When Macallan officially launched their new no-age-satement “1824 series”, this highlighted a very interesting conflict of philosophies within the whisky industry.
Spirits Business published the views of Macallan Brand Ambassador Joy Elliot exlpaining their stance.
“Age statements have made us very lazy and one-dimensional. People have different palates and can each discern different flavours. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Right now whisky consumers believe an 18-year old is better than a 15-year old, and a 15 better than a 12, but it’s really all down to personal taste.”
“There’s a big education job to do. We are the most modern market in terms of whisky, but we’ve still got a long way to go. An age statement doesn’t give you any clues as to quality, but this [The Macallan 1824 Series] is one of the ways around it.”
This is in harsh contrast to the viewpoint of another industry great. Chivas have been running their “Age Matters” consumer education campaign for two years now, and they are stating:
“The aim of the campaign is to enable consumers to understand fully the age statement and to appreciate the value of the premium product they are purchasing.” (Press release)
“In an age when consumers of luxury goods increasingly demand transparency and authenticity from brands, it is vital that we empower consumers with knowledge, so that they fully understand the value of what they are buying.” (Christian Porta, CEO)
Macallan has now essentially swapped age for color as an indicator of quality, but isn’t this just as questionable? And with their popular Aberlour A’bunadh, Chivas have a very prominent example of a NAS bottle of (usually) very high quality in their portfolio.
The truth certainly lies somewhere in between those extremes. It is true that older does not automatically mean better. But the choice to go NAS opens up the possibility to use cheaper young whisky without having to reflect this in the retail price.
One thing is very striking to me. The older a whisky actually is, the more its age seems to matter. Macallan only replaces their 10 to 17 year old expressions with NAS bottlings. Why not the famous 18 and 25 year olds? If age did not matter at all, they could have got rid of those as well.