Re: WM69 Round Table Question
With the rise in interesting premium aged whiskies, is older necessarily better?
This is a trick question. Its easy to assume that what is meant by older is something over, say, 20 years. If we ask the question; is whisky at twenty plus better than something less than twenty, then the only sensible answer is: it could be, but not necessarily. But, we have to remember that we can call it whisky at three years of age. If we ask the question; is a ten year old whisky better than a three year old, then the answer would be, almost certainly.
Really young whiskies can be great but they are wild beasts (the Kilkerran for instance) that can really only be enjoyed by those that know what to expect. Even then there are times when they challenge the drinker. The path to maturity has (thankfully) been shown to us recently with the new Ardbeg. I know that some die hard fans will contend this, but the Almost There has definitely had some of the rough edges that were shown in the Very Young smoothed out by an extra few years in the cask. It doesn't mean it is better for everyone, just better for most and I think that's all you can say.
At the other end of the scale, whiskies over twenty can start to succumb to the wood influence. We are exposed to many great bottlings of older ages, but there are as many that have simply become 'woody', like a Ladyburn I tried a while ago.
In short, whisky generally improves with age up to a point. Where the point is depends on the whisky. Lighter whiskies like lowlanders will, arguably, mature earlier than heavily peated whiskies. After that point the effects of age become much less certain. We are at the mercy of the huge number of factors that will influence casks over the course of their life. When it goes well though the aging process can give us some of the best whiskies ever.