This week I review a whisky which lacks the addition of an age statement on the label. This is an increasing trend today… One that for many, is not altogether welcome.
The age statement you see on a bottle of whisky is the age of the youngest cask used in the blend. So for example if a bottle says 10 years old it means that every cask of whisky used to make that particular expression has been matured for a minimum of 10 years. This was standard practice for many years but it has now become commonplace not to mention age at all. Now, it seems obvious to assume, though perhaps a little cynical, that the disappearance of age statements on the label translates to younger whisky in the bottle. Sure, there could still be 10 or 12 year old whisky in there but now padded out with younger spirit. The official line from distillers is that this allows greater flexibility in how they achieve their required flavour profile, which makes sense of course – young whisky can be great so why should producers restrict themselves to only releasing at say, ten years old? One can’t help but feel though that bottling young whisky is fine, so long as you acknowledge it as such, removing the age statement feels like something is being hidden from the consumer.
The whisky industry has no-one to blame but itself for much of this cynicism. For years they have fostered the impression that older whisky is better whisky and therefore more expensive but now, due to the growth of the single malt market and the lack of aged stocks, they want to bottle younger whisky without reducing prices. Even the most casual whisky shopper would question why they were paying the same price for a 5 year old as they used to pay for a 10. The answer? Give it a fancy, preferably Gaelic name and people won’t really know what they’re buying. You can see why some consumers have a problem with this.
For the record, there are some outstanding whiskies out there that don’t carry an age statement. Excellent releases from the likes of Ardbeg and Aberlour set the trend, and if they can release no age statement whisky and be successful then why cant their competitors? In any case, no age statement whiskies are now an established part of the scene – at least for the time being.
Personally, I’m open-minded about it. After all, age alone is no guarantee of quality. Bottling strength, cask type and use of chill filtration are all just as important in establishing what to expect from a whisky. For example, I may well prefer a no age statement whisky that’s been bottled without chill filtering at 46% ABV over a 10 year old that’s been watered down to 40% and had it’s heart stripped out by excessive filtration. At the end of the day, we must each judge for ourselves whether any bottle of whisky, age stated or not, is worth the money being asked for it. The best way to do that is to taste it.
Which brings me onto this bottle of Ardmore. The Ardmore distillery was built in 1798 by Andrew Teacher, in order to provide malt for his Teachers Blend. Most of the distilleries life has been spent as a blend provider but in 2007 a single malt appeared called ‘Ardmore Traditional Cask’. Bottled at 46% and non-chill filtered this expression unfortunately disappeared and was later replaced by the Ardmore Legacy – bottled at 40% and likely with the use of chill filtration. It has since become a regular fixture on UK supermarket shelves and can go for anywhere between £20 & £30.
On the nose there’s Toffee and Butterscotch with Vanilla, Cinammon and Peat Smoke. On the palate there is Vanilla, Orange and Barbecued Meat with Pepper and Smoke.
The Scores: About the scoring system…
Smell: 16 / 20. Not the boldest, or the most complex but an enjoyable nose, all the same.
Taste: 15 / 20. A little light bodied for my tastes, but there’s enough flavour there.
Value: 7 / 10. I picked this up for around £20 and I have to say I have no complaints and more importatly, at that price I’d probably buy it again. Of course, that was in a supermarket sale and had it been priced at it’s RRP of around £30 I may say otherwise. At full price it would not suddenly become a bad whisky, but there would perhaps be strong competition from other similarly priced smokey drams.
Total: 38 / 50