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Stock shortage ‘best thing’ to happen to Scotch

Scotch whisky stock shortages and the subsequent widespread removal of age statements from labels has been described as “one of the best things” to happen to the industry.

Scotch-whisky
The rise of NAS whisky has enabled the Scotch industry to be more creative, according to one producer Photo: The Scotch Whisky Experience

As global demand for Scotch whisky increased over the past few years, more producers have opted to remove age statements from existing and new expressions to preserve stocks of older whisky.

The most famous example of which was The Macallan, which removed age statements from its entire core range under 18-years-old with the 1824 Series, which uses colour as a signpost for flavour, rather than age.

While some have shunned the widespread rise of no-age-statement expressions, Chris Morris, master distiller for Brown-Forman which produces Woodford Reserve and Old Forester Bourbon, as well as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, claims the situation has enabled Scotch distillers to be more creative.

“It’s one of the best things that ever happened to Scotch whisky,” he told The Spirits Business. “They have to be more innovative and imaginative.

“We do not believe in age statements in any of our whiskeys at Brown-Forman, because while there’s nothing wrong with a whiskey declaring its age, an age statement as we know specifically from the great Scotch whisky industry can be used against you. And an age is just a number; it doesn’t say the whisky’s any good.

“The consumer thinks the higher the number, the better the whisky. So by not having an age claim we are asking the consumer to try the whiskey and judge it on its flavour and not on an arbitrary note.”

Asked if consumers’ perception of age being an indicator for quality is a problem created by the Scotch industry, Morris added: “That could be the case, especially when you see these Scotch whisky brands now removing their age claim. How important was that in the first place?”

Inventories of Scotch malt whisky aged over nine years fell over 25% between 2007-12, according to a recent report by Robobank.

Earlier this year, Dr Bill Lumsden, head of whisky creation at The Glenmorangie Company, predicted no-age-statement Scotch whiskies will eventually outnumber the amount carrying an age indicator.

“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,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bacardi has bucked the trend by releasing a series of single malt Scotch whiskies with age statements in its Last Great Malts collection.

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