Whisky throwdown: Age statements vs. vintages

on 23/03/11 at 9:12 am

Spirits

Using age statements as a selling point on whisky is merely a “marketing ruse” and does nothing to enhance consumers’ understanding of the quality of a whisky, according to Glenrothes brand heritage director Ronnie Cox.

Speaking to the drinks business at the Glenrothes distillery in Rothes, Scotland, Cox said: “Age statements mean nothing to the regular consumer, it’s better to have vintages.”

Cox was speaking from a slightly biased position, seeing as Glenrothes adopts a policy of releasing vintage whiskies as opposed to whiskies of a particular age, but his long-term experience in the industry has, in his view, affirmed his standpoint on the issue.

“You can get a three-year-old whisky that tastes just the same as a 12-year-old,” he said. “Age statements are just a marketing ruse to try to convince people of a whisky’s quality.

“When I started in the industry in 1979 there was no such thing as a ’12-year-old’ whisky, there were just ‘deluxe’ expressions, which could have meant anything.

“The first to try to introduce age statements was Chivas, which brought in the 12-year-old age statement, and then Diageo quickly followed suit as they saw Chivas was stealing a march on them in markets like Latin America, where people really bought into the age statement concept. It’s spiralled from there.

“What is not being communicated enough to the consumer is the impact of wood on a maturing whisky and the shape of a cask.”

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