Disturbing rumours are surfacing regarding the future of the Glenlivet 12 in key markets, although as yet not clear reports from Whisky.de suggest that this flagship is to be replaced by the newly launched Founder’s Reserve in some countries, in others these are likely to be sold side by side.
This from Words of Whisky reports
“Founder’s Reserve will roll out in countries where whisky knowledge is strong, consumers are becoming more familiar with new concepts, are by far the most developed in their tastes and have the greater thirst for new products.
Whilst not all countries will stock both and some countries may stock one or the other, this is about us having an opportunity to explore The Glenlivet with a new expression that focuses on a key element of the brand and its heritage. We feel that the time is right to bring something brand new to our consumers.”
Off the back of an incredibly profitable period (in September 2014 the distillery reported achieving one million case sales per annum) which resulted in the decision to triple capacity at the Moray distillery this comes as a not entirely surprising but disappointing blow to the Age statement movement,
What is an Age Statement
The age statement of a whisky is an often misunderstood measurement but one that consumers still put a lot of faith in. Simply put the age statement of a whisky tells you the age of the youngest whisky in the mix, take an 18 year old whisky, mix it with a 5 and he age statement would read 5 years, release a no age statement and the consumer never needs to know.
That is not to suggest that distilleries are likely to be so reckless with their brands, or even that a no age statement whisky is of inferior quality, Japanese whiskies such as the Yamazake Distiller’s Reserve are a superb example to the contrary. Nonetheless a lot of whisky drinkers would baulk at the idea of drinking a 3 year old whisky, this may be dismissed as snobbery, and it would certainly lead to stronger whiskies as the “Angels Share”, the alcohol volume lost during maturation is likely to be far lower, nonetheless age statements are often useful for giving an indication of the quality on offer.
Why Introduce No Age Statements
In a word profit, a shortage of older expressions within the distillery means reduced output as the whisky waits to reach an arguably arbitrary age before bottling, this means increased storage costs and lower alcohol by volume. John Campbell Laphroaig’s master distiller reports that the distillery’s Quarter Cask is now “the fastest-growing brand in our portfolio, making up 25% of our sales”, nor are they alone. The Macallan, despite a strong age focus on international markets is pushing its colour coded 1824 series, and while age statements are unlikely to disappear entirely this shift is far from slight.
Founders Reserve Vs. Glenlivet 12
As the Founders Reserve expression will not arrive on market until March 2015 no statement on its quality is possible, the no age statement may be well received however a positive reception and increased capacity will likely mean more younger whiskies entering the market. This represents a fundamental shift from 2010 when Pernod Ricard launched The Age Matters campaign, following the findings of a study compiled for their Chivas Brothers (Whisky & Gin) arm. At the time Christian Porta, CEO and chairman declared that:
“The revelation that so many existing whisky drinkers do not understand that the age statement refers to (the) youngest age of the whisky shows that there is an opportunity for us to inform them,”
No Age Statements are Coming
This later morphed into “Great Things Take Time” alas while this seeming U-turn by Chivas Brothers is disheartening it is not totally surprising, with aged stockpiles running low whisky producers are likely to push younger No age statements onto the market. While this is unfortunate for consumers who are used to ordering based on age it does not necessarily mean the end of good whisky. Glenlivet, Laphroig, Macallen and others will only remain household names so long as their expressions deliver the goods.