April 17, 2013 by Bourbon Empire
For awhile I’ve noticed that many American whiskies have stopped listing their ages on the bottle. It’s sort of like people who stay 39 for years, not wanting to admit how old they are. Except in this case it’s the exact opposite: distilleries don’t want to admit how young their products are.
Age might not be as important for American whiskey as it is for scotch, but that’s probably not why distilleries have dropped their age statements. The whiskey market is pretty hot right now, and distilleries are working hard to meet demand while prices for some products have started to soar. Dropping the age statement will allow distilleries to use younger whiskey in their products that, a few years ago, they might not have considered ready.
Does this mean the products have already started to change? I don’t know — the lack of an age statement on the bottle is one less indicator you can use to know exactly what you’re getting. Just about everybody is doing it and the wolf is in the henhouse, ready to drink all your whiskey. When a brand like Wild Turkey drops its age statement, the product in the bottle might not change immediately, but WT is giving itself the option to do so without you noticing. Over time, as the market gets hotter and demand creeps up, there will always be the temptation to fill gaps by using younger whiskies in your favorite products.
How will you know? Unfortunately, you won’t because you’ll have less information to work with. Your best option is to look for squishy marketing terms that don’t mean anything, such as “extra-aged” or any other kind of aging reference that doesn’t list an actual number. The Whisky Advocate blog recently took on the subject, which has become prevalent in the greater world of whiskey, and got me thinking that it’s important that whiskey consumers know about the trend. As they say (or at least as G.I. Joe said), “Knowing is half the battle.”