Age matters

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Age matters

Postby kallaskander » 05 Sep 2011, 14:54

Hi there,

this

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2011/0 ... e-removal/

made me smile.

Greetings
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Re: Age matters

Postby The Third Dram » 05 Sep 2011, 15:07

“Whiskies such as The Glenrothes choose to release specific vintages, but we find that consumers will always go for a specific age first rather than look for a specific year.”

Well, as far as I'm concerned, Macallan started down this particular 'slippery slope' when it removed the single year designations (in favour of the rather nebulous "distilled in ____ and earlier years") from its flagship 18-year old releases.

I'm of two minds when it comes to no-age-statement whiskies. On the one hand, this approach does permit a tremendous degree of flexibility, and can lead to some superb whiskies. On the other hand, there's no denying the marketing impact such an approach can have on the general whisky-buying populace. And there's no guarantee that such an approach might not lead to a denigration in overall quality. But that element is entirely up to the conscientiousness of the distiller/company, isn't it?

And in the case of Macallan... ;)
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 05 Sep 2011, 15:21

The Third Dram wrote:Well, as far as I'm concerned, Macallan started down this particular 'slippery slope' when it removed the single year designations (in favour of the rather nebulous "distilled in ____ and earlier years") from its flagship 18-year old releases.

I don't think I understand your point here.

As far as age statements are concerned, it's the whisky industry who sold us on the idea in the first place. Macallan (who also sold their customers on the absolute importance of all-sherry maturation) seem to be particularly good at hoisting themselves on their own petard.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 05 Sep 2011, 17:01

As for vintage statements, they don't really mean anything in the whisky world. Seems to me they were okay for Glenrothes when they only released a bottling every couple of years, but they've increased the frequency lately, and they're only confusing now. There have been multiple releases from some "vintages", a '94 might be older than a '92, and the consumer, fixed on the idea that older is "better' (or at least justifies a higher price), doesn't feel he has any idea what's in the bottle, unless he squints at the fine print.

Again, Macallan shot themselves in the foot here, convincing their cult that the vintage statement on the 18yo was significant, and then having to backtrack. Faced with a shortage in stocks, they had the choice of a) raising prices to balance the supply/demand equation, b) allocating, or c) compromising on quality. Prices did indeed rise, allocation occurred as the sherry-matured product disappeared altogether from some markets, and the consensus seems to be that quality has indeed dipped. To the extent that backing away from a true vintage policy mitigated any of these things, it can only be seen as a sensible thing to do. But it was just another way in which the brainwashed minions were left feeling betrayed, either by the company's subversion of its "Six Pillars", or by the realization that it was all just marketing in the first place.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Lawrence » 05 Sep 2011, 17:52

Oh Mr. T! Please don't say it was all just marketing! :cry:

Whether it's Ardbeg, Macallan or even Laphroaig, when confronted with a dramatic increase in demand they looked at what they had on hand, what they could produce in the short term and they made their decisions.

Laphroaig withdrew the 10yo from certain markets and replaced it with the Quarter Cask; only now is the 10yo returning to various markets to stand along side the Quarter Cask and they seemed to have weather the storm of low stocks.

Ardbeg and Macallan are doing the same and there will be grumbling (remember Oliver from the WM forum?? :lol: ) but age statement whiskies will be back simply because consumers want it. Chivas recognized this (rightly or wrongly) and launched the 'age matters' campaign. For me age does matter, rather the lack of it, I'm getting a little sick and tired on 3yo whiskies and am searching for some really old stuff like 10 & 12yo. :P

But seriously if we can't by an age statement Macallan in duty fee (or travel retail as it's now called) for a few years it's hardly something to get all worked up about (so says me who got all worked up when he couldn't buy Laphroaig 10yo for 5 years :roll: ).
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Re: Age matters

Postby olikli » 05 Sep 2011, 18:54

Marketing certainly plays its part, but more as a necessary consequence to sell us the rejuvenated NAS whisky born from supply/demand problems as the best thing since the invention of the pot still.
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Re: Age matters

Postby mongo » 05 Sep 2011, 19:00

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:As for vintage statements, they don't really mean anything in the whisky world. Seems to me they were okay for Glenrothes when they only released a bottling every couple of years, but they've increased the frequency lately, and they're only confusing now. There have been multiple releases from some "vintages", a '94 might be older than a '92, and the consumer, fixed on the idea that older is "better' (or at least justifies a higher price), doesn't feel he has any idea what's in the bottle, unless he squints at the fine print.


and not even necessarily then. the glenrothes confusion could be fixed simply with a better label. but we've talked about that before, i think.
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Re: Age matters

Postby DavidUK » 05 Sep 2011, 19:22

There's also a tremendous amount of nonsense spouted about whisky vintages from certain distilleries. For example, such and such distillery's best whisky was distilled in 1972 or whatever year is being bandied about.
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Re: Age matters

Postby orange_barnet » 05 Sep 2011, 21:57

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:As for vintage statements, they don't really mean anything in the whisky world. Seems to me they were okay for Glenrothes when they only released a bottling every couple of years, but they've increased the frequency lately, and they're only confusing now. There have been multiple releases from some "vintages", a '94 might be older than a '92, and the consumer, fixed on the idea that older is "better' (or at least justifies a higher price), doesn't feel he has any idea what's in the bottle, unless he squints at the fine print.




But whose world do you mean? If you consider the market place at large, then probably not.

I agree that the ‘average’ consumer is probably “fixed on the idea” that older = better and therefore = more expensive and thus vintage statements are bypassed for age labelling that the individual can understand. The majority of consumers will mostly focus on maturation as opposed to the specific point in time of distillation. And why shouldn’t they? The price of whisky (not unlike many other commodities) tends to be driven by several factors – availability (directly correlated with age) and quality (arguably driven by a collective consumer judgement) are certainly two of them, but marketing, and thus competition, can turn these notions upside down. So yes, the marketing strategies of distilleries is key, and Macallan seem to have lost the plot. But Macallan had a rationale – dwindling stocks unable to meet demand. Perhaps they should have simply taken the ‘rarity route’ and kept their age statements but hiked up their prices over time?!

The rarity argument though has its pitfalls – rarity in itself doesn’t always guarantee a higher value, and there will be other factors at play here, for example the fickle nature of ‘fashion’ and what else is available to choose from i.e. competition. So marketing comes into play again.

On the other hand, no matter how well a poor-quality product is marketed the consumer finally gets wise to the fact they’re being ‘cheated’ and will seek out alternative goods. But if a good-quality product isn’t propped up by good marketing, then it’s at a disadvantage.

For me, vintage statements add another dimension to my world of whisky. I pay attention to maturation (I think most of us on the forum will do so, if only as a bench-marking exercise), but I enjoy the concept of vintage as it allows exploration of why a particular year of distillation offers a whisky of greater personal enjoyment than another year of distillation might, especially of course if the two whiskies in question are of the same age! Therefore if someone is ‘interested’ in whisky to a certain degree of enjoyment and exploration (and has perhaps an established history of their own whisky drinking experiences), they may well wish to consider vintages and not just ages, and so to further compare the myriad of different characteristics of the whiskies they drink embracing aspects of production (with all of its nuances and complexities), geographical, social and economic influences… and of course tasting notes!!

Anyway, I think Macallan got it wrong. :)
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Re: Age matters

Postby ca_aok » 05 Sep 2011, 23:25

I think "Age matters" is a statement everyone can get behind. Of course age matters. It's whether or not the age statement matters. All that number on the bottle really means is that the distillers were forced to only use whisky past that age in the mix, and that doesn't immediately imply quality. Some great products can be made by mixing the young and old batches, and yet due to the uninformed consumers, no one will buy a product labelled "3 years old". So we've gone to the NAS whiskies where they're free to experiment with whatever they like.

I think, however, that the article has a pretty solid premise. For the average buyer, age and distillery are the only two factors that matter, and many people probably don't even care about the distillery, they'd just look for something with an "18" on it. Informed consumers aren't really the targets for marketing anyway... we'll make our own decisions on each product based on any number of factors too boring or eccentric to put into an advertisement.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 06 Sep 2011, 00:04

orange_barnet wrote:...I enjoy the concept of vintage as it allows exploration of why a particular year of distillation offers a whisky of greater personal enjoyment than another year of distillation might, especially of course if the two whiskies in question are of the same age!

There are many reasons why two expressions of equal age from the same distillery might differ from one another, barrel selection being first and foremost. Outside an actual change in distillery practice--steam-heated vs coal fired stills, a change in the variety of barley--it would be very difficult to argue that the year of distillation has a distinct influence. It's well understood that local seasonal weather has a profound effect on the quality of the grape harvest, but I've never seen it argued that there is a similar effect in barley that is observable in the finished product. Terroir, as understood in the world of wine, simply doesn't exist in whisky, at least not in any measurable way--whatever impact such factors might theoretically have on the product, it is buried under an avalanche of other influences.
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Re: Age matters

Postby The Third Dram » 06 Sep 2011, 00:15

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:
The Third Dram wrote:Well, as far as I'm concerned, Macallan started down this particular 'slippery slope' when it removed the single year designations (in favour of the rather nebulous "distilled in ____ and earlier years") from its flagship 18-year old releases.

I don't think I understand your point here.

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:Again, Macallan shot themselves in the foot here, convincing their cult that the vintage statement on the 18yo was significant, and then having to backtrack.

Exactly (well, almost exactly) the point I was making. :thumbsup:

And yes, you can count me as amongst the 'cult' who believe those vintage statements on the 18-year old releases were of significance. All I'm pointing out is that - in the case of Macallan - there has clearly been a drift away from specificity and toward flexibility, and that this trend has and continues to have consequences in the ultra-premium or luxury (or whatever else you may wish to title it) malt whisky segment of the marketplace.

When one adds the speculative market that Macallan has been so keen to encourage (with its endless stream of limited/exclusive releases) to the picture, one has to ask whether more recent examples of 'specialty' Macallan bottlings will be able to garner anywhere near the interest amongst collectors that some of those older vintage offerings from the 1960s through the 1970s did and continue to do.

And no, I'm not one of those 'collectors' either. All of my bottles of vintage-dated 18-year old Macallan from that bygone era are now the stuff of history.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 06 Sep 2011, 00:22

The Third Dram wrote:
Mr Tattie Heid wrote:Again, Macallan shot themselves in the foot here, convincing their cult that the vintage statement on the 18yo was significant, and then having to backtrack.

Exactly (well, almost exactly) the point I was making. :thumbsup:

And yes, you can count me as amongst the 'cult' who believe those vintage statements on the 18-year old releases were of significance.

Then that would be pretty much the opposite of the point I was making.
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Re: Age matters

Postby The Third Dram » 06 Sep 2011, 00:37

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:Macallan ... seem to be particularly good at hoisting themselves on their own petard.

Not entirely. 8-)
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Re: Age matters

Postby orange_barnet » 06 Sep 2011, 01:06

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:
orange_barnet wrote:...I enjoy the concept of vintage as it allows exploration of why a particular year of distillation offers a whisky of greater personal enjoyment than another year of distillation might, especially of course if the two whiskies in question are of the same age!


There are many reasons why two expressions of equal age from the same distillery might differ from one another, barrel selection being first and foremost. Outside an actual change in distillery practice--steam-heated vs coal fired stills, a change in the variety of barley--it would be very difficult to argue that the year of distillation has a distinct influence. It's well understood that local seasonal weather has a profound effect on the quality of the grape harvest, but I've never seen it argued that there is a similar effect in barley that is observable in the finished product. Terroir, as understood in the world of wine, simply doesn't exist in whisky, at least not in any measurable way--whatever impact such factors might theoretically have on the product, it is buried under an avalanche of other influences.


Exactly, Mr TH, exactly, you've echoed my sentiments:


orange_barnet wrote:... they may well wish to consider vintages and not just ages, and so to further compare the myriad of different characteristics of the whiskies they drink embracing aspects of production (with all of its nuances and complexities), geographical, social and economic influences…


And it is precisely such complexities and influences (and their variations) that have given us a seemingly endless array of whiskies for distillers, sellers, marketeers, promoters, buyers, drinkers, whisky readers and writers, and so on, to enjoy and debate in the vast 'world of whisky'. And so I would argue that amongst other 'foreground' whisky characteristics (for example region, distillery, cask etc. etc.) both age and vintage matter, but the degree to which they each matter will differ according to perspective. In the case of Macallan, the consumer perspective had been misjudged.
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Re: Age matters

Postby ColSanders » 06 Sep 2011, 01:24

Personally... I don't mind seeing years on the bottle... but I DO like an age statement... It is interesting to be able to see how a distillery has progressed measurably, rather by packaging.. However... I think moreso that's interesting in the case with IB for some reason... as in my short time it's them who really are the ones I've seen with it.

As for Glenrothes, Balbair and the like who have switched to vintages... I don't pay them much notice generally when I'm shopping as it seems deceiving... Sure it was an 82.. but bottled in 90 vs. something that says 10 years old... the 10 year wins for me...

As for Macallan... I like their CS... but the rest is just unreasonably priced for me at this stage in life...
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Re: Age matters

Postby mongo » 06 Sep 2011, 02:00

the balblair vintage bottles note the year of distillation and bottling quite clearly--it's not difficult to figure out the age: 11-12 years for the 1997, for example. glenrothes has the date checked and the date approved. what relationship these have to age or what they even mean is anyone's guess.
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Re: Age matters

Postby mongo » 06 Sep 2011, 03:18

pardon me if this has already been noted before but there is another big reason why some distilleries would prefer to switch to vintages from age statements. and that is that with vintages (or batch #s, as with the new laphroaig cs bottlings) you can get suckers, i mean whisky geeks, to purchase multiple 10yo or 12yo or whatever yo whiskies from your distillery simultaneously. a 1997 and a 1995 vintage might both be 12 years old and if sold as such very few people would buy both (or post h2h tastings of them on their blog). sell them as the 1995 vintage and the 1997 vintage and it's a different story.

to daviduk's point above: i generally agree, though i don't have the malt mileage to bear this feeling out. 1998 was a great year for distillery x, you say? did they have a new process that they didn't in 1997 and which they discarded before 1999? and did they have particularly excellent casks to fill that year? no? then why?

i suspect that the emphasis on particular years from particular distilleries is a carryover from the wine world. to the extent that serge and some of the malt maniacs have influenced this tendency in the last decade it might again be an instance of a wine "vocabulary" being brought over into whisky reviewing. this is something else that rigorous blind tastings can establish one way or the other.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Lawrence » 06 Sep 2011, 05:03

mongo wrote:pardon me if this has already been noted before but there is another big reason why some distilleries would prefer to switch to vintages from age statements. and that is that with vintages (or batch #s, as with the new laphroaig cs bottlings) you can get suckers, i mean whisky geeks, to purchase multiple 10yo or 12yo or whatever yo whiskies from your distillery simultaneously. a 1997 and a 1995 vintage might both be 12 years old and if sold as such very few people would buy both (or post h2h tastings of them on their blog). sell them as the 1995 vintage and the 1997 vintage and it's a different story.

to daviduk's point above: i generally agree, though i don't have the malt mileage to bear this feeling out. 1998 was a great year for distillery x, you say? did they have a new process that they didn't in 1997 and which they discarded before 1999? and did they have particularly excellent casks to fill that year? no? then why?

i suspect that the emphasis on particular years from particular distilleries is a carryover from the wine world. to the extent that serge and some of the malt maniacs have influenced this tendency in the last decade it might again be an instance of a wine "vocabulary" being brought over into whisky reviewing. this is something else that rigorous blind tastings can establish one way or the other.


Well, we're all going to be suckers because batch numbers are now law under the Scotch Whisky Regulations. As for Serge (and laterly some MM) I think it comes for the experience of tasting over 7000 whiskies and sometimes hundreds from a single distillery.

And Mr.T we've all discussed this before and some do think terroir in whisky does exist....
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Re: Age matters

Postby MacDeffe » 06 Sep 2011, 05:32

There's also a tremendous amount of nonsense spouted about whisky vintages from certain distilleries. For example, such and such distillery's best whisky was distilled in 1972 or whatever year is being bandied about


I have to disagree on this 100%

There are many examples of production periods handing out better whiskies

I am pretty sure you are talking about 1972 Caperdonichs. To me these stand out compared other neighbouring vintages. Don't ask me why. It could be that the amount of casks resting in the warehouse from this year is substantial larger compared to other years. Cask selection alone could make the difference. It's a fact that the 72's are better than the other. Also a lot more numerous. Go read the internet if you don't believe me

Some vintages are superior on production methods. LIke early seventies Brora's. Or early.mid 70's Ardbegs

This isn't really looked upon as vintages, but "bottle code" batches of Ardbeg's are also differentiated. This is batch variations as much as vintage differences

SO vintage can matter. Very often it doesn't. If you look at a regular vintage series like the AnCnoc's you don't see a quality difference like you can see from a similar range of wines. I think. I don't know shit about wines

When it comes to the original discussion about 12yo versus NAS, I think a consumer likes to know what she/he buys. Some label info's just helps sale. I am sure labeling whisky as "whisky" sells better than labeling it as "aged spi
rit". Anunder strength grain released recently went for around 40£ or so.
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Re: Age matters

Postby mongo » 06 Sep 2011, 06:00

well, the internet is an echo-chamber. the fact that you can find x number of people agreeing that some phenomenon exists is relatively meaningless; most are repeating what they've read elsewhere, and almost everyone's insecure to some extent because almost none knows very much about what distilleries actually do to mature their product--i'm referring to the exact nuts and bolts of how specific whiskies are matured, vatted and whatever else is or isn't done to them before they're bottled. i mean, no one seems to know anything about the history of cask selection with any degree of certainty, and with all the uproar about sulphur you'd think that at least would be something people would have found out about--when sherry casks stopped being used in bulk, when paxerette was introduced and phased out, the use of sulphur candles etc. etc.; yet the best we know is somewhat vague generalities.

as for the business about vintages (or most such things): blind tastings are a better guide than strong convictions, whether you've had 70 malts, 700 malts or 7000 malts. you don't have to correctly identify vintages; you just have to reliably pick the vintage you claim is superior over others (including some that you claim are decidedly inferior).
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 06 Sep 2011, 11:56

Lawrence wrote:And Mr.T we've all discussed this before and some do think terroir in whisky does exist....

Sorry, Lawrence, the way you mean it, we could argue about it all day; but the way I specifically phrased it...
Mr Tattie Heid wrote:Terroir, as understood in the world of wine, simply doesn't exist in whisky....

...it's just unarguable. You might as well say that Golden Promise is a variety of grape.
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 06 Sep 2011, 12:00

mongo wrote:...almost none knows very much about what distilleries actually do to mature their product--i'm referring to the exact nuts and bolts of how specific whiskies are matured, vatted and whatever else is or isn't done to them before they're bottled. i mean, no one seems to know anything about the history of cask selection with any degree of certainty, and with all the uproar about sulphur you'd think that at least would be something people would have found out about--when sherry casks stopped being used in bulk, when paxerette was introduced and phased out, the use of sulphur candles etc. etc.; yet the best we know is somewhat vague generalities.

Do you mean you don't know these things?
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Re: Age matters

Postby mongo » 06 Sep 2011, 13:55

Mr Tattie Heid wrote:
mongo wrote:...almost none knows very much about what distilleries actually do to mature their product--i'm referring to the exact nuts and bolts of how specific whiskies are matured, vatted and whatever else is or isn't done to them before they're bottled. i mean, no one seems to know anything about the history of cask selection with any degree of certainty, and with all the uproar about sulphur you'd think that at least would be something people would have found out about--when sherry casks stopped being used in bulk, when paxerette was introduced and phased out, the use of sulphur candles etc. etc.; yet the best we know is somewhat vague generalities.

Do you mean you don't know these things?


no, i mean that as far as i can tell from what's out there (including dave broom's stuff on sulphur malt maniacs, which is more detailed than most), no one does. no one's certain what's matured where; what kind of barley particular distilleries use (so much for terroir), where they get their peat from, and with very few exceptions, where distilleries source their casks from, what the proportions of ex-bourbon/sherry, first fill /refill casks in most vattings are etc.. all anyone knows is a general outline of what goes on, and what might be happening. this is not knowledge. (yes, people do know about double/triple distillation, taking the cuts, spirit safes etc. but that's not the level of specificity i'm talking about.)

but since you ask me, do you know these things? if so, why have you been so unwilling to share this information every time these topics come up?
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Re: Age matters

Postby Mr Tattie Heid » 06 Sep 2011, 14:48

Not me, I don't know nothin'! And I'll agree that you'll have a hard time getting certain specific information about particular bottles. But there is a lot of knowledge out there--I'm constantly amazed at what many of the members here do know. You can get a lot talking to people in the industry, and some of the folks here have done an awful lot of that. And I certainly think the points you mention above are answerable.
www.mrtattieheid.com ~ Travel Journals & Photographs
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Mr Tattie Heid
 
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