No Age No Good? Whisky Waffle launch NAS Week

Posted by: Nick

Wafflers in smoking jackets

Some may argue that our attire is the greater controversy here…

A controversial topic? Surely we don’t do that here at Whisky Waffle! Well, just this once, we thought we’d take things seriously and leave our flippancy behind.

Sort of…

Today’s discussion is about non-age statement, or NAS, whisky. For non-whisky geeks, NAS whisky is a bottling that cannot be described as a 12 Year Old, or a 10 Year Old, or an anything-year old, because there is younger spirit mixed through like a very whisky-flavoured cocktail.

These NASes are borne out of necessity: since us Wafflers discovered the stuff, there just hasn’t been enough of it around! So rather than waiting the usual 12 years, distillers have been getting impatient and slapping 9 year old, 8 year old (3 year old?) spirit into the mix and coming up with impressive sounding Gaelic names to go on the label.

So how do we feel about this situation? Is the stuff as NASty as it sounds? Well, to be honest, I have no problem with the concept of NAS whisky. I mean, you just can’t deride the Talisker Storm as liquid Nickleback while simultaneously proclaiming the Ardbeg Uigeadail as the solution for world peace. So just like any supposedly ‘superior’ whisky with a number on the bottle, there are good ones and there are bad.

Founders Reserve n waffle

But seriously, the box IS rather pretty…

Which brings me neatly to Glenlivet – a prominent convert to the NAS fad. I wrote a glowing review about their ever-dependable 12 Year Old and described how its accessibility was its strength. That was, until it was no longer accessible. In its place, in a blue box (which is sadly not bigger on the inside) came the sophisticated-sounding ‘Founders Reserve’. I was slightly concerned – though this disquiet came from my affection towards the 12 rather than my automatic dismissal of anything ageless. I was perfectly fine so long as it tasted good. Which, I’ve recently discovered, it doesn’t.

It’s not that the dram is comparable to the toxic output of a nuclear reactor. It’s quite drinkable in a ‘at-least-it’s-not-red-label’ sorta way. But it doesn’t stand up to the depth and character of the previous entry-level incumbent. And this made me both sad and rush out to get a bottle of the 12 while I still could.

Non age statement whisky is not the scourge of the earth that many flat cap-wearing whisky reviewers may have you believe. There are some tasty drops out there that would please the most snobbiest of whisky snobs (if you told them it was an old bottle of Macallan). However, in the case of Glenlivet, where you can directly compare the old and the NASish new – it’s one nil to the age statements.

Of course, another way of looking at it is that after eight drams, it doesn’t really matter how long it’s been in a wooden barrel for…

The writing of this article prompted a lively debate among the Whisky Waffle boys – so much so, that they decided to spend a week looking at some prominent NAS releases to see if they are as derisory as their reputation suggests. So with great excitement – we present to you NAS-Week! Make sure you pay a few visits throughout the week and find out our thoughts – or post some juicy trolling comments! Tomorrow will kick off proceedings with a detailed review of this article’s nemesis: the Founders Reserve! But why start there? Leave us a comment telling us EXACTLY how you feel about non age statement whisky in the replies!

#NASweek

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13 comments

      1. In the NAS categories… have oodles of opinions!

        Favourites? Been quite enjoying Kilchoman’s Coull Point and Sanaig.

        Anti-favourites? Hudson’s single malt – furniture polish!

        Specifically in terms of distilleries who have made the age to NAS shift… will give it some thought.

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  1. The issue I have with NAS whisky is the price is often a poor reflection of the liquid inside. Glenlivet’s travel retail selection used to be top draw… First fill 12, 15 & 18 batch reserve….now replaced by various no age Nadurras at much higher cost with the liquid being a poor substitute for what was previously produced.

    I’m finding more & more the value is in IB bottlings… I recently picked up a G&M 1991 mannochmore for £42…lovely drop.

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    1. This is a good point – in most cases the NAS equivalents are no less expensive then their 12 year old cousins. Sometimes they’re even more. The cynic inside me says we’re paying for marketing.
      I’d say there is plenty of value to be found in IBs – perhaps for the very opposite reason – they are very transparent and make no secret of age, cask type etc. No poetic Gaelic words to suck you in – just decent whisky. Sadly we don’t get a huge range of them here in Tassie.
      Keep on waffling,
      Nick

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      1. I didn’t expect Talisker to continue making 3 whiskies within £5-7 of each other in storm, skye & the 10 for so long..& having tasted them all the 10 is for me the nicest.

        Highland park 12 is often much cheaper than the travel retail Svein which is more expensive & yes that’s a NAS too!

        I’m beginning to think Aberlour are at with the Abundah…first few drams of these I had were nice but then later batches tend to taste rather spirity, with a good dose of sulphur..suggests to me later batches have younger whisky in…oh & 110% agree on founders reserve…anyone considering buying that would be better off going for Naked Grouse…at least that has flavour.

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  2. Late to the game here, as I spent the Spring catching up on some IRL reading but – NAS is a hot button for me. ” in most cases the NAS equivalents are no less expensive then their 12 year old cousins. Sometimes they’re even more. The cynic inside me says we’re paying for marketing.” Indeed. That’s annoying. There is hope that the whisky trend is abating and that in a few years we’ll have more aged whiskies, so IMO we can’t let the distillers get complacent about NAS – they have to be worth the $ they ask. So, onward to the reviews…BTW I do like some NAS (Ardbeg’s Corryveckan was good) others, well, I’ll get to them!

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    1. An H.W. MacNaughton is never late – he arrives precisely when he means to!
      And you’re right – I/we am/are still hypocritical – the Uigie/Corry is a great drop! In the end it still comes down to the dollars. I’ll probably continue to spend the asking price of certain Ardbegs or Bruichladdichs as they’ve earned it with decent releases. We shall see what other distilleries can earn my loyalty. Glenlivet, sadly, have a way to go yet…
      Keep on waffling,
      Nick

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  3. Thanks to a local supermarket price mis-print.., I picked up 3 bottles of Talisker Storm for £36.21…. its finally nice to see NAS whisky at a price worth paying…:-) In fairness Storm is usually on offer for £25, but I dont think its worth even that…!

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