No Age Statement Whiskies

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In the last few years more and more whiskies have come to the market lacking a feature that few decent whiskies ever used to be seen without: an age statement.  In this feature we'll be celebrating some of our favourites of this new breed of single malt.

Why are so many No-Age-Statement (NAS) whiskies appearing now?  The answer lies in a study of the recent history and trends in the single malt market. Since the single malt boom took off in the early 1990s, distilleries have been releasing older and older whiskies onto the market at ever increasing prices, and consumers have naturally come to associate aged whisky with quality, exclusivity and high prices.  In a nutshell, the formula was Older = Better = More Expensive.

This may be broadly true, but it's also problematic. Whisky is rather too complex for such a simple rule - for example, what about those people who don't like oaky whiskies and prefer the vibrant freshness and drinkability of younger single malts?  The other problem is that after the catastrophic slump of 25 years ago, a lot of producers now have gaps in their inventories and find it difficult to keep up with demand for aged expressions.

NAS whiskies are the industry's clever answer to all these issues, but they're not a new phenomenon.  Around the turn of the 20th century some early single malts occasionally declared their vintages - we've illustrated this article with a few very early NAS whiskies from Sukhinder's stash - but age statements were relatively rare and it's only relatively recently that they've become so important. 

Glenfarclas were bucking the trend when they dropped their '105' edition's age statement in the early 1990s (it's now been restored as a 10 year-old), but even Glenfiddich, the world's best-selling single malt whisky, spent several years without an age statement and became a 12 year-old only a few years ago.

So what are the benefits of the new NAS single malts, and what makes them different from earlier no-age-statment whiskies?

Well, the benefits are clear: NAS whiskies mean almost unlimited flexibility for distillers and blenders to stay true to their distillery character without the shackles imposed by the law's minimum age rules, which state that if a whisky has a declared age it must be the age of the youngest whisky used.  The embedded consumer idea that Older = Better means that producers feel they can no longer put an age statement on expressions using whisky less than 10 years old, as people will not buy it.  The solution has been to simply drop the age statement altogether.

When Ardbeg's new owners had to discontinue their much-loved 17 year old due to lack of stocks, it was replaced with Ardbeg Uigeadail, which is a multi-vintage blend: a mix of old and young casks that enables the company to ration their remaining older whisky while ensuring continuity of supply.  The old whisky gives Uigeadail complexity, while the younger casks supply vim and vigour.

This idea has caught on like wildfire with distillers keen to grow volumes without compromising on quality.

The wildly popular Aberlour a'bunadh is a classic example. Although a variety of different ages are used for each batch of a'bunadh, some malts in the mix are regularly under ten years old.  Would a'bunadh be equally successful if some batches had an 8 year old age statement (even though some of the whisky used may have been up to 15 years old)?  We doubt it. 

Therein lies the difference between today's NAS whiskies and those of 25 years ago and longer.  While early history's NAS malts were the norm and those of the 1980s or '90s were whiskies that started out with an age statement that had to be dropped (the Glenfiddich or Glenfarclas above), today's multivintage malts are created deliberately rather than by default.  This means that they are NAS by design - in other words, the age of the 'concept' NAS whisky is here.

In the end, removing the age statement from a whisky elegantly sidesteps consumer prejudices about 'young' whisky and liberates the master blender to express his distillery's character in a creative way. It also forces people to judge the whisky on its own merits, without any preconceptions caused by a number on the label - and that can only be a good thing. 

70cl / 46%
A young peated Speysider from the excellent Ardmore distillery, this has been finished in quarter casks to speed up maturation. Gold Medal in its category at the World Whisky Awards 2010.
£28.75 Inc. VAT (£23.96 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 48%
A vibrant young Laphroaig whose maturation has been speeded up by ageing in Quarter Casks. This shows soft sweetness and a velvety feel when first tasted, then the intense peatiness so unique to Laphroaig comes bursting through. A really terrific whisky and great value.
£37.15 Inc. VAT (£30.96 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 42%
Fior means pure or true in Gaelic, and this no-age-statement bottling launched in summer 2010 is something of a rebirth for the much-maligned Fettercairn distillery. Described by the producers as tasting of dark chocolate, coffee beans and peat smoke, with nutmeg, mint, citrus fruits and truffle. The finish is said to be of sherry trifle, marzipan and pineapple.

Please note this is limited to 1 bottle per customer.
£38.65 Inc. VAT (£32.21 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 43%
The ever-popular Auchentoshan 3 Wood is matured initially in bourbon casks before being finished in Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez casks for an extra layer of rich, sweet fruitiness.
San Francisco WSC - Double Gold Medal Winner
IWSC 2012 - Gold Medal - Whisky - Scotch
£40.95 Inc. VAT (£34.13 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 46%
Jura's 'profoundly peated' Prophecy bottlings are released in small batches and are drier, stronger and smokier than the standard Superstition peated IOJ.
£49.55 Inc. VAT (£41.29 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 46%
It's taken over a decade, but here we have the second edition of Springbank CV. After the widespread acclaim for the Longrow CV released in 2009, and the distillery's recent renaissance after a couple of so-so years, we expect this to be one of the hits of 2010.
£49.95 Inc. VAT (£41.63 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 54.2%
A fine drop of Ardbeg bottled at cask strength. A marriage of Ardbeg from bourbon barrel and sherry butt which gives a sweet and smokey finish to this malt. Uigeadail is the loch from which all Ardbeg water flows. An absolutely stunning whisky, and following the demise of the Airigh nam Beist this probably represents the best value in the core range.
IWSC 2012 - Gold Medal - Whisky - Scotch
£53.45 Inc. VAT (£44.54 Ex. VAT)
50cl / 58%
The second Lg for Elements of Islay is noticeably sweeter than the first, but retains the raw, south-coast ruggedness of its predecessor. Oaty with hints of honeycomb and white chocolate on the nose. Bandages and bonfires on the palate, then a briney, medicinal finish.
£59.95 Inc. VAT (£49.96 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 57.1%
Ardbeg Corryvreckan has been a huge success since its launch in 2009, winning World's Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards 2010 and 96.5 points from Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2011.
Whisky Bible 2011: NAS Single Malt Scotch of the Year; 96.5 Points
£65.45 Inc. VAT (£54.54 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 58.2%
Turf Mor is the second of Connemara's limited edition Small Batch Collection, and has been created using very heavily peated malt, with a phenol level of over 50ppm. A very pleasant, very peaty young whiskey - we predict this will be very popular too.
IWSC 2011 Gold Medal Winner - Best in Class
£68.95 Inc. VAT (£57.46 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 40%
To make this Dalmore King Alexander III, Master Distiller Richard Paterson has selected a range of differently-aged malts matured in a mixure of French wine casks, Madeira drums, Sherry butts, Marsala barrels, Port pipes and Bourbon barrels from Kentucky. A remarkable feat of blending.
£120.00 Inc. VAT (£100.00 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 46%
A delicious no-age-statement dram from Glenmorangie, some of the spirit in Signet has been made using a unique heavily-roasted Chocolate Malt that really beefs up the rich flavours. The packaging is very impressive too.

IWSC 2012 - Gold Outstanding Medal - Whisky - Scotch
World Whiskies Awards 2014: Best Highland Single Malt NAS
£125.00 Inc. VAT (£104.17 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 40%
Special Offer: £15 Off!
Johnnie Walker's most prestigious whisky. Probably THE most famous super-premium blend, made up of the finest old-aged malt and grain whiskies. The Cristal of the blended whisky world.

A statement whisky, Blue Label’s bold, multi-layered palate and silky delivery ensure that it sits unchallenged at the top of the Johnnie Walker pile. Free Personalised Engraving Available!
£130.00 Inc. VAT (£108.33 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 57.1%
The Astar bottling from Glenmorangie is a second incarnation of the much-loved Artisan cask bottling from several years ago. A massive dram, with huge spices - a drop of water is the sensible option.

Please note this is limited to 1 bottle per customer.
£150.00 Inc. VAT (£125.00 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 46%
The second in Glenmorangie's series of Private Editions (the first being the hugely popular Sonnalta), Finealta is lightly peated barley that has been matured partly in ex-sherry casks and partly in plain new American oak casks. the name means 'Elegance' in Gaelic (it says here).
IWSC 2012 - Gold Medal - Whisky - Scotch
£150.00 Inc. VAT (£125.00 Ex. VAT)
70cl / 43%
A deluxe Royal Lochnagar, with a high proportion of long-aged sherried malt in the mix. Selected Reserve is a good after-dinner option, especially with a medium-weight cigar.
£158.00 Inc. VAT (£131.67 Ex. VAT)
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