Is Age Just a Number?
What does it mean when a bottle of whisky has 10 year old, 18 year old, 25 year old mentioned on it? Officially it is called an ‘age statement’. Most people assume that it is the average age of the whisky, but it isn’t. Age statement denotes the age of the youngest whisky used in the bottle.
Contrary to popular belief it is not how long whisky is in the bottle that matters but the time it spends in oak barrels that makes all the difference. Similar to wines, oak adds flavors, nuances and even the gold-amber color that whisky has. The distilled spirit develops its own character from spending time in oak. Moe time spent in oak, whisky becomes smoother and well rounded but whether that adds or detracts from the quality of whisky is subjective. Obviously, longer the whisky ages more expensive it is.
Most whisky brands have whiskies with age statements which are completely different expressions of the same whiskies. Here are some brands you may have come across and the difference is more than discernible.
Chivas Regal 12 YO and Chivas Regal 18 YO
Chivas 12 year old has lots of herbs and fruits with hints of honey which is expressed on the palate as well as the nose. On the palate, additionally there is notes of vanilla, dried fruits and caramel. In comparison the 18 year old expression has more dark chocolate, toffee, and dried fruits which obviously is from the longer maturation. The palate is subtle with floral notes mingling with mellow smokiness.
Chivas Regal 12 YO Rs 4880
Chivas Regal 18 YO Rs 10700
Glenfiddich 12 YO, Glenfiddich 15 YO and Glenfiddich 18 YO
Fresh pear with gentle oak notes is what defines the 12 year old Glenfiddich which evolves into butterscotch and cream. The 15 year old expression undegoes aging in American, European oak before maturing in Solera sherry vats and then Portuguese oak tuns – this explains the burst of honey, dark fruit notes of the whisky. On the palate there is ginger, marzipan and sherry with a unifying sweetness. The 18 year old even though is aged in Olorosso and American oak has richer notes with baked apple, dried fruits, candy, dates and ever present oak notes.
Glenfiddich 12 YO Rs 5900
Glenfiddich 15 YO Rs 9000
Glenfiddich 18 YO Rs 13000
Glengoyne 10 YO and Glengoyne 18 YO
Between Stirling and Glasgow is Glengoyne Distillery. Their 10 year old whisky is young and fresh with green apples, caramel and nuts; they claim that these notes come through because of slower distilling process. The 18 year old expression has more spice notes and ripened apples which comes from the sherry casks used for aging; this also adds to the richness of the whisky.
Glengoyne 10 YO Rs 5800
Glengoyne 18 YO Rs 6600