I, for one, do not have a problem with no age statement (NAS) whiskies. In fact, I find NAS kind of liberating…
(Here’s where, if I had enough readers, I’d wait for the collective gasp to subside!)
Okay, hear me out. I have read/heard the complaints about NAS whiskies. I won’t expound too much on why I think such folk are flat-out wrong but, if it would make them feel better that such whiskies were marked as “3 Year Old”, it wouldn’t make the dram any better or worse, now would it?!
So here’s why I find NAS a little bit freeing as a consumer: fairly, or unfairly, age statements carry a certain amount of expectation along with them. I can enjoy a 20- or 30- year old whisky as much as the next guy, But, when I see an age statement, I expect a bigger number to not only represent a higher price tag but also a higher quality and that, I’m sure the purists would agree, is not necessarily the case. Ardbeg 10… terrific! Highland Park 12… excellent! Glenlivet 15… better than good. Macallan 18… nice but not a personal favourite. Point made?
I’m not exactly sure when, in the history of marketing scotch, it was decided that age statements were the way to go. But it’s worth noting that in many other whisky-producing nations age statements are used very judiciously, with more focus on blending a variety of different aged spirits so to achieve consistent taste profiles. (Isn’t consistency also an indication of quality?) Likewise, in the wine world, it’s vintages that matter since the specific year in which the grapes were grown and harvested often tells the story about the quality in the bottle. (Good on you, Glenrothes!) It seems to me that age-statement marketing is mostly about just that, marketing.
I’m not saying that every NAS whisky is a top-notch drop, there certainly are some poor ones. But there are some bad age-statement drams out there as well. The thing is, at least for me, NAS whiskies don’t lead to any expectations, freeing me to just enjoy the dram for what it is. Two of my all-time favourites, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Laphroaig Quarter Cask just happen to be NAS, yet I find them perfectly delicious and, if the NAS branding keeps that level of quality at such affordability, then I’m quite pleased to have it!