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NAS (No Age Statement)

 

What the heck is that?

No, not the rapper, NAS is an acronym for No Age Statement whiskies - whiskies with literally no age stated on its label. Age statements convey the youngest aged whisky in the bottle, for example, a blend of 12 Year Old whisky, 8 Year Old whisky and 3 Year Old whisky, would have a label that states that the whisky is at minimum 3 years of age.

Hence, the absence of an age on the label signifies that the whisky contained in the bottle are of no guaranteed minimum age. In the case of Scotch (and as some countries such as Japan have now raised regulations similarly), an NAS bottling must still contain whiskies made in Scotland that is at least of 3 years of age to be labelled as Scotch, amidst other bottling requirements.

 

Who cares?

One of the unique features of spirits, is the way labels are created. They are designed to not only market the bottle (amidst a shelf of hundreds of similar looking bottles), but also to convey what is contained in the bottle, how it is made, and what a drinker should expect. This allows the label to play a critical role in transparency between the brand and the drinker. Hence, tight regulations exist to protect both the heritage of the country of origin and also the drinker.

As such, brands and bottlers have learnt to be fairly adventurous and creative when it comes to how labels are designed. And as the saying goes, "what is not said, speaks as loudly as what is said", the selective absence of key features on the label are just as important as their presence.

 

 

The presence of "30 Years Old" can be taken as fact that the whisky contained is at least of 30 years old. (Image Source: WhiskyBase)

 

As NAS bottlings are often much more easily produced given the much less lengthy maturation time needed, they typically tend to receive some negative connotation, and as such are often deemed to be of lower quality and not worth their price. That is not necessarily the case. Age itself is not a determinant of quality. In fact, many drinkers report that beyond 30 years of age, further maturation either has no impact or a negative influence on the whisky, potentially causing it to be over-oaked. Of course, bottle a whisky too young and indeed it will tend to be too hot and poorly integrated, which is precisely why maturation is a key step in the whiskymaking process.

As such, it is always good to try samples or drams of a whisky at a bar or from a friend or fellow enthusiast before committing to a full bottle!

 

Why should I care? If there is one thing to remember, what is it?

A good rule of thumb is to assume that only when a detail or specification is present, then it is the case, and vice versa, what is absent should be assumed to not be true with regards to the bottling. For example, a "21 Year Old" on the label can be taken as fact that the whisky contained is at least 21 Years Old, whereas the lack of any age, even if the term "NAS" or "No Age Statement" is not explicitly stated, should be taken to mean that the bottling does not guarantee any minimum age of the whisky contained inside.

In recent times, it is fact that as whisky demand has gone up, given its limited supply, whisky prices have generally gone up across the board, and bottlers have increasingly turned towards releasing more NAS bottlings in order to meet that soaring demand. Yet, due to the that strong demand, NAS bottlings have gotten increasingly pricey despite huge outturns. This has made it harder to choose a good NAS bottle, and so review sites play a huge role in giving you some clue as to whether you might like a bottle.

Nikka's highly popular From The Barrel, an NAS whisky.

 

Ultimately, good whisky is whatever whisky you like, regardless of age. Some of the most popular whiskies such as the Japanese Hibiki or Nikka's From The Barrel, is an NAS bottling, a well-known fact that has done little to deter its popularity. Also, on the bright side, NAS bottlings also means that distilleries have been able to release more one-off experiments and play around more with new concept bottlings, many of which have been met with great excitement, enthusiasm and no shortfall of which have become massive fan favorites. This has led to a burst of variety for drinkers to try! And as they say, variety is the spice of life.



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