There has been a lot of debate in social media (blogs, twitter, FB etc) lately about the growing number of NAS whiskies releases and the trend which some whisky fans do not care for. As you know a lot of those NAS bottling are the result of depleted whisky stock and the surging demand for whisky worldwide and especially in the far east.
The SWA is not ignorant to that, and has been observing the situation closely, while getting requests from a few whisky distilleries and spirits companies (mostly the big giants) for help. I’ve come to learn from a source (who wishes to remain anonymous) within the SWA, that the SWA is indeed in the process of drafting some new clauses in its whisky regulations regarding NAS and age statement, that will render this NAS debate quite irrelevant: In other words: there is a good chance that from the beginning of 2015, new whisky labels will not be able to display age at all. Again, this is still in the draft stage but I’ve come to learn the major points in the draft are as follows (they might be prone to minor changes, mind you).
SWA draft also explains that not having an age statement in years is an old whisky tradition, which was used 100’s of years ago, when you just did not go and ask for a 18 year old whisky, but just filled your flask or glass vessel with liquid straight from the cask. According to the SWA : “Age statement is really a new phenomenon, which started mainly in the 20th century” and by going back to non age statement, we do preserve whisky tradition. However, my source admits the SWA are not really naive, and have taken this idea to quite a few whisky makers and distillers, and it’s clear that there has to be some distinction between whiskies even if their Exact age is not disclosed, for that they have devised the following “rules”:
- Whisky Labels will not display the age of the spirit in years.
- A label can contain only the following information regarding “age”
- NAS (meaning: we do not disclose any information about the whisky inside, save that it’s 3 years and older)
- Young (3-8 years)
- Mature – (8-18 years)
- Old (18-30 years)
- Very Old (30 years +)
According to the SWA not displaying the exact age of whisky will be helpful in giving the whisky makers more freedom to bottle whisky without having to take the fire from whisky nerds and geeks while still giving the whisky drinkers an idea what to expect from the whisky. SWA state that this will also allow whisky companies to sell premium whiskies at a premium price, which is not easily done when the whisky does not have an age statement at all.
So i guess we can forget about asking for a Macallan 18 or Highland park 25, we should get used to asking for a Mature Macallan and an old Highland park instead.
I am sure this will cause quite a stir in the whisky community, and I would love to hear what you think, so comments are very welcome.