There has been quite a debate in the last few days following Lukasz’s excellent post regarding NAS (Read it before continuing) and Billy’s answer to that (read Billy’s post here), and since NAS has been quite the issue for the last few months, I felt I should put my 2 cents worth of ideas here too.
Those of you who follow my blog / twitter / Facebook feeds must know by now I’ve been bitching about NAS (mostly young EXPENSIVE NAS) for ages. Now, Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with some NAS bottlings and some are indeed Excellent stuff for the right price as Billy rightfully mentioned (Abunadh,Glendronach CS, and my Favourite of all the Balvenie Tun 1401 which deserves a honorary mention for being so damn excellent, and disclosing which casks went into the vatting). What I am opposing is not the idea of NAS but the following:
1.Young NAS at high prices – Some distilleries seem to just take advantage of the fact that people will buy everything on the market, and bring out under par NAS bottlings of young, sometimes too young whiskies at a premium price.
2.Travel retail has become a NAS playground – Travel retail used to be the test bed of some distilleries when they first released new whiskies, but now it seems most travel retail new editions are weird sounding Gaelic NAS whiskies that cost more than their aged bottles sold outside the duty free shops. Take for example the Old Pulteney Light houses. They look nice and colourful, and are very young (I’ve tasted all there,and believe me they are young.) but that does not stop them being priced higher than the staple 12 and 17 year old…
3.Using NAS to push young whiskies, and not using it as to give the whisky maker more freedom in creating the desired profile : A lot of companies are selling us the idea that NAS gives them the freedom to create what they want, without taking Age into the consideration. If that was true, I’d be content. I liked the NAS Ardbegs which are good, but did not like other NAS that just scream : “We didn’t have older stock so we just bottled this”.
Just as Lukasz has indicated, when you’re selling BAD NAS whiskies, you are damaging your brand in the long run. So yes, you’re making more money now, but people who first encounter your NAS as their entry level whisky, and taste below average malts will tend to remember their experience, and might not try your older and better expressions, since they do not value the brand. Highland Park has some stunning whiskies, but If my first HP was one of their younger warriors, I am not sure i would have been a fan, or tried the more expensive core line whiskies they carry, this is true also for other brands…
So, NAS is surely here to stay, just hope it’s going to be used wisely when needed and when it makes whisky better, and not just as a means of making more money, and selling younger stock at a premium.
My main concern is that within a few years most whisky we can afford (under 100 quid) will be NAS, while the age statement 10 year old and older will get much more expensive. But, again only time will tell, and the bubble will explode some day. When it does, maybe saner prices and less NAS will be the outcome.