NAS Scotch predicted to ‘dominate’ whisky industry8th July, 2014 by Becky Paskin
The Scotch whisky industry will eventually carry more no-age-statement (NAS) products than those carrying an age statement, a leading distiller has predicted.
With more distilleries releasing expressions without an age statement to preserve stocks of older whisky, Dr Bill Lumsden, head of whisky creation at The Glenmorangie Company, has forecasted the future dominance of “ageless” Scotch.
Speaking to The Spirits Business, he said: “No-age-statements will become more commonplace than age statements. It’s partly driven by the massive surge in demand and the fact there are very finite stocks out there, so by their very nature a lot of distillers are having to look to younger whiskies.”
According to a recent report by Rabobank, inventories of malt whisky aged over nine years fell more than 25% between 2007-12. While producers are investing heavily in rebuilding stock of older whisky, the analyst advised the industry to control supply more tightly to avoid future peaks and troughs in demand.
The preservation of aged stock to satisfy future demand has now resulted in a surge of NAS releases in the past 18 months.
However, Lumsden claimed age statements will “always have a place” in Scotch whisky, as “some people are always going to like seeing ages on bottles”, although he said the widespread use and promotion of age statements in the past have now caused a major issue for the industry.
“We’ve kind of made a bit of a noose for our own necks as now people associate age as the most important thing in terms of quality,” he said. “In some respects if you don’t have an age statement on the bottle, you have to try even harder to have a knockout liquid or something that’s different from the rest of your core range.
“It will take many years for the barriers to be broken down and in some of the less developed markets where consumers have been taught age equals quality, we’ve got a lot of work to do to convince people otherwise.”
While distillers have been using NAS whiskies as limited editions for some time, some have begun introducing them into their core ranges as standard. Some, like Ardbeg and Highland Park, have introduced them within the higher end of their core range, while others, like Talisker and The Macallan, have replaced their younger whiskies with expressions such as Talisker Storm and The Macallan Gold.
“There’s no question that if you’ve got an on-going product then having an NAS gives you more flexibility and freedom in the recipe,” said Lumsden. “There’s a big range of ages in Glenmorangie Signet, but if we were hamstrung by having a particular age on it we would be tied.”
Earlier this year we picked out 10 of the best no-age-statement Scotch whiskies to be released in the last 12 months.