Yesterday the Spirits Business website published a highly interesting article with statements by LVMH’s “head of whisky creation” Dr. Bill Lumsden about the future of NAS whisky, predicting that it would go on to dominate the Scotch market in the future. Nothing he said was really new, but the way he said it is – at least to me – a remarkable shift from the whisky industry’s previous line of argumentation.
Just about every new bottling of No Age Statement Scotch in recent years was described as being born out of the intention to create a particular flavour profile without being restricted by a minimum age for selecting the appropriate casks. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. It was an open secret, though, that the pressure on aged stocks caused by rising global demand for Scotch whisky was – to put it mildly – also a part of the equation.
The mantra of needing to get rid of the handcuffs, ball and chain of age statements for the sake of making better whisky was gladly picked up by the largest part of the community of professional whisky writers whose reviews all too often were not much more than a regurgitation of the press releases with the addition of an approving nod.
In the Spirits Business article Dr. Bill now gets down to business. The first thing we read is that between 2007 and 2012 the stocks of whisky older than 9 years had fallen by more than 25% across the Scotch whisky industry. Now this is an impressive number, the total loss of value should be quite a few millions here. And since this is only an average value, there are bound to be some producers whose inventories have suffered an even bigger blow.
It is only understandable that the whisky industry is trying to counter this. The last years have been full of whisky releases that were in some kind “experimental” with a multitude of cask finishes. But we really should move on now to call them what they really are: methods to bring more flavour into the whisky in less time.
I don’t know if it is the first time ever a senior official of the whisky industry has been so open about the reasons for the NAS whisky trend. But I do find it quite striking that these words come from a man who can be regarded as the pioneer of ‘woodworking’ in Scotch whisky, Dr. Bill Lumsden.
Naturally he also mentions the increased flexibility that comes with NAS. There is no denying that this can actually help a blender. But with the way he said it there is no doubt anymore about what is cause and what is effect.
Thank you, Dr. Lumsden. Honesty is always appreciated, in the whisky business and elsewhere.