Caol Ila 12 beat 18
Highland Park 12 beats 15
Glenfiddich 15 beats 18
Glenmorangie 12yo Sherry or Port beat 18 (perhaps not a fair comparision)
There are others...This often rings even more true with the comparisions between middle age malts (15-21) and much older malts, which depending on the heartiness of the whisky, can lose balance at older ages.
I am constantly being informed by the experts who actually make whisky that 80% to 90% of the end flavour of any whisky comes from the cask.
But, with some whiskies, prolonged maturation in oak can be just too much, creating an end flavour which can be perceived to be not as "good" as younger expressions.
I was in a presentation with someone from Laphroaig who explained the effect of longer maturation very well with respect to Laphroaig whisky.
Laphroaig is renowned most of all for the 10y/o expression. This is a unique taste, very medicinal with a mixture of peat, iodine, seaweed ..etc. A flavour we all know.
If you look at the older 15y/o expression, it is much more rounded with less "in yer face" character and flavours. All in all, a much smoother dram.
Take this concept further and look at the 30y/o:
A very rounded dram which is very different to the younger expressions.
This is illustrated by what some forum members say of Laphroaig 30:
"Extreme good balance between sherry, oak and peat" (from Tom).
"It has a good deal of fruit and sherry in it, a nice dose of oak, and just a small note of traditional Laphroaig character in the background. It has a very rounded flavor & is quite richly flavored as well." (Choochoo).
The longer the maturation period, the more interaction with the oak, therefore the oak characteristics tend to prevail much more.
With some whiskies, this will create a different and probably lesser liked flavour than a younger expression, but once again, this can also be a matter of personal taste and what 'you' expect from a certain dram.
(Conversely, some whiskies require longer in a cask and can be bottled at too young an age!)
Finally, to stay on the topic of Laphroaig, I will look at the very well-liked QC.
This is a younger Laphroaig, aged for around 7-8 years in normal (500 litre) casks and then switched in quarter casks (of 125 litres) for less than a year - around 8 months.
The use of a QC means that a larger percentage of the content is in contact with the wood which in turn, means that the effect is to produce a whisky older in character than its years.
Most people, upon drinking QC for the first time, place this as being a more mature or older dram than it really is.
This shows the effect of the wood on the whisky's maturation and ageing process.
(Sorry for the long post)
It is a common point of ignorance that older = better. The older Scotches have cost the manufacturer a lot more in time and space, and therefore cost more. Another common misconception is that more expensive means better tasting. Don't judge a Scotch by its age or price. A good piece of advice is to ask here before you buy. These folks won't steer you wrong, and I have found their tasting notes to be more accurate than any of the critics!
There is an inherent advantage that older whiskies have though. Since it is rare for a cask to have the potential to age for 30+ years, the batches for the very old whiskies will be smaller (sometimes single casks) and small batches almost always have more character than the large batches. This combined with the cost of storing and caring for the casks for 30+ years makes them quite expensive.
Often the vatting are different in the aim to produce a different expression, not just an older one.
Balvenie is the obvious example of this, counting it as a virtue to have different cask/maturation schemes for each expression.
But also the expressions of Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas and others varies a lot from expression to expression.
Take Highland Park. I do not believe that the only difference between the 15yo and the 18yo is 3 years. The profile (and quality) leap is simply to great....
On the other hand, many praise the extra years of the Talisker 18 over the ten. A turkish friend and I agree that, tho' the 18 YO is undoubtedly a smoother and more rounded whisky than the 10, the 10 is wilder,and therefore more... enjoyable! (and perhaps more characterful.)
Congrats--you've fostered a 28-0 vote, at last count. Not even a smart-*ss dissenter! Never seen that before.
Now to be a serious poster, IMHO the Balvenie 12 is superior to the 15 and as has been stated in other forums some of the very old whiskies (30+yrs) are sadly lacking in comparison to their younger siblings. Personally, I've enjoyed those whiskies that I've collected and appreciate something I find in all of them, which includes some 20+ yo's and a 30 yo.
I don't feel you can dismiss any whisky out of hand simply due to age. You can, with experience, decide which you prefer, which you don't and build from that point.
And until you get to that stage, send us anything over the 5 bottle limit, young-uns!
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