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Whisky Age, does it matter?

Whisky Age, does it matter?

Do you love fine-aged whisky or young premium whisky? Do you care how old whisky is; 10 years, 12 years, 15 years, 18 years, 25 years, 30 years or non-age statement brands? What does whisky age mean to you? Does it matter? Some whisky lovers get obsessed with the age of the whiskies.

Whisky age is usually considered an important factor in the final whisky taste, as the duration, it rests in the barrel greatly affects the taste. As it ages, the newly made spirit picks up more of the woody characters to develop a mellow and flavorful profile. The aged whisky prices tend to be higher than their youthful counterparts.

Whisky, being a complicated and complex spirit, numerous factors plays a vital part in creating the desired result. The art of maturing whisky is a waiting game that requires dedication, time and patience. Waiting that long is a sign of craftsmanship and precious art in distilling. Most people often assume older whisky is better, but this is not always the case. A host of factors come to play in the process of making this delicious amber liquid, barrel ageing being one of these factors. The ageing process, time and how it is conducted, shape the taste and flavour profile of the whisky and drastically alter the final result.

Whisky ageing law

A whisky label comes with sets of rules created to maintain its quality. All styles of whiskey from Scotch, American bourbon, Irish, Canadian, and Japanese, all have their own rules. Scotch, Irish and Canadian must be rested in the barrel for at least three years, while Japanese whiskies must be aged for at least two years. Bourbon can be of any age but must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. However, straight bourbon sits in the barrel for a minimum of two years. Labelling is a tightly controlled aspect of whisky making, and distillers are legally bound to adhere to this rule.

Age Statement

The age statement of a whiskey to many whisky lovers is a simple quality marker, and they might not fully understand what that number means. The age statement on the label, by law, is a reflection of the youngest ingredient in the final product at the time of bottling. The blend may contain different batches that could be older, which can vary greatly in age. The age statement is a simplified way of informing the drinker of the age of what he or she is buying. For whiskies labelled as single barrel or single cask can only contain whiskey from one barrel. The ageing process takes a while, and some bottles are the product of a master blender using a variety of whiskeys to achieve the desired final result. They may use older stock to add nuance to younger whiskey, ensuring the brand’s character and taste are replicated from batch to batch each year. It is all about balance.

 Non-Age Statement (NAS) whiskies 

As the popularity of whisky surges, distillers choose to skip the age label to create new and unique flavour profiles to meet customers' rising demand. As the name implies, No-Age Statement (NAS) whiskey does not indicate how long the beverage sits in the barrel. Modern distillers use alternative methods to fine-tune the flavours of various whisky and meet the consumers' demands. They apply impeccable craftsmanship to create exciting new spirits to challenge the norms. Using top-quality grains and mash bills, they can mix and match as many young and old batches as desired to attain a certain taste. The NAS whiskies are full of exciting new flavours that are rare to find in traditional bottles.

The makers of NAS whiskies relished the greater freedom they are given when developing these types of whiskies. No limitation on a certain batch ratio. They have the freedom to explore and develop new aspects of flavour free from the restraints of working only with spirit certain age limitations. The distillery is free to blend a whisky into whatever ratio they want to bring out complexities and the desired results. They focus mostly on flavour profiles and not on older ageing processes. They create an impressive spirit by selecting premium grains, recalibrating mash bills, and examining the ageing process to maximize time. 

Does age matter in whiskey tasting?

Does an older whiskey mean that it is better? Do aged whiskies differ from their youthful counterparts?

High-aged drams don’t necessarily mean they are “better” than a younger one. The longer the spirit sits in the cask means it has more wood flavours imparted to the spirit. The whiskey quality depends on the cooperage type used and conditions in which is matured in. The best whiskies balance the wood flavours and the character of the ingredients in the blend. If whisky is poorly made, ageing it for a long duration does not redeem its quality. 

Older whiskies tend to have a more complex taste profile, while younger ones tend to have a more straightforward flavour profile. The old whiskies are undoubtedly rarer and tend to be more expensive, but that does not mean they taste better than the younger ones. Also, it doesn't mean the age of a whiskey is not important, it is. It is only that age is not the yardstick of its quality. So, don’t solely judge whisky quality by age only. The best whisky is best judged by the quality of what is in the bottle. If you shop for whiskey based on age statements alone, you may be missing out on the opportunity to taste inexpensive whiskey which is relatively younger. It is much better to drink a well-made young whiskey, than drink a poorly made old stuff. The best whiskey is a matter of quality, not age. It all goes down to personal preference as everyone has their favourite brands, ages and taste.

Whether you prefer a whiskey aged in an oak barrel for several years or youthful types of whiskies, it all depends on your preference. The whisky market is full of excellent stuff that fits every budget, so do not just cling to the age. Be open and explore the numerous opportunity out there. The Drinks Zone whisky shop spoils you with a wide range of exciting whiskies. Our whisky prices in Kenya are very competitive, and certainly, you will get an exciting bottle. Next time you head to the liquor store near you to purchase a bottle of whisky, no need to drop extra coins on a bottle just because it has an impressive-sounding age. Go for the best budget whisky that fits your budget.