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What’s your take on Non Age Statement Scotch?

I am not familiar with NAS Scotch. I guess I have fallen behind on reading whisky journalism.

I have said the following before, but have never seen it quite spelled out in any text, although no one has ever corrected me: I highly suspect that longer aged whiskies most often involve barrels selected as the better barrels. That is, it is not just six years of aging that distinguishes, say, a 12 year-old Highland Park from an 18 year-old Highland Park. Otherwise, there would be a whole lot more 18 year-old whisky around. Aging is not inexpensive, but I do not see anyway six more years in the barrel could account for the price or the quality difference between 12 and 18 year-old whisky.

I really do not know how this bears on NAS whisky. To me, Scotland, like Cognac, France, has really gotten control of a tight relationship between price and quality, in that for the most part one does not find really great whisky for cheap. I do not think the same is true to the same extent as to bourbon and rye. There are still big bargains out there, and age seems to have less to do with quality when it comes to bourbon and rye. My favorite rye these days is probably Peerless. Not inexpensive, that is for sure. But the usual bottling is only two years old, and the special bottlings are only three. If age is crucial, how can that possibly be?
One of the things you have to also understand about older aged whiskeys is the evaporation component to aging in barrels. A general rule of thumb is about 2% loss per year due to angel share. So a 18 year old has lost about 36% of the initial volume that it started out as. This along with housing something for 18+ years and also having to wait that long for a return on your initial investment, all costs a lot of money.

Also you really can't compare aging and costs from scotchs to bourbons. The extreme hot and cold climate in Kentucky ages whiskey extremely different from the effects of the cooler climate of Scotland. The fact that scotch uses used barrels and bourbon has to use new barrels also effects on how the flavor impact on aging as well. But in general the hotter Kentucky climate causes a higher rate of evaporation vs the cooler climate of Scotland, which is why you there is more scotch aged in the high teens vs bourbon.

But to me age statements are the end all be all of what makes a good whiskey. Does longer aging do different things to the whiskey, yes it does. But it doesn't mean NAS/younger whiskeys are bad. Its just different.
 
For me, there is nothing that tastes like Lagavulin. Sure there are other smokey peaty scotches but Lagavulin has a very distinct taste. I'd know it anywhere blind. I've tasted most of the single malts out there at one time or another, always on a quest to find something that I might like better than Lag. I have yet to find one. Now, make me taste test any other scotch and I'll never be able to tell the difference between them. I only know one.
 
For me, there is nothing that tastes like Lagavulin. Sure there are other smokey peaty scotches but Lagavulin has a very distinct taste. I'd know it anywhere blind. I've tasted most of the single malts out there at one time or another, always on a quest to find something that I might like better than Lag. I have yet to find one. Now, make me taste test any other scotch and I'll never be able to tell the difference between them. I only know one.
Have to agree on this one. Lagavulin is my favorite Islay distillery. The 12 year is pure magic, nothing else even comes close, not even the 16.
 
Have to agree on this one. Lagavulin is my favorite Islay distillery. The 12 year is pure magic, nothing else even comes close, not even the 16.
I've tried the 12 Yr Distiller's Edition. Actually a few of them. Also Cask Strength. I find the 16 is just smoother. I've also tried the 8 year and my take on that is it's a slightly diluted version of the 16. I have another Distiller's Edition in the basement so when I crack it, I'll have to do a little side by side blind taste testing.
 
I've tried the 12 Yr Distiller's Edition. Actually a few of them. Also Cask Strength. I find the 16 is just smoother. I've also tried the 8 year and my take on that is it's a slightly diluted version of the 16. I have another Distiller's Edition in the basement so when I crack it, I'll have to do a little side by side blind taste testing.
I always cut it with filtered water because yes, the stuff is cask strength! But once cut minimally/adequately, it becomes smoother, more complex, and like a fireworks show compared to the 16. For what it costs these days.......16 is def. a better bang for the buck. Thanks for the info on the 8, good to know.
 
I think "diluted" is a poor choice of words for the 8 YO. I found it to be more "distinct" than the 16. what I mean is that the flavor profile for the 8 is more cut and dried . . . here is the peat, here is the brine, here is the iodine/medicinal notes. The 16 is more harmonious in that sense, with one flavor slowly making an appearance before giving way to the others. The 8 is nice to suss out what the Distiller has in mind taste-wise, the 16 is the end result.

Only two other comments about Lagavulin . . . the 16 suffers (imo) from colour adding and chill filtering. The absence of BOTH in the 12 YO cask strength makes it the only choice for me.
 
I am not familiar with NAS Scotch. I guess I have fallen behind on reading whisky journalism.

I have said the following before, but have never seen it quite spelled out in any text, although no one has ever corrected me: I highly suspect that longer aged whiskies most often involve barrels selected as the better barrels. That is, it is not just six years of aging that distinguishes, say, a 12 year-old Highland Park from an 18 year-old Highland Park. Otherwise, there would be a whole lot more 18 year-old whisky around. Aging is not inexpensive, but I do not see anyway six more years in the barrel could account for the price or the quality difference between 12 and 18 year-old whisky.

I really do not know how this bears on NAS whisky. To me, Scotland, like Cognac, France, has really gotten control of a tight relationship between price and quality, in that for the most part one does not find really great whisky for cheap. I do not think the same is true to the same extent as to bourbon and rye. There are still big bargains out there, and age seems to have less to do with quality when it comes to bourbon and rye. My favorite rye these days is probably Peerless. Not inexpensive, that is for sure. But the usual bottling is only two years old, and the special bottlings are only three. If age is crucial, how can that possibly be?
With respect to the bolded portion . . . the Canadian excise tax on a barrel of whisky is $1000.00 annually. So a barrel of whisky aged for 18 years costs a distiller in Canada $6000 more than a 12 year old barrel, before they sell a single bottle of whisky from that barrel. Then remember that not all aged barrels are sold as such, they are used to blend with younger whiskies to improve those bottlings or maintain a specific flavour profile.

For perspective, Wiser's Distillery has a storage facility that holds 1.6 MILLION barrels. That is 1.6 BILLION dollars in annual tax levies.
 
I think "diluted" is a poor choice of words for the 8 YO. I found it to be more "distinct" than the 16. what I mean is that the flavor profile for the 8 is more cut and dried . . . here is the peat, here is the brine, here is the iodine/medicinal notes. The 16 is more harmonious in that sense, with one flavor slowly making an appearance before giving way to the others. The 8 is nice to suss out what the Distiller has in mind taste-wise, the 16 is the end result.

Only two other comments about Lagavulin . . . the 16 suffers (imo) from colour adding and chill filtering. The absence of BOTH in the 12 YO cask strength makes it the only choice for me.
You guys are better connoisseur's of scotch and Lagavulin than I am. I can drink the stuff, see some differences in them but I can't discern why or even what the little subtle differences are. Only that there may be a difference. The only thing I can honestly say is that while I might like some other scotches, I love Lagavulin and have always come back to it after searching for something new and different. For instance, someone turned me onto Caol Ila. I liked it. Some peat and smoke and pretty smooth. But not as distinctive as Lagavulin. I once bought a bottle of Ardbeg 10 Year. I literally could not handle the taste. I kept going back to it thinking it was just something wrong with me that time. Nope. Tasted the same to me each time. I ended up giving that bottle away to my next door neighbor. Of course, he's an alcoholic who will drink anything, so maybe that wasn't such a good idea. But I realize I don't have an ability to detect subtle notes. I've had Oban. A very nice smooth scotch. To me it wasn't all that interesting compared to Lagavulin. I can say the same thing about McCallan. I recall trying a Balvenie Double Wood. I liked it. It had a nice flavor with some of the different woods rounding out the profile and very very smooth. But my palette seems to gravitate to the smoke and peat and smoothness of the Lagavulin. But I could definitely stand to become more educated on the subtle notes in the tasting profile that Bakker mentions. I think your comments will cause me to drink the Distiller's Edition with that in mind when I finally open it up.
 

The Knize

Moderator Emeritus
Nothing wrong with Lagavulin! It is complex and satisfying. I like smoke/peat, too, and all those other Islay flavors and smells. Lagavulin is packed with them.

I have found the only way to really figure out differences in tastes or smells of anything is to taste or smell them blind.

Anyone else out there not in love with Balvenie Double Wood? I think I get why it is popular, but when drunk side-by-side with other Scotches, it did not greatly appeal to me. Perhaps, too smooth. Perhaps I am a odd man out in not being enamored with various expressions based on aging in barrels that were used for other beverages, such as wines. Seemed to me this is a high-end way of adding flavors that do not naturally occur in Scotch. Although there was a time when I liked Glenmorangie port barrel finished, but not so much the madeira and sherry versions.
 

TexLaw

Fussy Evil Genius
Contributor
Seemed to me this is a high-end way of adding flavors that do not naturally occur in Scotch.
You can say that about any barrel.

In any case, Scotch whisky has been aged in fortified wine barrels for a lot longer than it's been aged in bourbon barrels. The latter only became popular in the 20th century.
 
You can say that about any barrel.

In any case, Scotch whisky has been aged in fortified wine barrels for a lot longer than it's been aged in bourbon barrels. The latter only became popular in the 20th century.
Scotch has been actually using ex-bourbon barrels to age their whiskey since the end of prohibition in the US. Once US instituted the laws for bourbon having to use new barrels only, their was a surplus of used bourbon barrels that was being sold for cheaper which is when the scots started using it for their scotch aging.
 

TexLaw

Fussy Evil Genius
Contributor
Scotch has been actually using ex-bourbon barrels to age their whiskey since the end of prohibition in the US. Once US instituted the laws for bourbon having to use new barrels only, their was a surplus of used bourbon barrels that was being sold for cheaper which is when the scots started using it for their scotch aging.
Yep. Prohibition ended in 1933. I don't know when the new barrel requirement came into effect, but the current regulation hit the books in 1969.
 

The Knize

Moderator Emeritus
FWIW, this source says the "new" requirement for Bourbon barrels came in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935. Bourbon Barrels: Why Exactly Must They Be New? - The Whiskey Wash - https://thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/bourbon/bourbon-barrels-why-exactly-must-they-be-new/ I miss the powerful coopers union. :)

You can say that about any barrel.

In any case, Scotch whisky has been aged in fortified wine barrels for a lot longer than it's been aged in bourbon barrels. The latter only became popular in the 20th century.
You have a reasonable point, TexLaw, and I do not have an informed response. I guess I would say that I was thinking of concept of "finishing" Scotch in barrels previously used for fortified wines, rather than whatever barrels were used to age the whisky. That finishing process seems very directly aimed at adding some wine flavors to what is essentially completed whisky. You are certainly correct that pre-American bourbon barrels used sherry barrels and to some extent port barrels were used to age Scotch. i think the Scottish regulations call for "oak" barrels without specifying what may or may not have been in the barrels previously. But the regulations sure prohibit generally any addition of flavors to Scotch whisky. Here is an interesting article. The Path to Ex-Bourbon Barrel Dominance in Scotch Aging - The Whiskey Wash - https://thewhiskeywash.com/whiskey-styles/scotch-whiskey/path-bourbon-barrel-dominance-scotch-whisky-aging/

The more you know . . . .
 

Doc4

Stumpy in cold weather
Moderator Emeritus
For me, there is nothing that tastes like Lagavulin. Sure there are other smokey peaty scotches but Lagavulin has a very distinct taste. I'd know it anywhere blind. I've tasted most of the single malts out there at one time or another, always on a quest to find something that I might like better than Lag. I have yet to find one. Now, make me taste test any other scotch and I'll never be able to tell the difference between them. I only know one.
You might enjoy ...

 

Doc4

Stumpy in cold weather
Moderator Emeritus
Anyone else out there not in love with Balvenie Double Wood? I think I get why it is popular, but when drunk side-by-side with other Scotches, it did not greatly appeal to me. Perhaps, too smooth.
"Smooth" is a compliment paid to scotches I tend to avoid as a result.

I seem to recall having a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood a few years ago. I do not recall my impressions, but can say I haven't bought another bottle.

That finishing process seems very directly aimed at adding some wine flavors to what is essentially completed whisky.
"Gimmick"?

Perhaps that was the word you were looking for? I'm not the all-knowing expert on how scotch ageing works but ... it seems that time is the key ingredient. Not just age-statement time, but also stability-in-barrel time.
 
I've had good NAS single malts and blends, as well as good ones that do have an age statement. So I think it's what inside the bottle that really counts. At the same time, I can understand why an old 16 or 18 year (or more) would carry a higher price, given the time and craft needed to care for the precious liquid.

I've been saving a bottle of Laphroaig 18 for almost 4 years, speaking of age statements, and God willing will be cracking that open with friends this summer when I get married...
 
Interesting thread. As I've been reading through I haven't seen any mention of the criteria for age labelling on scotch. If a bottle is labelled as being 10 years old, for example, every single drop has to be gauranteed to be at least that age. Much of what's in the bottle may well be even older. I expect you guys probably knew that already but I thought I'd point it out anyway. The current drought of age labelled scotch seems to be due to many contributing factors, I think. The smoking ban in the UK and elsewhere has led to more people drinking at home, more expendable income per household, access to information through our newest technology leading people to greater diversity of interests, etc. So now, in the UK at least, I have to pay the same for a NAS bottle of scotch that I used to pay for a 10 or 12 year old bottle because the disitilleries couldn't keep up with demand. Remember, they are mostly very small and have to be ahead of the market, so to speak. If there's an increase in demand for 18 year old Laphroaig they can't just make an extra batch of 18 year old scotch.

I've almost finished a bottle of NAS Jura which I've had on the go for the better part of a year. It's nice but different to a 10 or 12 year old. I couldn't say whether it's better or worse but, unless I'm willing or able to pay more, it's all I can get. I've enjoyed each and every glass from the first sip to the last gulp and that's good enough for me.
 
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Doc4

Stumpy in cold weather
Moderator Emeritus
criteria for age labelling on scotch. If a bottle is labelled as being 10 years old, for example, every single drop has to be gauranteed to be at least that age. Much of what's in the bottle may well be even older.
Correct ... for scotch. Other countries have other rules.
 
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