Most entry bottlings seem to be between 10 - 12 years old. However, with pressure on distillers to potentially produce greater amounts of SMW in the future, will we find development in maturing whisky quicker without losing any complexity or depth of flavour?
Laphroiag seem to have achieved significant success with their highly acclaimed Quarter Cask and Ardbeg seem to be trying to get people drinking younger whisky.
So my first question is, do forum members think that the general entry level age of whisky will soon drop in order to turn around production quicker?
The second question: Is this a good thing?
My thoughts are that whisky will be matured quicker in the future and there will be a marketing strategy to gently push younger SMW as the "norm".
Is it a bad thing? As long as the whisky doesn't suffer then no. However, in search of greater financial returns, there is a danger that the quality of SMW may falter. After all, the real money is still in blending.
There are around 20 million casks maturing in Scotland at the moment so in the short term I think we should be safe, the far eastern markets are slowing down a little just now but history says they are also very fickle and it doesn't tale much to change them.
The growth in the east is being cancelled out in the main by the developed markets in the west. It seems we only ever hear about China and the growth there.
No I dont believe that age statements will change, scotch whisky remains an aspirational drink to most people around the world and they will pay the price for it. We are talking blends here as SMW doesn't come into the picture of sales at the moment.
I dont believe the quality will be affected, single malt is the ultimate product of all the companies in the industry so they must maintain the quality of their flagship brand. As any company selling a consumer product is concerned.
This has the makings of an excellent discussion
Crieftan wrote:So my first question is, do forum members think that the general entry level age of whisky will soon drop in order to turn around production quicker?
Caol Ila 8yo (Unpeated Style) is another fine example for a younger and great bottling IMO. I did not however like those young Ardbegs THAT much but they were OK too. I think we will see more of that in the future.
The second question: Is this a good thing?
It's not a bad thing either, I guess...as long as it's not lowering the standards in taste. I think the manager of Kilchoman said that their product is going to be quite drinkable early on because of the new distillery and stuff...or something like that. Of course, a new distillery must sell some early on to collect some profit.
P.S. Hey, do I get a Bronze Star or something...?
I think we will see more sub-10 yar old or NAS bottlings in the future, but I do not think it, as a whole, will be because distilleries can't meet demand in the long term. Most establish distilleries should have large amount of maturing whisky layed down in most age brackets, should they not?
But of course, from a business point of view, it makes good sense to see if one can produce and sell good quality stuff in a shorter timeframe, and if one also could push the price-age ratio it would be good business.
But I think (and hope) that most distilleries will look at quality first; As I recall from a WM article, Allied tried out the quarter cask concept on all their malts, but it was found that not all took to the treatment equally well - and afaik Laphroaig is the only one the be marketed as QC yet. (Glenfarclas was/is not part of this group.)
I don't know if it is good or bad - whisky can be good at 8 years old and it can be bad at 21 years old. But I do think malts will become more expensive and that of course, is not so good
If demand for peaty whiskies is an issue, it will be because there is insufficient stock of 10yo to satisfy demand - hence the need to bring some whisky on faster. It is presumably quite easy for a distillery to introduce a younger expression - but it must be much harder to reverse the trick. If, say, Laphroaig's normal output became a 4yo, then if it wanted to withdraw the 4yo and go back to astandard 10, they'd either have to spend 6years away from the marketplace or they'd have to produce double capacity for a few years to carry on selling the 4yo whilst the 10yo matured. Laphroaig's christmas message says that they are distilling at full capacity, 24 hours a day. This means, I think, that unless demand for their whisky drops then they will find it impossible to reverse a decision to go younger.
I suspect the trend towards younger whiskies is a combination of distilleries wanting to cut their operating costs and a new willingness from the whisky buying public to accept NAS whiskies. From the conversations I have had with whisky people, they have always seemed like pretty hard headed business people.
Obviously newer distilleries like Arran,Kilchoman and to a lesser extent Bruichladdich with new product are bound to put out something fairly young for financial reasons. Ther is nothing wrong with this as long as it is good quality. I've tasted some younger expressions that have been far superior to older ones from some other distilleries.
Apart from maturing in smaller casks ie quarters etc. I think the key to a good younger expression is a nice clean spirit filled into good wood.
An example being Kilchoman which has lovely clean new make which should come on quite quickly.
If distilleries really wanted to put out some younger expressions, and I'm not sure many would. Their spirit profile could be altered to a certain extent to facilitate this. ie clean fruity worts/wash carried through to fruity low wines. Extended foreshot and high spirit cut allowing minimal feinty character which would'nt have to be removed by the wood during maturation.
I'm sure larger distillers probably could'nt be bothered to do this, but some of the smaller and more flexible distilleries, if they chose, could easily have the option.
So in the future I think there is a place for the kids, so to speak !!
Does anyone see Glen Garioch 8 year old anymore? Even Littlemill moved from an 8 to a 12 year old.
Bowmore moved from NAS Legend to a 12 year old. Glenfiddich Special Reserve was NAS and is now a 12 year old.
Must agree re the "young" whiskies of the past. Nasty bottlings of Dufftown, Littlemill etc gave under-10s a bad name, and probably fostered "le snobbisme" of which Mr T writes. Good to see folks are willing to go back and try other (and better!) youngesters.
It does seem that at the moment there is a fashion for bottling young expressions and yes, it would seem to us, the whisky drinking public, that this could be a trend caused by the bean-counters wanting revenue rather than full warehouses.
But I am not sure if this really is anything other than a current fashion.
I think ( ) the first distillery to really market "youth" was Ardbeg, with their new owner distillate. This was a marketing story which was intended to show the development and maturation of the new 10 year old.
It was extremely successful and I suspect created a band-wagon for others to jump onto.
If this is the case, then I really think it is just another fashion or short-term trend which has allowed a few distilleries to offer something new and different.
It is even possible that a few distilleries may retain a younger expression in their ranges, but I doubt whether it replace or cause a decline in older expressions, which are still much wanted and appreciated.
What it may do, is signal price rises for older expressions.
Just my two-penneth,
young whisky means quick cash, essential in the case of Arran or Bruichladdich.
Benriach, Benromach, Edradour / Ballechin, Tomintoull / Ballantruan even Glenrothes followed suit. Most of these companies are small and need quick money.
Instead of waiting 10-12 years minimum to market a malt it is tempting to shorten the time until your cash comes in after you distilled your spirit.
It started as a neccessity in some cases but it has become a fashion. You can spare mature cases and sell them with a 25 or 30 year tag for sacks full of money in later years. And at the moment the work horse of the industry, the blended whisky performs well so that selling young whisky out of a distillery producing at full capacity while keeping good casks to mature to a ripe age at the same time earns the pay for your distilling efforts.
That is the other trend at the moment, old and as expensive as possible.
Clear Creek Distillery's McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt
It is currently aged for only 3 years
and the taste is astounding. The taste is somewhere between the oiliness of Caol Illa and peaty smokey sweetness of Ardbeg (or is it closer to Laphroaig?)
here is what the distillery has to say about it:
"Made from peat-malted barley brought in from Scotland, our whiskey would be a single malt Scotch If Oregon were Scotland. Widmer Brothers ferments the peat-malted barley into a "wash" or unfinished beer. We don't hop it or finish it or do any of the other things done to finish a beer. Using the unfinished wash allows us to get all the flavor and character of the malt when we distill using our pot stills. We then barrel-age the rough distillate in several kinds of oak barrels. The result is a smooth, peat-y whiskey with a surprisingly clean finish for such a young whiskey. Production is very limited because what I put in the barrel doesn't come out for years."
Regardless I have to agree with Jim Murray's high assessment of this malt. If this is any hint of things to come I am all for it. This is a bottle I will always try and have on hand.
This young 3yo malt easily ranks above any Caol Ila or Bowmore I have tried which is saying something because I like Caol Ila 18yo and Bowmore cask strength.
Pick it up if you can . . . be jealous if you can't
(Just know I am jealous of all you guys getting your hands on Port Charlotte )
I for one believe we should protect the industry and don't think the government is doing enough about it.
I probably have missed something while reading this thread but the idea of moving production and abroad and the addition of wood chips are both illegal in the Scotch industry.
I'm afraid the only way for maturation to happen is by time, doesn't seem to be anyway of rushing that at the moment.
Apologies if I have missed something, any examples to back up what you say.
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