NAS or No-Age Statement whisky is simply whisky that comes without any information about its maturation. If you are a whisky fan, then the term NAS Whisky is something you might have heard many times before. One of the main reasons whisky aficionados stray far away from NAS whisky is the fact that it might not be aged for as long as a fine-aged whisky — because like fine wine, whisky only tastes better with age.
However, there has been a natural shift towards NAS whisky. Given the growing popularity of the drink, more people have taken to whisky even the younger generations. With the growing demand for whisky, NAS whiskies have been recreated with a newer zest, specifically for those who enjoy the flavours of a good barrel-aged whisky.
To know more about NAS whiskies, LuxeBook spoke to Nikhil Agarwal, CEO and Founder of All Things Nice and Angad Singh Gandhi, Brand Ambassador of Glenfiddich India.
No Age Statement
For true whisky aficionados, the age on a whisky bottle is often the sole decider of quality single malt. That is one of the biggest differences between an aged and a no-age-statement whisky.
By law, the age statement carried by a whisky must be that of its youngest whisky. For example, if a whisky is made up of 99% 25-year aged whisky, and 1% 3-year aged whisky, the age statement of that whisky must be 3 years. NAS whiskies are often made up of different blends with different maturation dates – 3, 5, 10 or even 20 years, yet by law, these will have to state the age of their youngest whiskey only. This is what leads to conflict among whisky drinkers who prefer an older age on a whisky bottle, which is traditionally considered superior.
During the early 20th century, whisky bottles often carried the average age of the whisky rather than the youngest. After this became illegal, it gave rise to NAS whiskies which have been around for nearly a century. Even though NAS whisky does not carry the age, we know for a fact that it is at least 3-years old because all whisky by law must be aged for at least three years.
An infusion of flavour
Aside from the age factor, Angad Singh Gandhi believes it is the character of the liquid that differs too. He says, “Consumers prefer high age variants of single malts because the older the whisky, the longer the finish, which allows the flavour to linger on one’s palette once they have taken a sip.”
So why do brands really hide the age of a whisky?
According to Nikhil Agarwal, “Some distilleries may choose to hide the age simply because age statements are used as a marketing tool; if the whiskey is young, it may come across as a negative. Others may choose to release them with No Age Statements because they feel that their whiskies are beyond age statements.”
Truly, a good whisky is so much more than just its age. Keeping the age factor out of the window, distilleries have the freedom to play around with the flavour and finish. Through the influence of wood, distillation methods, time factors, etc., distilleries can manipulate the character of the whisky right from its colour and texture to its flavours and aroma, creating new unique blends. So, if you have ever wondered what some of your favourite whiskies taste like together, NAS whiskies will show you exactly what that is like.
According to Agarwal, the barrels they are aged in play a vital role in the flavour of the whisky. “A large part of the flavours and aromas associated with whisky comes from the barrels they are aged in. This comes with a caveat. Distilleries may use different size barrels that have been used before. Barrels can be thought of as ingredients that play a part in the flavour of the whisky.”
In the end, the overall whisky-making process remains the same for both aged and no age statement whisky.
“The ageing bit is what separates aged and no age statement whisky,” says Gandhi. “For instance, you don’t age the whisky for 12 years rather for 6-7 years and then put it into another cask for a different finish to increase its complexity, making it a great product for the consumers.”
Gandhi further points out that while no-age-statement whiskies do not have an age label on them, they are single malts at the end of the day. “They have a characteristic belonging to the cask they are aged in. So, even if they are aged for a shorter period, it still presents a similar character profile as that of aged whisky. For e.g., if a non-age statement whisky is from an ex-bourbon cask, it will give you honey vanilla coconut caramel notes, whether you age it 6 years or 12, however with lesser density, colour and finish of the whisky.”
Not a new concept
No Age Statement Whisky may be a new term, but it is hardly a new concept. In fact, one can trace the history of the NAS whiskies to the 1900s around the time of Prohibition in the United States.
The Prohibition-era was the main cause behind the rise of no age whiskies in the market. Both during and after Prohibition, there was a swarm of illegally labelled liquor in the market. Aside from American straight whisky, most of the liquor available was a mix of two or more blends. In an attempt to hide the age, distilleries would market them with terms like “ancient” or “very old” which would get them more attraction than otherwise.
The lack of whisky laws did not help either. One of the most prominent whisky laws today is that any blended whisky with an age statement must mention the age of the youngest whisky. Back then, distilleries would bottle a 10-year whisky with a 25-year whisky, putting the latter on the label. After this became illegal, distilleries went on to mention the average age of the whisky so that people interested in older blends would still be interested. This too soon became illegal and so distilleries let go of the age statement altogether.
Whisky as a category has been trying to increase its length and breadth; trying to reach newer consumers, converting blended whisky drinkers to single malts, and so, non-age statement whiskies play a pivotal role in the transition.
A chunk of whisky drinkers today includes the younger generations as well which has more to do with curiosity.
“The youth of today are more category curious,” says Gandhi. “They are willing to experiment, and so non-age statement whiskies are indeed, receiving receptivity as it becomes a stepping-stone in embracing their journey towards refined and aged single malts.”
On the other hand, Agarwal believes that people will gravitate to whiskies that they believe are good, whether they are aged or released with no age statements. He too credits the younger audiences for being less set in their ways and happier to experiment. He also believes that a good distillery will give you quality whisky regardless of its age.
“One needs to follow and buy from quality distilleries that cannot phantom put out a whiskey that does not keep up with their lofty standards. These distilleries will release remarkable whiskies whether they state the age of the whisky or not. The rest is all marketing and gibberish.”
Embracing NAS whisky
Popular single malt brands have begun to embrace NAS whiskies, not just accepting their stand in the market today, but also venturing with their own NAS blends. Macallan, one of the largest single malt distillers in the world have been an ardent advocate of NAS whisky. Their Macallan 1824 Series is the most popular NAS whisky collection. The collection includes a set of four whiskies – Gold, Amber, Sienna, and Ruby, with each bottle matured in 100% sherry wood. All four whiskies have a toffee-like aroma with citrusy notes that close into a spicy cinnamon finish.
Other brands like Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich and Arbelour and Glenlivet, etc, have also ventured with unique NAS blends that are also among the most popular whiskies in the world at the moment. Here are some of the top NAS whiskies that have made it to the list of best whiskies of 2022.
A sherried cask strength whisky, Aberlour A’Bunadh is a symphony of sweet notes like candied almonds, butter cookies, orange peels and dried cherry, with spices like Szechuan peppercorn and nutmeg along with holiday spices.
A mix of sweetness and smoke, Uigeadail is the perfect holiday whisky that smells like Christmas, with warm raisins, pined needles, and cedar aromas. The flavour palate on the other hand starts on a sweet note with honey and toffee, that build into rich, smoky aromas.
First created in 1910, Ballentine’s Finest Blended Scotch whisky remains one of the best whisky blends. The whisky has a spice first, sweet next flavour from milk chocolate, red apple and vanilla that settles into a fresh, fruity aftertaste.
One of the best whiskies of the year, the Glenmorangie Signet is a blend of two whiskies, one made with estate Cadboll and the second with high roast chocolate malt barley. It has a fruity flavour from candied orange peel along with spiced notes from coffee, ginger, and cinnamon, followed by dark chocolate and tiramisu.
A fairly recent NAS single malt, Haig Club was launched by Diageo in collaboration with legendary footballer David Beckham and musician Simon Fuller. The whiskey is prepared in three casks: fast-fill, rejuvenate and bourbon barrels. The whisky has sweet floral notes from vanilla, honey, florals and fresh green apple closing in on raisins and toasted almonds.
An unrivalled masterpiece, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a favourite for both experts and novices alike. The whisky has a velvety taste from hazelnuts, honey, orange, and sherry moving into an explosion of spice from ginger, sandalwood, pepper, and tobacco.
A triple malt scotch that was made for cocktails, Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch is a smooth and creamy but also very malty scotch whisky. Cocoa, vanilla and butterscotch mix with toasted barley, cloves, and peppermint to create a malty blend that is the perfect mix of sweet and spice.