In the Scottish whisky market there has been a level of controversy over the last couple of years relating to "Non Age Statement" (a.k.a NAS) whisky.

Several of the leading distillers now have NAS whisky in their line-ups for example Glenlivet Founders Reserve or Macallan Gold .

This has led to critism of the distillers that they're trying to pass off younger spirit at a premium price.

I was wondering what the pros and cons of NAS whiskies are?

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It would seem like you hit the nail on the head:

The main benefit would be that distillers can put out whisky that's younger and still charge a higher price.

In the Scotch market age isn't just a sign of quality, it's also a sign of status. Rich people will spend a lot of money on bottles that are as old as 25 to 50 years, even if there is a very minimal difference in the actual flavour of the tipple. This means that an age statement can lend itself to a lot of profitability, or lack thereof.

By excluding age statements that allows distillers to put out product faster, and not have to correlate their pricing model with age necessarily.

The cons to a distiller would be very minimal as the average consumer doesn't think too much about this type of thing, knowledge about whisky is typically very low. The only real con is to a consumer that may be getting fleeced by marketing tactics.

Whisky age statements refer to the youngest whisky in the bottle, and are often correlated with quality, although in reality there are many good younger whiskys.

Its my observation that whisky prices after a certain point in quality are more directly based on rarity. It just happens that older whisky, due to the economics of aging and the angel's share, is always rarer.

For no age statement(NaS) whiskys the pros and cons can be summarised as follows, most of the pros apply to the distillery only, but some Pros:

  • distilleries can sell product sooner, and thus deal with things like surging demand (e.g. Suntory in Japan for an extreme) or startup costs (NaS whiskys are very common in new distilleries).
  • customers may not be put off by seeing a very young age on the bottle that may not be representative of the quality, there are plenty of decent young whiskys out there.
  • distillers gain more flexibility in blending casks to achieve a desired flavour profile.
  • a shorter time to market for experiments/new products (cheaper experimentation). This can be a plus for customers too if they like variety.

Cons:

  • Many are younger, often leading them having a slightly harsher
    alcohol flavour, and less complexity. It is unlikely to be terribly bad though, as the distilleries still have a brand to maintain.

  • Selling stock earlier means less available for older bottlings later on. How much of a problem this is may depend on storage space and production volumes to begin with.

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