Flavour doesn’t depend upon age.
Just back from one of those phone calls that really resonate with me and ring a bell in my head “Are we still discussing this??” – one cannot but notice that YES, we are, NAS and clichés about young whiskies are still a thorny issue within the industry. What was this phone call about? Em… Please excuse my lack of transparency.
Anyway, you’re probably already aware of the ever-lasting debate regarding NAS bottlings those past few years (and if you aren’t, god bless you ;)), I wrote this article a few months back to share my views on the subject… And despite my rather positivity on the topic, I still believe some brands did/do use NAS as a way to hide something rather than genuinely drop the all-mighty age statement in a flavour-led quest. Not blaming brands for this lack of transparency though… Many would – rightly – argue that in terms of commercial strategy, they have no choice but prefering a fancy viking-y name in Gaelic than erecting a golden 3-year-old age statement on their label as a response to the vast majority of consumers still thinking 10+ aged whiskies are the real deal – Why would they spend 50£ in a baby whisky while they have access to, for instance, Lagavulin 16 at the same price? So yes, NAS were and still are a good marketing response to this behaviour.
But now that brands have finally started to realise consumers were quite savvy at seeing through marketing bullshit, we’re witnessing an increasing number of producers or bottlers rowing back from their earlier decisions and assuming their youngishness. For the sake of transparency?
I recently hosted a reverse tasting at the bar (whisky & cheese pairing… One can never be too French…), voluntarily starting with a 28-year-old dram and ending with a 3-year-old malt. No blind tasting to try and lure participants at all, I clearly stated the age of each dram while they were sipping it just to witness their reaction and if they would be biased by the information. Turned out that their favourite dram of the evening was the 3-year-old baby. Oh, and participants were a real mixture of newcomers, amateurs and connoisseurs.
Something is definitely evolving, slowly but surely, and the plethora of new young distilleries has probably highly participated in this, proving that with the right education, consumers have nothing against youngish drams and brands can now claim their age out loud with pride “Yeap m’am, I’m a baby dram but oh boy, my parents have put so much time, efforts, passion and skills in my making that I’m proud to be 3 and damn so good!”
Nowadays, with the extraordinary attention to detail, quality raw materials, passion, expertise and new maturation strategies, distilleries are capable to craft exquisite drams from a very young age that have nothing to be ashamed of while tasted face-to-face with teenage and more mature expressions.
However, nothing is gained yet and more education would never be enough on that side to see less bullshit NAS entering the market and more importantly less annoying NAS-shamers ! 😉
Young is f**king beautiful !
Here’s a small list of some delicious baby whiskies:
St George 2 years old – TBWC
“An independently bottled 2 year old rye from Californian craft distilling pioneers, St. George Spirits, bottled by That Boutique-y Rye Company! Cast your mind back to 1982 and you may remember that Time Magazine didn’t crown a Person of the Year that year. They actually crowned ‘The Computer’ as Machine of the Year. While some of you may see that as an invitation for robots to rise up and take over the world, That Boutique-y Rye Company clearly agree that Machine of the Year was the right choice for 1982, but they would have chosen a different machine – Jörg Rupf’s still, with which he founded St. George Spirits in 1982 and became a trailblazer of the American craft distilling movement!
Batch 1 is a release of 400 bottles.”
Kilchoman 6yo 2010 bottling
“This is the second edition of Kilchoman’s Original Cask Strength expression. The first one was drawn from ex-bourbon barrels, while this second edition was aged for over 6 years in quarter casks and then bottled at natural cask strength!”
Octomore 8.3 5 years old
“Bruichladdich’s Octomore expressions are know for being incredibly well-peated – but this one takes the proverbial biscuit and throws it out a window. The Octomore Masterclass_08.3 weighs in at a massive 309 PPM, making this the most heavily-peated Octomore to date! It was aged for 5 years in 56% first-fill bourbon casks, while the rest was filled into ex-Paulliac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy casks.”
Compass Box 3 Year Old Deluxe
“A limited edition blended malt from the esteemed Compass Box, made with three different malt whiskies. The youngest whisky in this expression is 3 years old (the only age they are allowed to disclose is the youngest component – their Campaign for Scotch Whisky Transparency calls for amends to this), though it makes up less than 1% of the entire blend, with 90% being made up of whisky from the same distillery of “an unstated but considerably older age”, and 9% peaty malt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye.”
Cover pic: Livets Goda