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Issue 22 - Age before beauty

Whisky Magazine Issue 22
May 2002


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Age before beauty

Does older always mean better with whisky? Gavin Smith looks at the facts

There is an influential school of whisky thought that considers older necessarily equals better. Older also usually equals more expensive, and paying a high price for whisky reflects the status of the consumer in many important markets.
Today, there is an increasing trend for mainstream Scotch single malts to be bottled at 12 years old rather than the previously-common eight or 10, and it is interesting to note the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition now offers a trophy for the ‘Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky Under Twelve Years'.

According to Neil Boyd, Marketing Director for John Dewar & Sons Ltd, “There's an international perception that age is a key differentiator in terms of quality, second only to price, which I don't believe is really the case, as all whiskies age differently. However, 12 is now seen as the necessary ‘entry point' by quite a lot of companies. Eight is just not special enough any more.

“I personally believe not too much whisky really improves as it gets older,” says Boyd. “When we decided to launch our own
Aberfeldy bottling, we analysed and sampled it at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 years old. United Distillers had previously bottled Aberfeldy at 15 in its Flora & Fauna range. We took the view that the 12-year-old was very good indeed, so why keep it another three years, losing some in the barrel and making it more expensive and exclusive along the way? What we really wanted was to get consumers drinking Aberfeldy, and at 12...

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