NAS whiskies, so many of our whisky tour guests ask me what it means? I thought to scribble some of my thoughts. NAS bottles I have tried … Talisker Skye is the third NAS Talisker in the same amount of years, after the Storm and Port Ruighe, all good (in my opinion), but is this a departure from age statement by them? By no means the only character in the Diageo stable doing number of year (Talisker Distillery founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskil at Carbost. Port Ruighe is Talisker’s 2nd release bottled without an age statement (after Storm). Port Ruighe (pron. Portree), was finished in port casks after an initial ageing process in refill American and European casks. The maturation in port casks gave it a sweeter flavour blending nicely with the peat/ smoke).
Macallan, the third-largest single malt brand in the world is one of the leading brands behind NAS bottles. Macallan’s 1824 series ended the 10, 12 and 15 yo with “named” replacements. Is this a case of where Macallan go others follow? (Macallan’s 1824 series might have you thinking an old malt. Ah but hold on – the colour is the key here. Gold and amber to the expensive Sienna and Ruby, rely on different ages and differing shades of caramel. Oh no, caramel!) The Glenlivet 12yo is to be replaced in the UK and Germany by Founder’s Reserve, a NAS. Arran have both NAS and age-statement whiskies. Aberlour A’Bunadh one of my own favourites, has been available as NAS since 1998 without complaints, in fact people seem to love it to death. J&G Grant (Glenfarclas) have one NAE.
Just a quick selection of NAS from memory, there are many more out there, Tullibardine do a great NAS bottle (it’s a 12 year old by the way) Murray. If you’re spending £50 or so on a single malt, you want to know what’s inside the bottle, what use the well designed artwork/name on the label? Or, like me (most of the time) trust the distillery, or maybe try before you buy.
Some distillers had to take 30/40 year-olds from the market for years until they recouped their stocks. There is no doubt in my mind that aged stocks have reduced over the years following the “cashflow”. I am reliably told, stocks of malt older than 11 years have been in decline by an average of 6% per annum since 2011. It is increasingly difficult to guarantee a supply of aged stock. Impossible? Then again, blended malts (90% plus) of single malts go into “blends”, Almost 80% of Scotch whisky sold around the globe does not have an age statement.’
Age isn’t everything and there are some grand young whiskies hiding out there. But what annoys me, are brands that are bringing out NAS whiskies, that are obviously younger than the whiskies they’re replacing, yet cost 50% more expensive (no names mentioned but they know who they are). The taste of a whisky matters more than its’ age to me. Age is only important as an indicator of the quality of the whisky. Some very old drams I have tasted were to be honest, a let down, are these older bottles aimed at show offs and collectors? I have tried some 15 – 25 yo drams that I would say were terrible. Good whisky is possible without an age statement.
IF YOU LIKE IT, DRINK IT, NO MATTER WHAT AGE. Unsure? Well – do a blind tasting, pick out what you like, then discover – blend, single malt, NAS or aged, forget Bible Man, do the Charlie Maclean method, his books give you all you need to know, eh Charlie? He told me in an interview Charlie Maclean (Our whisky club Patron); his tipple of choice is a Johnnie Walker Black Label – a true icon, recognised as a benchmark for deluxe blends (what do you think?). Created using whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years from all over Scotland, Johnnie Walker Black Label has a smooth, deep, complex character. This DOES have an age statement. My own dram in my local pub Christies, Perth, is a Bushmills Black Bush; This Irish Whiskey combines a high amount of malt whiskey matured in Oloroso Sherry casks, with a sweet, batch-distilled grain whiskey. ‘Bush has rich, fruity notes and a deep intense character, balanced by an incredibly smoothness. I happen to drink it neat and aye, it’s a NAS. Two Maclean’s two different tastes, two side of this argument. But then again, isn’t this what drinking whisky is all about?