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Why ”it’s about taste” is a bad argument for NAS whisky

1) Because you can’t say ”it’s all about taste, not age” – and then charge customers a kazzilion dollars for a 30, 35 or a 42 YO.

2) Because you guys until extremely recently said ”it’s all about age”. In fact, quite a few of you still do. It’s like the argument with the type of water flowing from that magical stream through peat bogs or heather or slate or whatever being so important for the taste of whisky – 1990s marketing – which just doesn’t play anymore. Why? Well, because after all, it turned out to be either totally untrue or just massively unimportant.

3) Because when you are now busy trying to convince us that ”it’s all about taste, not age”, you’re obscuring the undisputable fact that the taste of a whisky depends directly on its age. A person might prefer an 8 YO to a 14 YO or a 5 YO to 35 YO whisky, but there’s no denying that why they taste different is because they are of different ages. So, saying taste is something other than age means you’re lying.

4) Because you are still marketing yourselves as having a long and proud Scottish heritage of distilling. So, very often, Scotch whisky is about kilts, traditions, and history, and that’s also how the age statement whiskies have been legitimised. Lose the kilts and the bagpipes and the proudly presented founding year on your bottles – a year which will inevitably denote a point in time at which your current distillery did not exist – and then say ”age is nothing”. You would be way more believable that way.

5) Because you used to have ranges like this: cheap 10, then rising prices for 15, 18, 21 YO. You’re now having a core range like this: cheap NAS, cheap NAS, more expensive 18 than before and very much more expensive 21 YO, with the added über-expensive 35 YO in a crystal decanter bottle with a box at least the size of a grown man’s thigh. So, what you’re really saying is ”it’s not about age, it’s about taste – unless,of course,  if the age is 18 or above, it’s really all about age again – and packaging”. It would be easier to buy the argument that ”it’s all about taste” if your core range was: 10, 15, über-expensive NAS, über-expensive NAS. Or, you know, cheap NAS, not-so-cheap NAS, a little more expensive NAS, really expensive NAS. Because if it’s all about taste, why on earth have any age statements on anything?

6) Because, although there are quite a few really good NAS whiskies around, a lot of them aren’t. I mean, guys, you know this. True, there are also some bad 10 YO whiskies out there, but there are way more bad NAS whiskies than bad ten-year-olds. So when you tell me it’s all about taste, I’ll reply that 9 times out of 10, the 10 tastes better than the NAS which replaced it.

7) Because NAS means less information, which means smoke screens for customers, which means customers start to lose their faith in you guys. When for the umpteenth time we here things like ”hand-selected” or ”special casks” or ”we gave total freedom to our master blender” we begin to realise that no, it’s not about taste, it’s just about marketing flimflam. Because honestly, really, what you’re often doing is taking six or seven-year-old whisky, giving it a fancy name and telling us to buy it blind. It’s not that you think it’s about taste and not age, it’s that you don’t trust customers to want to buy a bottle which says ”7 YO”.

8) Because, if you look at the whisky business historically, every single time that individual distilleries or whole regions have looked more to how to sell their whisky rather than to the quality of the product, things have gone to hell. Pattison crash, anybody? The rise and fall of Campbeltown distilleries? The pure malt fuck-up with Cardhu in 2002–2004? Read up on your history, guys: selling your product is extremely important, but selling it and not keeping tabs on quality will always lead to disaster.

9) Because you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Do instead what some smaller distilleries already do: proudly slap that five-year old age statement on the bottle.


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3 Kommentarer

  1. El Gold 29 december 2016

    I do love a good long rant David! Spot on I would say. Credit to Lagavulin for their 8 yo which was a belter!!

    • David Tjeder 30 december 2016 — Postförfattare

      I absolutely agree on that one – I found it wonderful that they released it as an 8 YO rather than as ”Lagavulin Caimhleachadh locha”.

  2. David Mortimer-Hawkins 30 december 2016

    ”It’s not that you think it’s about taste and not age, it’s that you don’t trust customers to want to buy a bottle which says ”7 YO”.

    Right there you nail the whole NAS issue in one, perfectly phrased, sentence. Another brilliant post from the only whisky writer worth reading today.

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