I think there's no real reason why a six or even younger couldn't be perfectly good. I believe the Ten Barrier is a psychological/marketing phenomenon
I'm sure 10 years is a psychological barrier for us as consumers, but there must be something in it, surely, in terms of quality. I can think of only one distillery that markets its standard OB at less than 10 years - the Littlemill 8yo. Oh, hang on....there's also an Old Rosdhu at 8 years. And, come to think of it, there's a few that have a no-age-statement, i.e. Loch Lomond. But these are all run-of-the-mill malts that chiefly produce blending stocks.
Think of any decent player in the single-malt stakes, and their standard OB seems to start at 10 years or 12 years.
Put it this way.....if their malt peaked at, say, 9 years, then surely they would market it at the age it best presented itself. Why wait another one or three years (i.e. 10 or 12 year old) to put the malt in a bottle, if it was inferior to how it tasted at 9 years?
Not to say that you are incorrect--there most definitely is something to it, and what I said should not be construed as a denial that a malt is more likely to be ready for prime time at ten than at six or eight; what's more, the above named malts are the exceptions that prove the rule--that is to say, they show that you can market a sub-ten, as long as you put a name on it and not a number (cue Johnny Rivers). Therefore the tens are for the most part tens because that's a very good age at which to bottle them. But it's worth noting that I cannot recall ever seeing a nine (or a thirteen, either, but that's another story)--if there were no "Ten Barrier", you'd no doubt see a smattering of nines around. Undoubtedly casks intended for single malt bottling are intentionally held until their tenth birthdays for the sake of the number on the label. (And to be fair, that's no doubt true of twelves, fifteens, and eighteens, as well.)
Consider the following distilleries; their range of expressions; and the standard flagship (SF) expression:
Glenfiddich: 12, 15, 18, 21, 30 SF = 12
Balvenie: 10, 12 SF = 10
Glenfarclas: 105,10,12,15,17,21,25,30 SF = 10
Macallan: 10,12,18,25,30 SF = 12 (Outside UK)
Lagavulin: 12,16,25 SF = 16
Bowmore: Legend, 12, 17 SF = 12
Ardbeg: 10,17 SF = 10
Talisker: 10,18 SF = 10
Laphroaig: 10,15,30 SF = 10
Glengoyne: 10,17,21 SF = 10
Highland Park: 12,18,25 SF = 12
Caol Ila: 12,18 SF = 12
Glenmorangie: 10,18 SF = 10
Glenlivet: 12,18,21 SF = 12
I could go on, naturally, but it illustrates that when a distillery offers a range of aged expressions (as opposed to, say, Oban, which only offers a 14yo), the flagship expression seems to be 10 years old in, say, 80% of cases.
Is this considered the average age at which scottish single malts tend to peak? Or is it purely marketing appeal?
I suspect the answer is both.
wouldn´t want to interfere in such an interesing discussion among Gold Members but... just a few remarks, if you would be so indulgend. The "standard" Ledaig is said to be 7 years old whereas its brother Tobermory is 10 y and only ten. The standard of Lagavulin used to be 16 y because Lagavulin claims it is the best age, the new Clynelish is 14 y was 14 y in the Flora&Fauna series and from independent bottlers it is often 14 y, too (Cadenhead for example). Glen Rothes and Glendeveron claim to bottle per "season of destillation" if you look at the label of their bottles, the malts are 12 year old in most cases. Some lowland malts, still available but no longer with us distillerywise were said to be at their hight in very early years, before the age of 8 often. Littlemill, Sir, is not the best example for a standard below 10 years, because the Littlemill in these bottles can not be 8 years old. Counting back we would speak of 1997 or 1996 and Littlemill closed 1984. There you have marketing again, the malt in the 8 years labled bottles is much older and if you sample it you definitely taste that. The standard Benromach is called "Traditional", no age statement given, it could well be 9 years, or 9 and two thirds, couldn`t it? As to the psychological compound of the issue, it seems true that distilleries prefer to refrain from giving an age statement that lies under 10 years. And Littlemill uses a white lie in saying 8 years. The reason for this barrier is most probably the same as the extensive use of artificial colouring. Here in Germany the destilleries, bottlers and importers are obliaged to state the use of caramel colour on the bottles. You would be amazed!!! And SHOCKED by the names comming up. So with age statements, alternatively fancy names and with the use of artificial colouring the industry probably tries to fullfill an expectation - that is no longer there! I hasten to add with the malt lovers, connoisseurs and experts at least. That leaves the question if there is a "best age" for single malts. That should be quite easyly answered by the master blenders. And the answer is? No, not 42 rather along the lines of "It depends on the year of destillation, the conditions in the warehouse, the wheather over the years and of course on the barrels used". So there we go again, right back to were we started from, one more whisky mystery unsolved.
Yes, I know that was circuitous reasoning and led to nowhere, but that´s the way it often is with our favourite passtime. The mainthing is the taste of a malt, who cares for age? (Careful, provocation!)
I'll second the Rear-Admiral - good and interesting reading. And may I offer a late "welcome" to the forum!
As for the standard expressions I don't really care if they have a lot or a little amount of older whisky in the vatting. There are also signs in the market that the age expectance in the market is on the move. The article in Whiskymag a few issues ago and the market's reaction to young whiskies like the Quarter Cask and the Very Young underlines the point. The colouring is another matter and should be delt with as soon as possible. I suspect it will as the focus on this is strong in the general spirit market. Cognac is no exception.
I think the age statement is more crucial in the "high-end" market. To know an eighteen year old whisky does consist of that and not something from an eitght year old is reassuring. Noone here are bothered with a name instead of age on the cask strength bottles and I suspect the market in general will respond accordingly in a relatively short time.
By the way, I thought you were Swedish Kallaskander?
Swedish? I´m not Swedish Cristian. What made you believe that, did I use a nickname that has any meaning in Swedish? Should I better chose another one? I would not want to offend, you know... No I´m German but my heart beats on the left side, my friends think me to be rather British. And why not? I love the country and her people and spend a lot of time there considering the German average. After all I just love single malts. There, that is a good reason for visiting the North. I only regret that there is no Cornish single malt, because that would give me reason to be there even more often. But they are working on it, I read somewhere that a cider farm in Devon is distilling malt! Three cheers to that news.
Thank you for your kind words.
Admiral wrote:Spoken like a true Ozzie!
Alas, typed like a true yank!
The correct spelling, friends, is "Aussie".
(Although I hasten to add, it is pronounced as though it were spelt ozzie).
Mr Picky has filed your correction in his vast data banks. Anyway, as Nick noted, Aussies are reputedly from Oz; I only spelled it that way because I knew that most readers, in their minds' ears, would mispronounce "Aussie".
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