Of course this all flys out the window if the different ages have differnt types of Casks, the only real distillery with this issue jumping out at me right now are Glenmorangie, and Macallan. Where they can have whiskies the same age, or very close in age, but aged/ finished in very different casks, which then gives a completely different character on the whisky.
One thing I will say is that there is invariably the law of diminishing returns.
Say you buy a bottle of good quality 12 year old single malt for 40 bucks from a particular distillery. Will the difference be twice as noticeable if you buy a bottle from the same distillery of the same cask type that's twice the age and twice the price or more. No. You may never notice more than a 10-20% upscale in complexity, flavor and balance, sometimes not that much and maybe not at all. Does this make them not worth the extra coin? Again not necessarily. That's a matter of personal perspective. What it does mean though is you don't have to have a cabinet full of 20-40 year old whisky to find enjoyment/quality in whisky.
There is often a tipping over point with whisky as well. That is to say, your 35 year old whisky sometimes diminishes in quality/complexity compared to the younger versions from the same distillery and cask type due to the over influence of the wood from that cask. So your oh so expensive 35 year may not taste as complex and balanced as the 12 year old.
Point in case. I have some No Age Statement Yamazaki(Japanese whisky) fully matured in Sherry casks that cost me about 120 bucks. My understanding is the youngest whisky in this is 10 years old. I scored the 2012 version 91/100 the 2011 version 90/100. I also recently tried The Yamazaki 25 year old also fully matured in sherry casks. Now the youngest whisky in this is obviously 25 years old but there is some much older stuff in this as well. Cost per bottle, about $1000. The influence of the oak on the whisky has totally overwhelmed this one. A total wood bomb that's just way to dry. Score about 79/100.
Andyman3 wrote:Will a relatively new member of the whisky community notice a difference between something like a Glenlivet 12 vs. Glenlivet 18... ?
The key factors to look out for when it comes to cross-comparing differently aged expressions of a particular distillery's output are:
1. Does the distillery's product reach its optimum degree of maturity relatively early on or later? Let's face it: Some whiskies really shine at an earlier stage, while others may take some time in cask to show at their best.
2. How does a distillery manage its various expressions in terms of cask management? To take Glenlivet as an example, the 12-year old showcases a more delicate flavour spectrum born of the significant utilization of refill casks, while the feistier 16-year old Nàdurra cask-strength is all first-fill ex-Bourbon cask matured and the 18-year old draws on a higher proportion of spirits aged in ex-Sherry oak. Each one is quite different from the others.
3. The 'law' of diminishing returns. Beyond a certain price point, a distillery's older products will offer 'less bang for the buck' relative to younger versions. Rarity, increased production/storage costs and, yes, marketing are key factors here.
The greater the age difference, and the younger they are, the more noticeably different they are. Different ages sometimes have different wood treatments, so that makes a bigger difference. Some ages have sherry-matured whisky mixed in, for example.
Sometimes they're very different. A newbie probably wouldn't recognize Talisker 25 as being a Talisker, if he was familiar with the regular 10-year.
The older it is, the higher is the proportion of sherry casks for the Glenlivet.
It does not mean better, but different.
FYI, You can read the tasting notes of these bottles on my website.
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