Is older Whisky really better?
Great question! I have read articles in various publications that state that after about 17 years of aging a scotch just doesn’t get much better. Well…….maybe that is true and I cannot dispute it but I can tell you a couple of experiences that I had. I was about 22 years old and had just come home with my wife and another couple from being out drinking someplace for New Years Eve. We pulled in the driveway and a neighbor from down the street was flagging us down and inviting us over to his house for a drink. Well ok, we were pretty much totally toasted but we were walking from that point on so why not. We were seated in the neighbor’s living room and after salutations and the usual small talk we were offered a glass of Ballantines scotch as a libation. We chatted a bit and then the man said “want to try something really good?” Of course I said “sure” not even beginning to fathom what treat he had in store. He walked into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Ballantines 28 year old scotch. This was my very first experience with any scotch over 12 years old and yeah I was kind of excited about the whole experience. Man was it smooth, it went down so smooth and silky I remember saying something like “Wow, you don’t need any ice or water with this one!” I thanked him profusely and after a few minutes he said “now, we can agree this was really good right? “ (We all agreed) “Ok now this will knock your socks off!” Once again he disappeared into the kitchen and returned with yet another bottle. This one was another bottle of Ballantines, but this one had the numbers 47 on the bottle. Yes friends and neighbors it was a bottle of Ballantines 47 year old whisky. In order to be 47 years old at that time so it had to be put up in the cask around 1925 (right during prohibition? Sounds crazy I know but prohibition was only in America maybe this had been hiding in Canada?). I was just flat astounded.
It poured like silken diamonds into my glass and trickled down my throat like ribbons of pure light guilded with love. It was amazing, I had thought the 28 was the best I would ever taste and then this comes out of a kitchen and it was a whole new world opening up for me. I have never seen a bottle of 28 or 47 year old Ballantines since that day but they were both great and so much better than the 12 year old
So an expert said that whisky doesn’t get much better after 17 years but for me it was a whole lot better. Since then I have had some 25 and 30 year olds and several 18’s and to me they seem to taste better than their younger brothers but I could be wrong. So If I am wrong why do people pay thousands of dollars or pounds or Euros for 40 and 50 year old scotches? Gee it couldn’t be that they might taste really good could it?
Try it for yourself next time you are in a really good bar or pub that has a good selection and get several ages of the same scotch and see for yourself if you really do like the older ones better or not. Maybe there are some scotches that don’t get better with age maybe some get worse. I have not tried them all………………yet.
The Whisky Warrior