Sure NAS whiskies get flack from whisky lovers. We consider the age statement a definitive mark of quality, care, and investment by the distiller. The distillers will come back at us with arguments that ‘no age statement’ expressions give them the freedom to pick the best casks, etc. But I have to think, if we as consumers roll over and accept this, we’ll be on the road to what wine has become. Manufactured. And there will be apologists for manufactured whisky as there are apologists for manufactured wine. Take the article in the New York Times by Bianca Bosker just last March. When I read it I was certain, until it concluded, that the piece was a tongue in cheek sendup. I mean, oak dust? Liquid oak tannin ‘(pick between “mocha” and “vanilla”)’ — really? Ms. Bosker promoted the idea that we should accept products designed by committee for easy drinking palates, further straining credulity. I do not exaggerate:
“many mass-market wines are designed by sensory scientists with the help of data-driven focus groups and dozens of additives that can, say, enhance a wine’s purple hue or add a mocha taste. The goal is to turn wine into an everyday beverage with the broad appeal of beer or soda.”
Isn’t that what they are moving towards with NAS whisky? A manufactured flavor profile, and less transparency? Thankfully, distillers have not managed to change Scottish law regarding whisky making, and consumer attention on craft-distilled marques like Springbank (no filtration, no color) communicates a message to the distilling companies: we consumers value how our whisky is made.
Also I feel the distillers wrong-footed themselves pricing NAS expressions above that of traditional aged expressions. I have only a few (valued) friends who appreciate a good malt, but those few appeared puzzled by the tactic. Perhaps distillers intended to signal higher quality through price. Clever marketing, and it works for wine. But I, for one, did not buy the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (still languishing in my cabinet) or follow through on my recent purchase of Talisker Storm until they went on discount.