertise”.

          • I don’t see anything in Glaser’s comments that deserve criticism. In fact, I agree 100% with his comments. If he wants to put full disclosure info out about his product, who the hell has the right to stop him. If the info was false, like we see with many sourced bourbons, then he should be condemned. If he wants to take a public position about another disgraceful act by SWA, more power to him.

            I really don’t understand the problem you have with his statements

          • I don’t have a problem with what he WANTS to do in terms of providing the consumer with more information, I have a problem with what he’s doing in not providing all the information that he presently can and making many of his products NAS – there is a contradiction there, if an “informed consumer” is the goal. By the same token, there’s a contradiction in Glaser saying consumers have a “right” to know what’s in whisky but that producers don’t then have an “obligation” to disclose it. Consumers apparently have a “right” to know what’s in Compass Box products (including, one would think, their current minimum age), but Glaser himself feels no “obligation” to honour the right that HE says that consumers have, just like any other NAS producer.

            As for his legal challenges, I support his latest one that laws about disclosing age information obviously need reform in that I think he has a solid case to make – just as he did with staves for Spice Tree – but the question is will he fight or fold as he did before. In the meantime, as much as I agree with what he’s arguing for, I would like him to be telling me all that HE legally CAN about HIS products and I take his stance with a grain of salt until that happens and/or he actually takes on the powers that be instead of removing recipe info that the SWA’s lawyers, who are NOT an enforcement authority, did not tell him to take down anyway. Again, failing that, what’s left, as with Spice Tree, is a publicity stunt.

          • Well Jeff, I think I can understand why Glazer may feel NAS is preferable to only a small part of the story.

            Let’s say he has a blend that includes a small amount of great 4 YO but significnt amounts of 10 YO, !5YO and some 20 YO. An age statement of 4 YO would not look too good. From a marketing perspective I can see his point.

            TO put it another way… let’s say you produced an “awful good” whisky. But the rules say you can’t put more than one descriptor on the bottle, and the descriptor has to be the one that denotes the least quality. Would you label it “awful whisky” or just “Whisky”?

          • I’ve heard all those industry arguments before and the whole problem with it is that the entire thing is predicated on the idea that product information is ONLY important to producers (and so also somehow to the product itself, and naive consumers, if they can be convinced of it) “from a marketing perspective”. It’s EXACTLY the same perspective which also fundamentally drives NAS, so it’s pretty obvious that some concern of Glaser’s for the “consumer’s right to know” isn’t the real priority here – particularly when there’s also “no obligation to disclose” in the first place. Again, Glaser’s “preferences” trump the rights that HE says that consumers supposedly DO have, not that anyone should see the contradiction. I can see the issue “from a marketing perspective” too, and so can Glaser – which is why he conceals minimum age with NAS labels to this day and NOBODY “forces” him to do that.

            No one’s challenging the idea that manipulation of product information – we’ll tell you this here, but not there and somehow this therefore matters here, but not there – can make producers money. The real question is, is that the only legitimate basis upon which such information should be provided or withheld (as per faulty ignition switches or cars that cheat on emissions testing in the auto industry)? Producers who make whisky that’s only 40% ABV might consider themselves “at a competitive disadvantage” compared to producers who bottle at higher strength. Does that mean they should be able to “skip” putting ABV on some products, just like producers do with age using NAS, on the basis that “you don’t need to know that, so long as it’s good”? Consumers should completely reject letting producers get away with this kind of self-serving logic, or they might well someday see bottles just labeled “whisky” – after all, you don’t really “need to know” more than that, do you? Many people spend way too much time playing distiller and looking at things from “the industry’s perspective” instead of asking what is logical and consistent – and what is actually true about whisky. Surprisingly enough, these product aspects simply matter to the intrinsic nature of the product, whether anyone can successfully use the information about them as a selling point or not.

      • My question throughout all this, is why do other releases get a pass from the SWA. Is it solely a complaint driven process, and therefore no one had an axe to grind with Tomatin? Think of Tomatin’s Decades, or recent Contrast release where they clearly state the constituent malts on the packaging/boxes (years and number of barrels). Compass Box only had this info on their website, and at that you had to click through to their PDF file for each whisky. Not that I’m complaining, as my preference would lean towards full disclosure. The more info the better, and if you’re swayed to purchase a bottle by the distiller/blender noting that it contains 3% 40 year old whisky (ie teaspoon’d) in a vatting of mainly very young malts, then that’s your prerogative.

        • Looking at the website I don’t think they actually listed the ages of the whiskies, just the distillation dates. And I think the expression is NAS. So it doesn’t break the rule.

        • I think your point is very well made, CB – the ENTIRE process seems to be complaint, and not enforcement, driven. It’s people reporting each other for speeding, not cops sitting at the side of the road with radar. I don’t know if EU regulations are actually more lenient on this point, but Ralfy recently reviewed a “pure malt” product “limited to France” that would seem to violate the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXFxtTBFHCA), so where’s the enforcement there? I’d be interested to know why this product IS “an exception” to the rule, if it’s so. If the current rules that are legally enforceable are from the EU, is the real role of the SWA to act as mouthpiece for other people’s anonymous complaints to be raised on a “who won’t report who” basis?

          As for full disclosure, absolutely but, evidently, we must reach some consensus that the information itself should be disclosed just on the basis that it’s valid and pertinent, not simply on the basis of who can make a buck revealing or concealing what at whim.

  11. As someone once said: “Any publicity is good publicity, just make sure you spell the name right.” Glaser is the people’s underdog hero in a classic David and Goliath scenario. I think one of Jeff’s points is that the more attention Compass Box attracts, and the more curiosity it arouses, the more whisky its owner sells.

    Odd, though, that every ingredient of every other consumable food and beverage product is required by law (at least here in Canada) to be listed on the product’s label. Whisky, and booze of all kinds, for some reason that has nothing to do with the EU or the SWA, gets a pass. That maybe because its all just alcohol of some sort and age, but there is no mention of added colorant on the labels.

    In the so called information age, the Scotch whisky industry is surprisingly out of touch with its overcharged, under serviced, under informed fan base. Part of the problem is that the fan club members are slavishly willing to dole out stupid amounts of money for an increasingly mediocre product. Beyond $200 I’m out, and it better have an age statement, an ABV of 46% or better, no added colour, be non chill-filtered, and have a lot of good reviews at that price.

    • $200? retail? I’m out a lot sooner than that! I have some bottles that would fetch over $200 on the secondary market but I would not buy them at that price. Once you hit above $100 ($150 in Ontario because of inflated prices) what you get for the extra money is negligible.

      I’ll stick with my Amrut single cask, (previously purchased) A’Bunadh, Booker’s and something peated, all for <$100 and I'm sure I won't miss the rest.

      • Yeah, actually Bob, I’ve only ever bought one in that price range, Balvenie 21 Portwood, and I wouldn’t do it again. Prices in BC are just as inflated, maybe even more so, than in Ontario. Lag 16 is $135 and good old Talisker 10 is now just over $100. Even a lowly Laphroaig 10 is $87. 50 bucks is a distant memory. I do a lot of shopping out of province and out of the country these days.

        Cheers.

        • I hear you… having a friend in the US who can receive stuff by mail helps. I found some Old Grand Dad 114 bourbon for $20 US (when our dollar was higher)… you can’t even get it here. Booker’s I found for $45! Even sending stuff from overseas is sometimes cheaper. Only problem is it only comes in one bottle at a time.

          I’m going to BC at the end of the month. (Vancouver) Is there any good stuff to be had?

          • Not a lot to offer here, Bob. If you Google BC Liquor Stores and go to their catalogue- spirits-whisky-Scotch single malt, you will find the128 current offerings and their prices. There will be about 40 new offerings appearing sometime this month. These should include some interesting items, and maybe some at decent prices.

            Cheers.

          • Thanks! I’ll have a look closer to the trip.

    • You understand my point very well, Chris and, with Spice Tree, without any legal challenge made or defended, a publicity stunt about “illegal whisky” was ALL that it was. As you point out, the perception is one of David vs. Goliath, but I don’t think either necessarily represents consumer interests, much less really fired any stones. As for the industry itself, I’d argue that it has every reason to keep its fan base overcharged, under serviced and under informed, and that it’s ONLY consumer action on the third aspect which will help to correct the first two. People have to stop being “whisky fans” and become whisky critics if they expect to see better service in the marketplace – after all, consumers only continue to be sold products around the obvious bullshit of NAS because they continue to accept it and simply won’t wake up to the fact that the influence of age maturation not only isn’t, but CAN’T BE, magically “label dependent”.

  12. Here is an interesting thread on another discussion group about Compass Box. it includes a link to the recipes in question. So Compass Box isn’t just getting publicity, they ey are finding a way to release the ages of all the content.

    http://www.connosr.com/wall/discussion/380691/compass-box-vs-swa/

  13. Hi there,

    well there is another rule or consensus that the youngest whisky in a vatting or bottling defines the age of this bottling.

    The SWA / EC rule in question is there to prevent wrong labeling and advertising with the fact that in a bottling of say 10yo there is whisky of 30yo – even if it is only a spoonful.

    The rule to state the age of the youngest whisky or say nothing about the age at all makes kind of sense in this context. But I can see no fault in the way John Glaser went about it and revealed the very nature of his blend ages percentages and everything.

    At the same time I can imagine some drinks giants for which it is pure horror to even think of being obliaged to disclose the components in one of their blends in the same way one day. No more secret blending recipe but full disclosure of what the blend is really made of!

    Nip it in the bud!

    If not what will the whisky world come to?

    Greetings
    kallaskander

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