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N.A.S. = Not a sip!

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@mct
mct started a discussion

Why don't they just say it?

7 years ago

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Replies: page 1/2

@jeanluc
jeanluc replied

@mct

Never Aged Sufficiently

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

Nearly All Shite.

7 years ago 3Who liked this?

@mscottydunc
mscottydunc replied

Not Allowed Sell

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

I think that people are less P.O.ed by what is in the NAS bottle than by the sense of deceit at the producers' unwillingness to reveal what is actually in the bottle. If anyone or anything should be denounced it is an organization such as the Scotch Whisky Association which actively persecutes producers, e.g. Compass Box, who wish to honestly serve the public by honestly revealing what is in the products for sale. Product non-disclosure rules are anathema to an honest and free whisky marketplace.

7 years ago 5Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

Anyone who's looking for endless debate about NAS whiskies should review the comments section of almost any review on the All Things Whisky blog!

For me, I consider this deliberate withholding of information to be a big strike against any whisky. It's not a deal-breaker in my buying habits, but it plays a big role.

7 years ago 0

@OCeallaigh
OCeallaigh replied

@Victor absolutely. I also believe the problem is less in the bottles having no age statement and more in just how many have switched for what seems to be a purely deceptive money saving tactic. I appreciated NAS occasionally in the early days. Ardbeg Uigeadail, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Aberlour A'bunadh, etc... these are bottles I respected greatly for being more concerned with flavour profile than superfluous information. But since then, NAS has become a fad that saves the distilleries money and allows them to dupe the consumer into buying whisky that contains less intrinsic quality and quite frankly, less integrity. As you said... it's the deceptive aspect, I think, that has really soured most of us on NAS whiksy.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@Ol_Jas I would add that you could read the comments in any review (age stated or NAS) on that site from the last year or so and there's always one person who will bring up the same tired old refrain.

I agree that the trend is hurting whisky in general, and I am in favour of full disclosure, but at least on this site the topic doesn't permeate every review of every whisky.

7 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom replied

I don't have a problem with NAS releases. Several of my favourite whiskies are NAS:

  • Lot No. 40
  • Wiser's Legacy
  • Four Roses Single Barrel
  • George Dickel Rye
  • Canadian Club 100% Rye

And that's just off the top of my head. And sure, it's a bummer when something delicious like Knob Creek 9 YO goes NAS, but mostly because it might mean a change in the taste profile. If that stays the same (I have no experience with the Knob Creek NAS , so I can't comment) then I don't really care how old the liquid in my glass is.

That said, I definitely agree with Victor. More transparency on the label is a good thing, and it's a shame how the Scotch Whisky Association went after Compass Box for simply being more informative on their labels.

But NAS being something to avoid? Not for me.

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@Nelom , I think the key is to consider NAS to be a label type, and not a whisky type.

Sure, there are tasty NAS whiskies. But that's not the point. They'd be the same tasty whiskies if they were in bottles with labels that stated their ages.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@mct
mct replied

For the big brands, the most uninformed customers are the most valuable customers. Nas releases are just knee-jerk reactions to the high demand from casual drinkers. Casual buyers don't really look into details such as age, barrel type, etc.

Same goes for other industries like watches and cameras.

7 years ago 0

@mct
mct replied

They figured that the most uninformed customers are the most valuable customers. NAS releases are just knee-jerk reactions to the high demand from casual scotch drinkers. Casual buyers don't really look into details such as ageing, barrel type, etc.

Same goes for other industries like watches, cars, and electronics.

7 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@Ol_Jas "They'd be the same tasty whiskies if they were in bottles with labels that stated their ages."

Not necessarily. Or, rather, there might be a lot fewer bottles of the same tasty whisky if the labels stated their ages. By removing the age statement, it gives blenders more freedom in which barrels to go to in order to achieve the taste profile they're looking for. If they were limited to only a certain age and older, that leaves fewer barrels to choose from, and possibly a reduced output as a result.

In a perfect world they'd be able to print the age makeup in percentages on each batch, then we could continue to have age statements and transparency, but with varying ages for the same expression.

But (at least in Ontario) red tape prevent them from changing the labeling that frequently, as it is then considered a new product and has to go through all the behind-the-scenes procedures that new products have to go through before being allowed on the shelf. Which is costly and time consuming and something whisky producers avoid by simply going NAS.

So in the current reality, if I were a distiller I'd probably also be releasing a lot more NAS, and I'd probably also be working towards turning the whole industry into a NAS industry. And perhaps that's exactly what's going on, whether it's concerted effort by the industry in order to make their life's simpler, or simply a natural evolution due to popularity and barrel availability.

Either way, I don't really care. Yes, I'd prefer more labeling transparency, but not having it is certainly not going to stop me from continuing to buy a particular expression just because they decide to go NAS. Unless of course the change to NAS coincides with the flavour profile changing in a negative direction, then it's a whole different ballgame.

7 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@Nelom Your first paragraph is pretty much word for word the industry line. I agree, though, it really doesn't matter how much NAS product they put out as long as they don't try to bullshit me into believing that it is every bit as good and worth every bit as much money as the age stated product. Although much of the NAS output is very good (we all know the ones), don't tell me, Scotch whisky industry, that Mac Gold is a suitable, more expensive alternative to the old 12 year old, and don't try to tell me that GL Founders Reserve is the result of some sort of creative blending wizardry. (it's the industry I'm talking about here @Nelom, I'm not slagging you :-)

Cheers

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@BlueNote Considering the whisky boom we're finding ourselves in, it seems to me that the logic from my first paragraph is sound, industry line or not.

And whether one choose to believe that the NAS trend is motivated by greed or necessity, my main argument is that taste is King. If the flavour profile stays the same, I don't consider a NAS expression to be worth any less money than the age statement version. In the end, I pay for flavour, not a number on a bottle.

Of course I'd prefer transparency and the more said on the label the better. It would be interesting to see all kinds of information like barrel sizes, length of time spent in finishing casks, the age of the youngest whisky as well as an age breakdown in percentages, whether colouring was used, the mash bill when applicable, etc. But will not having that information prevent me from buying and enjoying delicious whisky? Absolutely not.

7 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@Nelom Are you sure it won't prevent you from buying and enjoying delicious whisky?

Case in point - Ontario Summit 2016 - @Nelom has the opportunity to try Writers Tears Cask Strength Irish Whiskey bought for 70 Euros. Now available in Toronto and Ottawa for $180. Younger than Redbreast 12 CS available at $110. Which will you (can you) buy?

Many have argued (and I believe) that hiding behind NAS lets people put younger, cheaper whisky into bottles and sell it for the same price as its previously age stated siblings. Think Glenlivet Founder's Reserve, Macallan [pole dancer] series. All of these have the effect of driving up age stated whiskies. 10 YO Tempest is now old and can be sold for a "bargain" 90 dollars (last year, 10 dollars less). And so on.

More and more whiskies are being added to my "I won't buy it at that price" not because they aren't good....but because I have a family and I have to make reasonable choices...

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@Nozinan If the absolute price of a whisky goes up, that may indeed prevent me from buying it, but that's true whether a whisky has an age statement or not. But if the absolute price stays the same and the flavour profile stays the same, then I'll continue to buy a whisky whether it's NAS or not.

As I've said, I don't particularly care whether whisky makers are hiding behind NAS to put younger whisky in the bottle. If the whisky inside gives me the same experience at NAS as it did with an age statement, why should I care?

An example:

One of my favourite whiskies (indeed, I've often said it is my very favourite) is Gibson's Finest Venerable 18 Years Old. It's currently selling for $74. Its younger sibling, Gibson's Finest Rare 12 Years Old is selling for $30. There's a marked difference between the 12 and the 18. You can tell that there's shades of the 18 in the 12, but it would seem that it needs those extra 6 years in the barrel in order to become exquisite.

Now, there's long been activities which suggests that perhaps the 18 Years Old is either getting discontinued or perhaps losing its age statement. Paddockjudge wrote a bit about these activities in his "new skin thread." If this were to happen, and the Venerable 18 Years Old became the Venerable NAS, I would for sure be concerned that the expression may no longer give me the same wonderful experience that it always has.

But I'd still pay $74 for a bottle without hesitation.

That's the only way to determine whether the blending wizards have managed to retain the flavour profile despite having possibly used younger whiskies than they did before. If they've managed to recreate the experience of the 18 Years Old, I have no problem paying the same money for that experience as I have in the past.

7 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@Nozinan Re-reading your post, it would seem I missed your point when making my reply. Sorry about that.

I suppose there's two conversations going on in this thread. One regarding whether NAS is fit to drink. And that's the one I've been focusing on entirely so far.

And the other one is regarding how the NAS movement is impacting price. Here I honestly don't really have much to say. Yes, it sucks when prices are raised. But mostly I tend to shrug and vote with my wallet. There's enough choice out there that for every whisky that prices itself out of my reach, there's several others that I'm either keen to try for the first time, or that I don't mind buying another bottle of.

7 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@Nelom

Yes, clearly, 2 different issues. I agree, if the whisky tastes good I will drink it, and if it doesn't I won't. I prefer my bottle of Mac CS (NAS) to Bowmore 18. Any day.

You don't blame a 3 year old child for dressing inappropriately, you blame the parents. Good whisky is good whisky, no matter how it is labeled (and the converse is true). Great examples are A'Bunadh, Lot 40, Old GrandDad 114.

And when only a few traditional expressions of good quality were NAS, that was fine. Now the trend is toward everything NAS and a select few premium offerings have an age. For goodness sakes, $100 for an 8 year old? There was a time when I would be willing to buy an 18 YO whisky. Now it's priced out of reach. And I think with NAS creeping up and becoming more mainstream, it allows producers to ask more for something with a number, even 10 or 12.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@mct
mct replied

Now nothing's going to prevent these distilleries in stuffing an 8 y/o whisky into a $150 bottle and releasing it as a NAS called "extra aged blender's edition".

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

If Scottish malt averaged $ 25 a bottle, would anyone be angry about NAS whisky? I don't think it would be much of an issue. People are saying it mostly indirectly, but I really think that the biggest source of anger is really about prices. People rationalised to themselves ad infinitum that this and that age of whisky was worth such and such an amount. Now, without age statements, they don't have the justification, or internal rationalisation, to spend large amounts of money on a liquid of unknown age background. People know it is now expensive, but they often feel that they don't have a justification for the expense. They are P.O.ed at the distilleries for depriving them of their rationalisations for spending large amounts of money. They are saying to the distilleries, "Please, please, PLEASE!...give me BACK my excuse to spend all of that money that YOU are asking ME to spend on your bottles of whisky!"

That said, there really do exist "age snobs", who feel that they have no bragging rights about what they are drinking unless they can quote a pedigree related to age.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

The guy on All Things Whisky whom @Nozinan and I refer to above makes (too often wink ) the argument that I pretty much agree with: Time in barrel is one of the main things that creates our taste experience, so we should know what that time was when we buy.

There's a reason we're all drinking aged whisky, and not newmake.

There's a reason that whiskies that have gone around the sun a quite few times are almost universally better than the junk that's dumped the moment it's legal.

There's a reason young whisky (like Lagavulin 8) is the way is it and old whisky (like Lagavulin 25) is the way it is. (This isn't an "age is better" argument.) (And credit goes to a recent ATW discussion for that handy Lagavulin example.)

They know exactly how old all the whisky is that they're selling us. They just choose when to tell us and when to hide it.

Age isn't just a nice detail that's fun to know. It's a prime driver of what the whisky is like, up there with bourbon v. scotch and whether it's peated. I certainly wouldn't favor NPS (no peat statement!) whiskies. I disapprove of NAS whiskies on the same grounds.

(And that's even ignoring the potential for invisible "age slide" as producers cut their NAS whiskies with more and more young stuff over time when we're not looking. No, wait—we are looking; it's just that there's nothing to look at because the label tells us nothing beyond the story of some legendary peaty ghost dog or whatever.)

I think what I would like (at least for scotch, but extrapolate as you see fit) is a label requirement like "All scotch whisky is required by law to be aged no less than three years." That would (a) educate buyers who don't understand aging to begin with, and (b) give sellers a bare minimum to distinguish themselves from with an age statement, if they see fit.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

@mct
mct replied

@victor but there is no doubt that making older whiskies is more difficult than making young ones. A huge factor here is that we pay for the rarity and the time spent making it i guess- So having the mininum-age statement really helps.

7 years ago 0

@mct
mct replied

Quite funny that the Glenmorangie 10 Original dropped the age statement and now packaged as Glenmorangie "The Original".

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@mct , about Glenmo 10: Really? First I've heard of that. That's such a popular whisky, that I'm really surprised that such a NAS swap would happen without more grumbling here and there. What's your source?

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@mct , I imagine we do pay for the rarity of old whisky in the sense that its perceived rarity drives up prices on the market. And one way or another, I suppose there is less of that old stuff for us all to chase, so there's a premium on that.

But until I'm proven otherwise, I doubt the concept that high prices on old whisky are really driven by the costs of aging. I maintain that prices are almost entirely driven by the market (i.e., demand). Why? Consider the following—and I hope ya'll can look past the made-up numbers to see the point I'm making:

•Let's say a bottle of young single malt costs $50 retail.

•From that $50, start counting back to find all the places the money goes: retailer's profit, wholesaler's profit, shipping, duty, packaging, marketing, maybe some other stuff. Basically, I'm trying to subtract back to what the producer got for the whisky when it left the warehouse. I don't think I'm too far off to say all that junk is around $40 and the producer pockets $10. (Again, even if my fake numbers are way off, the principle should still hold.)

•Of that $10, the producer has their own profit (say, $3?), over their production costs ($7?). Those production costs are things like salaries, barley, distillery insurance, peat, yada yada. And of course one of them is the aging costs. I'm really making up numbers now, but let's say that the aging costs are a generous $5.

Now compare that $50 bottle to an 18-year-old retailing for $150. Sure, there might be some higher incidental costs along the way (higher value = higher insurance, maybe fancier packaging), but I wouldn't expect a huge difference for most of those costs. Except of course this aging that we're always told drives the high prices. Well, did the aging costs go from $5 to $105? I doubt it!

So where does most of that extra $100 go? Profit!

7 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

I don't know @Ol_Jas. Is it because they have to wait 18 years before realizing any return on their investment? Also, they don't sell it direct from the distilleries for any less than any other retailer. As you point out, there are many fingers in the pie, and age will always command a premium. Regardless of what the actual production costs are, the older product is going out the distillery door at a much higher price to start with than the young stuff. Whisky retails at widely different prices in different jurisdictions. Here, for instance, where alcohol is government controlled, there is a large initial markup and a variety of taxes added pre-retail.

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@BlueNote , lots of ideas on the table. Please take this in the spirit of friendly truth-seeking argument.

"Is it because they have to wait 18 years before realizing any return on their investment?"

That delayed compensation is part of the aging costs I laid out.

"They don't sell it direct from the distilleries for any less than any other retailer."

True. But I'm not sure I see the relevance. (Distillery-direct sales just concentrate more of the profit with the distillery, rather than the middlemen.)

Everything else you said ("fingers in the pie," etc.) seems totally legit and true, but I don't think any of that plays into my claim that high prices on well-aged whisky are due to big profits, not big aging expenses. If that was all just general whisky chatter, then cool—good stuff. If you want me to consider that in relation to the thread I'm pulling at here, please explain a bit more.

7 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@Ol_Jas I re-read your original post a little more carefully, and, yes, I take your main point that, given the current demand, the producers and the rest of the food chain, will take as much profit as they can, for as long as they can, because they can.

Cheers

7 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas replied

@BlueNote , no, that wasn't really my point. I guess I wrote a book above, so here's the short version:

Aging expenses are only a small portion of where our whisky money goes, so aging expenses cannot be responsible for the high prices of well-aged whiskies relative to young whisky.

7 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@Ol_Jas. I got a bit lost in your intricate math, never my strong suit, but I get your point (I think), and I agree that the cost of aging is not a significant factor in the end price. Rather it is the fact of age itself that commands a premium.

7 years ago 0