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Photo Finish Between Age Statement And NAS Whisky In Big Blind Tasting

by Oliver Klimek on June 21, 2015

Three months ago I announced my plans for a large scale blind tasting in order to compare pairs of No Age Statement Scotch single malt whisky bottlings to age statement counterparts of the same distillery. Finally, the results of this tasting are ready to be published.

A total of 59 participants submitted their findings. Originally there were 70 spaces in the tasting, divded into two groups of 35, with each group tasting five different pairs of whiskies. My experience with previous blind tastings has shown that it is likely that the final result would not include all available spaces. A combination of very late retractions, lack of response and failure to submit the results in is to blame here, but the remaining number is still very respectable.

Who were the participants? I will disclose no names, but some of them have already posted pictures of their sample bottles on Facebook, so it is not a complete secret anymore. It was quite an eclectic mix from hardcore whisky geeks over bloggers to a number of people with not a lot of whisky experience. Even a few professionals joined the group including a veritable brand ambassador of a well-known Scottish distillery. Geographically the most participants were based in the UK, followed by the Netherlands. Notable nations were also the USA, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Austria and Slovenia.

To recapitulate the rules: Participants had to compare 5 pairs of numbered samples in a head to tasting and note which sample of any pair they preferred of it was a draw. Any additional comments, scores or guesses were encouraged but not required.

For evaluating the results any preferred whisky of a pair received +1 point and the other -1 point. No points were given in the case of a draw. So when adding up the results for each pair you end up with “Whisky A: +x points / Whisky B: -x points” where x is the balance of votes that states how many more people preferred the winner.

The Result: It’s essentially a draw!

Looking at the individual bottles, the results look as if age statement whisky cashed in a convincing victory: 6 age statement bottles received more votes than their NAS sparring partners, as opposed to only 3 for NAS. There was one draw.

But adding up the votes for all age statement and all NAS whiskies separately, the resulting balance is only 2 in favour of age statement whisky. This number is very small compared to the total number of votes of 295 (59 x 5). Needless to say that this is well within the margin of error for such a relatively small group. Even though this tasting might well be the most thorough comparison of NAS and age statement whiskies ever done (don’t pin me down on this but I could not find a bigger one) this is not a proper scientific study, and the number of participants is not big enough to make the result statistically waterproof.

In the light of this it would be unfair to proclaim “Age statement whisky beats NAS in blind tasting!”. The margin is just too small. But neverthless some interesting observations can be made. But first here are the individual results. Approximate bottle prices have been adjusted to 0.7 l wherever necessary.

Group A (31 votes)

glen_morayPair 1

Distillery: Glen Moray

Age statement: 12 yo (sample A1B) – €30

NAS: Port Cask Finish (sample A1A) – €30

Winner: Age statement by 1 vote

Remarks about age statement:

  • “Like chewing on a piece of rolling paper.”
  • “Interestingly, B was lighter in colour, but what does colour mean these days anyway….”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “It also had a light port note that made me think it had some kind of wine finish that didnt’ work that well”
  • “This feels Diageo all over it.”
  • “The nose is the best part, until it turns. Don’t like the bitterness at the end of the finish.”

dalmorePair 2

Distillery: Dalmore

Age statement: 12 yo (sample A2A) – €33

NAS: Valour (sample A2B) – €39

Winner: Draw

Remarks about age statement:

  • “Taste: Whisky, don’t expect anything special.”
  • “Easy on the palate but a disappointing finish”
  • “I prefer it. The maturity is obvious.”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “… had a richer palate and a dry finish that I liked”
  • “Strange taste, not something I can describe very easily.”
  • “Color: copper, indistinguishable from A, which I suppose means the same amount of caramel was added.”

glenlivetPair 3

Distillery: Glenlivet

Age statement: 12 yo (sample A3A)  – €28

NAS: Founder’s Reserve (sample A3B) – €30

Winner: Age statement by 8 votes

Remarks about age statement:

  • “This is a young but characterful whisky, which is well made, hopefully the price is not to high.”
  • “Glenlivet-y speyside at 40% I guess”
  • “Better. Nice summer whisky actually.”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “I assume very young whisky has been used and this is a classic example of an overpriced NAS whisky which everyone seems to hate except the marketing department.”
  • “Reminds me of Glenrothes Select Reserve, which is the exact opposite of my type of whisky.”

cardhuPair 4

Distillery: Cardhu

Age statement: 12 yo (sample A4B) – €30

NAS: Amber Rock (sample A4A) – €38

Winner: NAS by 6 votes

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “A dialed-down version of the previous dram.”
  • “This is a whisky with a off note in the nose, and not very tasty all in all.”

Remarks about NAS: 

  • “A classic example of what whisky is, this is a good introduction whisky.”
  • “This is probably the aged one but feels engineered to be enjoyed.”

macallanPair 5

Distillery: Macallan

Age statement: 10 yo Fine Oak (sample A5A) – €55 (price increase due to scarcity)

NAS: Gold (sample A5B) – €45

Winner: NAS by 2 votes.

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “Nice and rounded, sweet and a hint of bitterness, yet very nice.”
  • “Quite generic. Drinkable. Not one to spend a lot of time analysing, it’s quite dull to me.”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “More herbal and minerally in style […] making it less lively and interesting”
  • “Much more interesting and enjoyable”
  • “Both quite ok, but B was better: richer and some pencil shavings on the nose”
  • “Once you lose interest in the nose, this whisky loses it all. Which is quite quick.”
  • “Palate: some young cereals, diabetes candies that the old men pass out during the rabbi’s sermon at schul”
     

Group B (28 votes)

glenrothesPair 1

Distillery: Glenrothes

Age statement: Vintage 1998/2014 (sample B1A) – €45

NAS: Alba Reserve (sample B1B) – €50

Winner: Age statement by 1 vote

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “Tasted like Glenlivet 12”
  • “Not a great malt with some flaws of youth”
  • “Reminded me a bit of Loch Lomond 10. ( that’s not a compliment).”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “Too sweet”
  • “Prefer B by quite some way. “
  • “Fairly one dimensional. Thin. Fairly bland and slightly spirity.”
  • “Don’t like this one. It’s more water than whisky.”

mortlachPair 2

Distillery: Mortlach

Age statement: 15 yo Gordon & MacPhail (sample B2A) – €55

NAS: Rare Old (sample B2B) – €90

Winner: Age statement by 4 votes

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “A beautiful sherried nose followed by a quite good palate.”
  • “This one is good compared to B.”
  • “Sweet playdoh, nutty caramel and a lurking hint of… tomato?! Possibly hint of struck matches and sulphur. Very odd and confusing!”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “Here are my results. I’ll spare you the details, only that B2B was undrinkable.”
  • “Reasonable dram.”
  • “The nose is ok, and the palate and finish seems ok at first. But after a while the finish is really bad.”

pulteneyPair 3

Distillery: Old Pulteney

Age statement: 12 yo (sample B3B) – €35

NAS: Navigator (sample B3A) – €50

Winner: Age statement by 2 votes

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “Quite a fruity malt, saline and coastal”
  • “Maybe this one is a tiny bit better than A. It has more body and it’s better balanced.”
  • “Wins hands down. I may consider buying this”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “A bit too young”
  • “None were too impressive but B3A felt just a tad better and betting the 2nd one is TR NAS”
  • “Much prefer A. Some similar nuances but more balance and complexity”

glenfarclasPair 4

Distillery: Glenfarclas

Age statement: 10 yo (sample B4A) – €28

NAS: Springs (sample B4B) – €35

Winner: Age statement by 2 votes

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “Very classic and not very complex but what it does well what it does.” 
  • “Won for me but just barely”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “A bit on the harsh side.”
  • “Here I disliked both drams and winner is a very loose term. I would be keen to know which distillery this is to avoid it in future.”

dufftownPair 5

Distillery: Dufftown

Age statement: 12 yo (sample B5B) – €30

NAS: Sunray (sample B5A) – €30

Winner: NAS by 8 votes

Remarks about Age Statment:

  • “Made me think humm not in a good way”
  • “A whisky that tastes like whiskey, not really fancy but solid and well made. But it could be more complex.”

Remarks about NAS:

  • “Thin. Disappointingly simple compared to the nose.”
  • “The palate gives away its youth but it is not bad, especially the spices are well balanced.”
  • “B5A was exceptionally drinkable and was my overall favorite.”
  • “Mellow, round, creamy, spicy and full, medium finish, complex, good. The best dram of the tasting!”
  • “Sour? Very light, watery”

Mortlach is a bit of an oddity here because the age statement whisky is an independent bottling. I would have preferred to use the 16 yo Flora & Fauna here, but that bottle is already discontinued and sells for prices that are comparable to the Rare Old now. Because the G&M 15 yo has been the recognized inofficial standard bottling of Mortlach before the official Flora and Fauna series I have decided to use this one. You will notice the big price difference but it would not have been fair to compare the NAS entry level bottling of a range with an even older and more expensive age statement whisky. So blame the pricing of the Mortlach Rare Old for this imbalance.

The Macallan 10 Fine Oak has already become more expensive than it used to be because of the introduction of the NAS series, but it has not been discontinued globally.

You can see that the results of many bottles were very narrow. Without applying maths I would say that any result with a balance of 2 or less is not significant enough to warrant a clear win.   

Conclusions

1. Entry level age statement whiskies are not necessarily better than entry level NAS

The supporters of no age statement whisky often say “Age is just a number”. And in many cases this is true. Entry level NAS whisky often is comparable in quality to entry level age statements. The trick with NAS is to use casks that are impart more flavours in a shorter period of time, usually either by rejuventation or as a wine finish, sometimes also by using fresh wood.

Diageo appears to have found a magic formula here because both the Cardhu Amber Rock and the Dufftown Sunray had very convincing results.  

2. Entry level NAS whiskies are not necessarily better than entry level age statements

Sounds very dialectical, doesn’t it? While the above conclusion might tempt NAS supporters to claim a victory in the NAS vs. age statement debate, there is one aspect that goes missing. More often than not NAS whisky does not manage to live up to the claim of the whisky industry that allowing the blender to use a wider range of casks ultimately results in a better whisky. 

In reality this claim is only a retrograde justification for trying to save on maturation time. With a bit of luck it works, as shown by Cardhu Amber Rock and Dufftown Sunray, but it can also fail rather spectatularly like with the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve. And most of the times the result does not really justifiy buying a NAS bottle. Most of them are more expensive than the age statement whiskies (the increased use of special casks certainly factors in here) but don’t offer an obvious increase in quality.

In the case of the Mortlach Rare Old the price difference is so big that one seriously has to ask why anyone should buy a bottle of this whisky at all, even though the defeat against the G&M may not look very spectacular when only looking at the vote count. In addition to that, the participants who were scoring the whiskes most often rated the Mortlach Rare Old as their least favourite of the 10 samples they received.

Diageo has been trying to establish Mortlach as a luxury whisky brand. Official Mortlach tastings are often held in high profile settings like for example Diageo’s Drummuir Castle and are often accompanied by good food. This of course sets the mood, and I don’t recall reading a single negative verdict about the Rare Old by anyone who attended one of these tastings. But in the neutral setting of a blind tasting we can see that this whisky is only wearing the emperor’s new clothes. The fact that the cheap Dufftown Sunray beats it hands down shows that the Mortlach Rare Old only is one of the lesser quality entry level whiskies on the market at an obscenely inflated price.

These results are certainly food for thought. Many whisky geeks will probably be disappointed that NAS wasn’t defeated decisively in this blind tasting. But also the whisky industry will not be very pleased with some of the results.

 

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Gal Granov (@galg) June 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

oh, i guess its time i tasted mine 😉

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Sjoerd de Haan June 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

Was the first one always the age stated one?

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Oliver Klimek June 21, 2015 at 8:58 am

No, the sample numbers are written in brackets. You can ee that age statement sometimes was sample A and sometimes B. I sorted the bottles only in the article so it looks less confusing for readers who did not have the samples.

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Tim Forbes June 21, 2015 at 9:39 am

Very interesting, and clearly confirms the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve as woefully inferior to the 12. I tried it at a festival and was shocked at how bad it was.

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Thijs @ WoW June 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Interesting results. Thanks Oliver, for making this all possible.

I don’t think the “It’s essentially a draw”-theory holds up. Since it is of no relevance whatsoever that in the overall result there was only a difference of two votes. Comparing the different brands is like comparing apples and oranges.

The fact that 6 out of the 10 times an age statement-whisky (and only 3 out of 10 times for a NAS whisky) was rated higher is the most telling part for me. As a consumer I compare the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve with the Glenlivet 12yo, and not with the Dalmore 12yo. So those comparisons (and results) are most interesting in this experiment.

Btw, is there a particular reason why the Talisker 10 and Skye weren’t included? I knew they weren’t among my samples (I was in bracket A), but was hoping to see them in the B-samples.

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Oliver Klimek June 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm

6 bottles had a difference of 2 votes or less which is not very significant. These could have switched to either side if a few more people had sent in their votes. There were only 2 solid wins for age statments and 2 solid wins for NAS. And this reflects in the overall vote. During all the time when results came in the margin always was quite narrow and the “disputed bottles” kept flipping between NAS and age statements.

I did not include peaty whisky because it would have made guessing the distillery much easier which might have led to biased votes like. “Ah, this is Laphroaig, A is not as strong as B so it must be the Select”. I announced this in the original blog post, by the way.

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two-bit cowboy June 21, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Most interesting. Thanks for conducting and sharing this study. Proves that each whisky must be tried and evaluated on its own, regardless of its name or age.

To me the least surprising result in your study is the Mortlach Rare Old. Hyperbole does not make the whisky better.

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Florin June 21, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Very interesting experiment Oliver! As a statistician, I essentially agree with your conclusions.
The proper statistical analysis is not difficult to do, even for a non-statistician.
1. For the within-brand comparison, the statistical comparison uses the McNemar test (with continuity correction). The test statistic is z=(d-1)/square root(n), where d is the net number prefering one bottle vs. the other, as a positive number, and n is the number of people who ranked the whiskies, excluding the ties. So, for example, in the case of Dufftown, d = 8. I don’t know what n is: if 17 people preferred the NAS and 9 people preferred the 12yo (with the rest having them tied), then n is 17+9=26 and z = (8-1)/sqrt(26) = 1.37. If 11 preferred the NAS and 3 preferred the 12yo (with the rest being ties), then n is 11+3=14 and z = (8-1)/sqrt(14) = 1.87. If z > 1.96 you have a statistically significant difference; if not – you don’t. So, as you can see, even with d=8 it is unlikely that the difference is statistically significant.

2. As for the overall comparison of NAS vs AS I would not consider all 59×5 observations altogether, but use the individual as the unit of observation. For each of the 59 consider the net preference for NAS, as a number from 5 (NAS preferred for all 5 whiskies) to -5 (AS preferred for all 5 whiskies). Then do a one-sample comparison of the 59 numbers to a mean of 0, using the t-test, or, even better, Wilcoxon test. For the t-test, the statistic is t = sqrt(59)*m/s, where m is the mean of the 59 numbers and s is the standard deviation. You have a significant preference for NAS if t>2, or for AS if t< -2. No significant difference if -2<t<2.

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Oliver Klimek June 21, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for this information. Since I have a masters degree in physics I know some basic statistics and have some experience with calculating margins of error for experimental results and theoretical predictions. So my assumption was essentially an educated guess based on that experience.

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JohnM June 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Very interesting results. Of course, it would be a lot different if the tasters knew the brands and age statements before the test… That’s why I love blind tasting experiments.

Interesting to hear we have physicists and statisticians on board. I’ve studied both. Now I’m doing data analytics. I’d love to apply it to something whisky, for the craic.

On a small scale, I’d love to get experienced tasters to retaste a number of whiskies blind to compare with the results of past tastings, particularly using the 100 point scale.

john

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My Annoying Opinions June 21, 2015 at 11:55 pm

How do the prices compare?

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Oliver Klimek June 22, 2015 at 5:23 am

Not sure what you mean here. The prices are shown next to the bottles. Or do you mean there should be a more thorough annalysis of them?

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My Annoying Opinions June 22, 2015 at 5:53 am

I didn’t mean my comment as a critique, and frankly in my quick read of the results I hadn’t even noticed that the prices of these bottles were on there: I meant only that in my non-scientific sense of things most NAS offerings from distilleries/companies are more expensive than the entry-level age stated whiskies they replaced (or will supersede). I could be wrong about this, but now that I have looked more closely at the prices you listed, this does seem to be borne out by a number of these pairings (and the Macallan is an artificial situation as you note).

So, I think focusing on the draw part and not on the fact, as you note, that there’s also a large disparity in price, is an error that some may make (and may be in some people’s interest to make). And, of course, it’s not just that these NAS whiskies are not as good values as the entry-level age stated whiskies but that they’re often being presented as premium offerings (as the prices would also indicate). In a sense it may make more sense to compare them to older and more expensive whiskies from the same distilleries.

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Oliver Klimek June 22, 2015 at 6:09 am

I quite agree with your conclusion. I should add though, that when selecting the bottle pairings I had a “if in doubt, take the more expensive NAS” policy, simply for the reason to avoid any possible criticism of pairing cheap NAS with more expensive age statements out of bias against NAS. So if a more expensive NAS bottle doesn’t do well against a cheaper age statement it’s not the fault of an unfair selection.

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Eric Sanford June 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Very interesting, Oliver, but MAO does raise a point that I think needs to be considered – that the price of many of these NAS releases puts them on par with a different set of whiskies that the entry-level AS. The distilleries themselves are setting the expectation through their pricing policies that these new NAS whiskies are “superior” to the lower priced AS whiskies, thus, the NAS should be comparable in taste and quality when based on pricing. Would make for an interesting follow up evaluation!

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kallaskander June 22, 2015 at 10:29 am

Hi there,

thank you Oliver and all the tasters for that enormous piece of work. Not an easy job but somebody had to do it.

I would say that you can never reach a conclusive result with comparisons like this. The problem imo lies in a sentence you used in your description of the setting for the comperative tasting: “allowing the blender to use a wider range of casks ultimately results in a better whisky.”

Inasmuch it is really comparing apples with oranges. A whisky with an age statement tells you the lowest age point for the whiskies used in the vatting. You can be pretty sure that older whisky is used in such a away as to make the age stated whisky rounder fuller mor complex. The rounding fillings will not be the main ingredient that is sure.

NAS-ty whiskies do not give a reference point whatsoever. Not a minimum nor a maximum of age for whiskies used with the well known exception of three years defined by law of course.
The elements of a vatting are wild guess work for us and the age point can be as low as three years – and you can assume that older whiskies of 10+ years are used to make the young stuff palatable and to maintain at least a cerain level of the illusion of quality in order not to damage the brand too much. But you are not told how much aged whisky it takes to prep the young ones up. You can not be sure that it is not the main ingrediant.
Anybody who has ever tried a pure 3 or 5 yo single malt knows how they can taste…

So the apples – oranges thing is in the way of a fair or conclusive comparison.

No one would complain if the whisky industry sold NAS-ty whiskies at price points that matches the age of the whiskies.

And if they use much older than 3yo whiskies in these NAS-ty whiskies in quantities that command higher prices they should tell us about the vattings.
They could probably move me to stop calling NAS whiskies a double betrayal.

Greetings
kallaskander

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Oliver Klimek June 22, 2015 at 11:26 am

I would be very surprised if current entry level age statement bottlings like the ones used for the blind tasting had older whisky in it. Two things indicate this: 1. The industry has now officially confirmed that they have less and less aged stock, and 2. many of those current bottlings have gone downhill in recent years, just take the Laphroaig 10 for example. Being cynical it might be the actual plan of the whisky industry to make age statement whisky less full, round and complex than it used to be so the NAS bottlings can match them more easily.

You assume a lot of things here that are impossible to prove unless you know the blending recipe. The mere possibility that an age statement bottling can contain older whisky does not necessarily mean that it actually does. You assume that NAS bottlings contain 3 yo whisky but this may not be true at all. With this logic, even more older whisky would be needed for the balance of an NAS than for an age statement. Wild guess work as you say.

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Jeff July 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm

But wild guesswork isn’t the real problem is it, Oliver? Assumption and guesswork is what people are left with when the industry deliberately omits hard data or, better yet, says that it’s “irrelevant” in one place but the cornerstone of marketing in another. Participate in any conversation about any NAS bottle that goes more than 10 minutes and it will invariably lead to speculation about age – often from the very same people who claim that they “don’t care about it”.

But instead of engaging in the endless “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” speculation that NAS generates about age and relative quality, why not actually deal with the elephant in the room? Does age matter to the development of all whisky regardless of the label later applied at bottling or not? If not, why, when the industry ages, and tracks the age, of all its production, and, if it does matter, isn’t THAT the main issue with NAS: that regardless of the quality of the bottles it’s applied to, NAS is just a paradoxical self-serving and self-contradictory message on age currently used to sell predominantly young whisky?

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kallaskander June 22, 2015 at 4:24 pm
Jeff June 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

A lot of good work went into this, but I’m still not sure what it shows (that the industry is currently removing the age statements from the right/wrong whiskies in order to supposedly show that age had no effect on them?), given that –

1. While an age statement at least reflects a minimum duration of maturation, NAS is not a “type” of whisky (or production process, not even blending or multi-vintaging), only a type of label, and the only thing that “unites” the NAS group is the fact that someone left the age off (much as Oliver himself did when he mailed out all the samples), not that they didn’t have an age which certainly affected their character in the first place. If mere labeling now somehow has some implied bearing on quality and I take the labels off my age-statement bottles at home, can I expect their quality to go up, down or stay the same? And if the choice I make at home regarding this is irrelevant, why is it considered some big legitimized sticking point when the decision’s taken out of my hands/pre-empted, not by a blender, but by marketer?

2. Beyond the fact that there’s really no “NAS whisky” to analyse, there’s no analysis dealing with the far more important and fundamental issue that, regardless of whether NAS marketing is applied to whiskies of good, bad or indifferent quality at any given time (and it is only a question of entirely changeable selection and labeling, not process – no whisky is good, or made better, for lack of an age statement), the message of NAS marketing ABOUT age simply doesn’t make any sense. Although the industry tracks age as valid, and important, production information on ALL of the whisky IT owns, age is only “relevant” to the consumer if and when industry marketing departments want to use age as a selling point, and “meaningless” when no one at the head office wants to talk about selling young whisky as premium products? All whisky is casked, and aged, at great (and passed on!) expense to be improved, but age only matters here (with age statements), and not there (with NAS) at retail?

At most, this project shows that the industry continues to needlessly withhold the age of some fairly good expressions from the people who are paying for them in order to justify withholding the age on some other pretty average expressions from the people who are paying for them. This is done in the name of arguing that age only matters where the industry says it does and trying to establish some imaginary link between increased(?!) quality/value and the “necessity” of depriving the paying customer of product information.

As labeling cannot affect quality in any event, the real questions in terms of preference between age-statement and NAS-labeled whisky is “if the whisky’s going to be the same anyway, where’s the real reason to have less production information on some bottles than others?” and “if all of the best age-statement whiskies in the world had their ages removed tomorrow, would their then dramatically unenhanced quality be a justification for doing it if industry hacks said so just to line their pockets?”.

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kallaskander June 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Hi there,

hi Jeff,

as taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed NAS whiskies are not bottled for the benefit of those supposed to buy them.

About that we can be sure.

Midleton just released the Dair Ghaelach range of pure pot still whiskies as NAS. At a price point of over 200.- €uro they are frank enough to tell us that they consist of pure pot still whiskies matured in refill American oak of 15-22 years with a 10 month finishing in the Irish oak that these bottlings are all about.

Without being cynical I ask why do they do that? Because at this price point and because they are not ashamed of the real age of the whiskies used they can and chose to do so.

Or, to put it differently age does matter in these bottlings. The same experiment with whiskies of 5-10 years old and no one would mention what age the whiskies used were.

Is all about withholding relevant information – NAS-ty whiskies that is not the Midletons – this NAS-ty business?

You bet.

Greetings
kallaskander

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Jeff July 5, 2015 at 3:21 pm

“As taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed NAS whiskies are not bottled for the benefit of those supposed to buy them.

About that we can be sure.”

This raises a good point, certainly is just who “we” are in recognizing the silliness of NAS – and just who will and won’t denounce it in the absence of being able to actually defend it speaks a great deal about credibility. Focusing on the minutiae of NAS – is this bottle better than that one – is entirely beside the point where the logical foundations of NAS (the absence of any link between age-statement omission and quality) are lacking in the first place. Anyone can remove the labels from all of their best age statements bottles at home, but the unchanged quality of those bottles neither justifies removing the labels in the first place nor makes any argument that those whiskies, for better or worse, aren’t a product of their age maturation.

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Pieter June 29, 2015 at 10:32 am

To me personally the most surprising thing of this tasting was the fact that I thought some pairs were very, very similar. At some moments I thought I was in some sort of control group were A and B were the same thing. This would mean that for those distilleries the age statements and the NAS were interchangeable for me.

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selfbuilt July 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

That was certainly a lot of work – thanks for making the effort! I can only imagine what a hassle that was, sending everything off and collecting the results.
I agree with Florian that it’s unlikely that any of the results here would reach statistical significance given the sample size – although the Dufftown and Glenlivet comparisons might. Given those are two cases with the “replacement” NAS is basically the same price as the older AS version, it would be interesting to focus more intensive resources comparisons for those two (and maybe a couple of others here).
In essence, you could think of this as a pilot experiment to gain a better understanding of the sample variance of specific pairings, and use the findings as guide to a further experiment where the statistical model was defined up front (i.e., sufficiently powered to detect differences). Sounds like Florian was offering to assist with the stats – anyone out there up to challenge of performing a second round? 😉
In any case, thanks again for the preliminary results Oliver. Food for thought!

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AB July 31, 2015 at 12:07 am

Considering the price (369 euros vs 437 euros = a difference of 68 euros if I have typed correctly), the NAS should have been better. After all, it’s nearly 20% more expensive than the whisky with age statements.

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