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Will NAS Kill us all?

14 February 2014 1,443 views Written by: Gal Granov

There has been quite a debate in the last few days following Lukasz’s excellent post regarding NAS (Read it before continuing)  and Billy’s answer to that (read Billy’s post here), and since NAS has been quite the issue for the last few months, I felt I should put my 2 cents worth of ideas here too.

Those of you who follow my blog / twitter / Facebook feeds must know by now I’ve been bitching about NAS (mostly young EXPENSIVE NAS) for ages. Now, Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with some NAS bottlings and some are indeed Excellent stuff for the right price as Billy rightfully mentioned (Abunadh,Glendronach CS, and my Favourite of all the Balvenie Tun 1401 which deserves a honorary mention for being so damn excellent, and disclosing which casks went into the vatting). What I am opposing is not the idea of NAS but the following:

1.Young NAS at high prices – Some distilleries seem to just take advantage of the fact that people will buy everything on the market, and bring out under par NAS bottlings of young, sometimes too young whiskies at a premium price.

2.Travel retail has become a NAS playground – Travel retail used to be the test bed of some distilleries when they first released new whiskies, but now it seems most travel retail new editions are weird sounding Gaelic NAS whiskies that cost more than their aged bottles sold outside the duty free shops. Take for example the Old Pulteney Light houses. They look nice and colourful, and are very young (I’ve tasted all there,and believe me they are young.) but that does not stop them being priced higher than the staple 12 and 17 year old…

3.Using NAS to push young whiskies, and not using it as to give the whisky maker more freedom in creating the desired profile : A lot of companies are selling us the idea that NAS gives them the freedom to create what they want, without taking Age into the consideration. If that was true, I’d be content. I liked the NAS Ardbegs which are good, but did not like other NAS that just scream : “We didn’t have older stock so we just bottled this”.

Just as Lukasz has indicated, when you’re selling BAD NAS whiskies, you are damaging your brand in the long run. So yes, you’re making more money now, but people who first encounter your NAS as their entry level whisky, and taste below average malts will tend to remember their experience, and might not try your older and better expressions, since they do not value the brand. Highland Park has some stunning whiskies, but If my first HP was one of their younger warriors, I am not sure i would have been a fan, or tried the more expensive core line whiskies they carry, this is true also for other brands…

So, NAS is surely here to stay, just hope it’s going to be used wisely when needed and when it makes whisky better, and not just as a means of making more money, and selling younger stock at a premium.

My main concern is that within a few years most whisky we can afford (under 100 quid) will be NAS, while the age statement 10 year old and older will get much more expensive. But, again only time will tell, and the bubble will explode some day. When it does, maybe saner prices and less NAS will be the outcome.

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  • Yori Costa

    Your 2 cents worthy of a million! NAS in itself is foolish IMHO – I see no reason not to describe the contents of a bottle, which is done quite religeously for almost any food or drink. Withholding relevant information from customers is malicious. I see no reason not to use yound whisky (Kilchoman are proving again and again that yound whisky can be great!), or mix it with older casks (see Ugeadail) to achieve a complexity at an affordable price – but not stating the age or composition, due to the knowledge that it would rightfully put customers off is wrong. People would buy young good whisky, vats of various vintages and finishes, provided they can trust the distiller. I don’t know any distiller I can trust with regards to a NAS today!

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      Cheers. That’s true.

  • David Ligoff

    This post, the comments and both articles referenced mention excellent NAS whiskies. Whilst I try to convince my kids that ‘age isn’t everything’, this isn’t always true when it comes to whisky. I believe the main point is that of value. Sure, a lot of distilleries are running out of their older stock and are forced to include younger whiskies into their latest releases, but be up-front about it, and price it accordingly!
    Heavily peaked whiskies are by definition quite young to preserve the peatiness, and if Octomore can happily state that theirs is a 5yo, there is no excuse.
    New World whiskies (Taiwan, Australia, India, etc) are generally NAS and the factors influencing maturation are vastly different to those in Scotland, Ireland and even Japan. The whisky market is being exposed to more and more NAS whiskies, and my fear is that the price of 10yo and 12yo whiskies, once the baseline models, will increase as overpriced NAS expressions push up from the bottom.
    Don’t even get me started on Travel Retail!

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      totally so David. my greatest feat is that in 2-3 years we’re only going to be able to afford mediocre young NAS (although with cool Gaelic names) under 100 quid, and all worthwhile age whisky above 10 will be far too expensive. that is very bad news for us all.

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  • Reinhard Schoeller

    An example of overpriced and inferior TR NAS Whisky for me is Highland Park Harald. As big fan of HP18 I wanted to try and bought a bottle but am left wholly disappointed by it. Both are more or less the same price @ £62. But there no way that Harald is anywhere the quality of a HP18.

  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Indeed Reinhard! the 18 is much better.

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  • http://www.whiskyrant.com/ Johannes Lindblom

    Great article! I totally agree, especially about the recent Highland Park warriors and how they’re painting a wrong, uncharacteristic picture about HP.

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      Thanks! Yes the HP example is a good one, there are many others ( OP lighthouse series for example).