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Issue 94 - A Matter of Age

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011


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A Matter of Age

Ed Bates is a freelance whisky writer, taster and industry commentator. He has worked for various spirit companies including independent bottlers Berry Bros. & Rudd

Last year Pernod Ricard, the world's second largest (at the time of writing) drinks producer issued a press release, which caused some debate in the blogosphere on the question that ‘Age Matters'.

The release states: “According to new research commissioned by Chivas Brothers, 94 per cent of consumers believe the age statement serves as an indicator of quality, 93 per cent believe that older whiskies are better quality and 89 per cent actively look for an age statement when making a decision to purchase.” Nothing to argue with there. I am very happy to accept those numbers when you consider that more than 95 per cent of Scots (sorry SWA, but that is grammatically correct) whiskies produced are blends and of those the vast, vast majority are standard blends.

So most whisky sold worldwide is not purchased on the qualitative grounds. The exception being that Scotch has a historical reputation of quality so buying Scotch is seen as buying up. Consider this: Walker Red sells around 120,000,000 bottles a year. I'm sure that if you asked the consumers of those 120,000,000 bottles if they think that Black label, an older version of the same thing, is better, they would agree with you. It is.

So the release continues: “consumers will be encouraged to look for age statements on Scotch whisky, via point-of-sale materials, advertising and public relations. A logo using the language Guaranteed Age Whisky has been created for usage in retail…” But, and it's a VERY BIG BUT, so...

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