Age doesn't matter when it comes to whiskey (excerpts)
Source: CNBC -
Kelli B. Grant
Age is just a number, so far as spirits are concerned.
"Don't get hung up on numbers," Dave Broom, author of "The Complete Bartender's Guide," told Tales of the Cocktail attendees at 'The Blind Truth About Aging Whisky' seminar. "Age just tells you how long it's been in a cask, not how good it is."
The Tales seminar focused on Scotch whisky, but experts say that tenet also extends to other whiskeys produced around the world. It's an increasingly important message for shoppers browsing liquor store shelves these days, with spirit distillers releasing both un-aged whiskeys and super-aged rarities, and many more that don't have an age noted.
But it also requires a shift from the ingrained perception from marketing that older is better, Jerald O'Kennard, director of the Beverage testing Institute, told CNBC in an interview. "We have people that are so trained to look for age statements," he said. "They might be skipping over alot of very good stuff."
So if age doesn't matter, what does? Maturity, wood and distillery character, Broom said. When distillers aren't worried about watching for a specific age-tied product, there's more flexibility to introduce unique, flavorful products. During the Tales seminar tasting, panelists encouraged attendees to broaden their palettes with a blind tasting of unexpected but tasty options including single-grain Haig Club, will be released in the U.S.next year, the Talisker Storm (which has no age statement) and the blended Johnnie Walker Red.
The anti-aging trend is to shoppers' benefit. "No age statement doesn't mean you're giving up an inch as far as quality is concerned," Nima Ansari, spirit buyer and sales manager for New York City's Astor Wines and Spirits, told CNBC. Craft producers need quality to be high to differentiate; bigger brands won't risk a sub-par release tainting consumers' perceptions of the rest of their product line.
To be sure, younger blends have a different taste profile."The trade-off is vibrancy for mellowness and woodiness," said O'Kennard, "which is not necessarily a bad thing."
But with no age statements, the onus is more on shoppers to experiment. "Taste as many different kinds of things as possible," Ansari said. O'Kennard recommends looking at descriptors as well as reviews, to find taste commonalities with brands and products you've tried and enjoyed.
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