The notion that age equates to quality with regard to whisky is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Scotch whisky makers are releasing no age statement (NAS) whiskies that are every bit as delicious as their numbered counterparts, while American distillers are blending old stocks with new to create complex and dynamic expressions that convey greater maturity than an age statement, which has to refer to the youngest whiskey in the bottle, would convey. Today’s whisky drinkers simply can’t rely on age alone to inform their purchasing decisions.
But that’s not to say that age statements aren’t useful or going away any time soon. While scotch brands embrace NAS, single malt producers across the globe are releasing great no age statement whiskies, and bourbon distillers are pushing the limits with regard to age, sometimes through single barrel releases. By law, bourbon needs to be placed in a new charred oak vessel. That means the barrel imparts more character to the whiskey the longer it rests. It’s possible then, to let it sit for too long and become over-oaked, with some believing that bourbon can be too old. It becomes a challenge then, to monitor these aged stocks closely in order to prevent the whiskey from becoming over-oaked.
Careful attention was paid to these five whiskeys from the Spring 2022 Buying Guide, as they range from 5 to 16 years old and scored between 89 and 94 points. Most are teenagers, with the exception of a bottled in bond expression from California’s Graton Distilling Co. Its age statement indicates that the whiskey is a year older than the minimum requirement for the style.
These Well-Aged Bourbons Boast Big Flavor
Lucky Seven 14 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel (No. 72)
94 points, 67.07%, $140
The nose brings forth a symphony of red fruit: cherry cobbler, cranberries, dried strawberries, and candied orange. Underneath the fruit, caramel syrup, macaroon, marshmallow, and medium-roast coffee emerge. The palate is a revelation, with hot peppery spice balanced by cinnamon swirl French toast, rich hot chocolate, dark-chocolate raspberry squares, and macchiato. Bottled at cask strength, this is a hot one, and it definitely benefits from water, which coaxes out sumptuous chocolate fudge and bold dark espresso beans.—Julia Higgnis
Widow Jane 15 year old The Vaults Blend of Straights (Batch 3)
93 points, 49.5%, $225
Cloves, baking spices, and fragrant dried herbs on the nose—very herbal overall, hints of cedar chest, touches of mature oak, and dark chocolate. The palate is chewy and creamy, with caffé latte and spiced chocolate laced with coconut shavings. There’s a milkshake-like quality to its thickness and depth, with deeper notes of baked red berries, blackberries, and cinnamon-chocolate babka. A chocolate-filled finish with custard, cinnamon, and berry tart. A loaded, generous dram. (3,000 bottles)—David Fleming
Barrell 16 year old Gold Label
92 points, 56.77%, $500
Black cherry tartness, new leather, and clove-studded orange, along with bubble gum, cream soda, and chocolate layer cake sprinkled with cocoa powder. Flavorful and spicy on the palate, showing strawberry, baking spice, and cinnamon bun, with the flavors holding together superbly. Definitely needs water. A long, balanced finish offers generous helpings of cinnamon and more chocolate. Very high proof, but does not hide behind it—a well-built whiskey. (5,100 bottles)—David Fleming
Hard Truth 14 year old Schoonover Uncut & Unfiltered (Barrel No. 357)
92 points, 54.52%, $150
The nose on this Tennessee bourbon is sweet and syrupy. Cola and cherry soda weave around chocolate, oak, and honey. Beneath the sweet notes, there are aromas of fennel, roasted peanuts, and a whisper of mustiness. The palate is robust, with jammy fruits, dried berries, candied orange atop hot chocolate, and peanuts. Excellent texture, with a finish—syrupy cooked berries, cinnamon, and chocolate—that ties the whole sip together. (3,000 bottles)—Shane English
Redwood Empire 5 year old Grizzly Beast Bottled in Bond
89 points, 50%, $80
All manners of orange are here, with orange peel, Creamsicle, and a hint of orange soda right up front. This citrus is joined by sweeter elements: a drizzle of maple syrup and inviting wood spice. The palate is creamy, and that tangy, zesty citrus carries on, though there’s also blueberry cobbler, a burst of Red Hots, and buttered toast sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. A moderate-length finish balances oak with tart red fruit. (3,000 bottles)—Julia Higgins