Monday, June 22, 2015

NAS vs. Aged Scotch

On, whisky blogger Oliver Klimek ran a blind tasting comparing entry level aged and non age statement (NAS) Scotch from the same distilleries.  It was an interesting experiment that essentially ended in a draw.  I participated in the tasting and thought I would share my own results.

I was part of tasting group A.  I was given five pairs of samples to compare that were labeled only with a code.  The only thing I knew about them was that each pair included one NAS and one age statement whisky from the same distillery.  We were asked to indicate which one we liked best.  I did so but elaborated on how much better I thought each one was.  Here is how I compared each whisky in my sample set along with the results for the group as a whole:

Sample 1: Glen Moray 12 vs. Glen Moray Port Cask Finish

I thought these were fairly comparable but had a slight preference for the age statement, though I actually thought it tasted younger.  Also, I tend not to like port finishes, so this may have impacted my preference more than age.  The age statement won this one for the group as a whole, but only by one vote.

Sample 2: Dalmore 12 vs. Dalmour Valour

On this one, I preferred the NAS Valour. I felt the 12 year old was bland and the Valour was richer with a drier finish.  This one was a draw for the group as a whole.

Sample 3: Glenlivet 12 vs. Glenlivet Founder's Reserve

I had a very strong preference for the 12 year old over the NAS Founder's Reserve, which I found raw and new makey.  It was probably the one I liked least of the entire tasting. The group as a whole also preferred the 12 year old by 8 votes.

Sample 4: Cardhu 12 yo vs. Cardhu Amber Rock

On this one, I had a slight preference for the NAS, which I found bolder and more complex than the 12 year old. The group as a whole also preferred the NAS by 6 votes.

Sample 5: Macallan 10 yo Fine Oak vs. Gold

I had a strong preference for the 10 year old which had a spicy/fruity nose, an earthy palate and a peppery finish. The Gold had a decent nose but the palate was overly perfumy and floral; it just didn't come together well.  The group as a whole, though, preferred the NAS.

So over these five samples, I preferred the age statement in three cases and the NAS in two. However, I should also note that in both cases in which I had a very strong preference between the two samples, it was for the age statement expression.  In the cases where I preferred the NAS, it was a much closer call.  To my mind, this demonstrates that while it is possible for distilleries to make NAS that is as good as their entry level age statement whiskies, it's not easy to do.

This was a fun and educational tasting. Many thanks to Oliver for putting it together.


Anonymous said...

Really interesting read, Sku. Thanks for sharing the experience.

Sam said...

Agreed, very interesting...but I would love to see how the higher-end NAS whiskies fare against higher-end Age Statement whiskies.

Macallan Rare vs. Macallan 18
Highland Park Odin vs. Highland Park 25
Dalmore King Alexander III vs. Dalmore 18

Any chance of a sequel?

kallaskander said...

Hi there,

what would you learn by that?

High ended-ness in NAS-ty whiskies is defined by the price point.
As they are NAS you do not know what whiskies you really do compare.
The tasters didn't know in the original set-up.

As Jeff never tiers to stress NAS is not a whisky category but a marketing category.
Anything from 3yo to 30yo can be in a NAS bottling.

The only thing they have in common is that you buy the cat in a sack if you buy a NAS whisky.

It tells you exactly nothing about the age of the cat only that most oft those cats are quite expensive... if they are as young as you can asume by the fact that they are ageless.
There can nothing be learned about the litter as a whole.


The Rookie said...

Wow, really cool, thanks for sharing Sku!