There are just a handful of ‘N’ words and phrases in the Scotch whisky world.
The one that has caused the most debate in recent years is ‘no age statement’
or NAS - the phenomenon that fewer and fewer new releases come without an
age statement. This allows the producers to use younger (= cheaper) whiskies.
All Scotch whiskies need to be at least 3 years old, but some are not much older.
The abbreviation NAS is used for 'no age statement' (given in years).
A neck was added to bottles and pot stills in an effort to humanise them.
I'm not sure if Belgian independent bottler 'The Nectar' is still active.
A nephelometer measures the concentration of particles in a liquid.
The liquid that flows from the spirit still is new make spirit - +/- 75% ABV.
The phrase 'new oak' means the same as virgin oak; fresh, unused casks.
The Nikka corporation owns two distilleries; Yoichi and Miyagikyo.
When a bottle has no age statement (NAS) it is most likely quite young.
The range 'The Norfolk' was released by the English Whisky Company.
The first grain whisky at North British was distilled in 1887.
The name ‘North of Scotland’ has been used by the Strathmore distillery.
North Port in the Eastern Highlands was also known as Brechin distillery.
The Number One Drinks Company popularised Japanese whisky.
At the start of the third millennium demand for Scotch malt whisky
started to grow again. A distillery or bottler that had a few casks of six
years old whisky lying around could wait another few years with bottling
them, but if they would drop the age statement and come up with a fancy
new name they could release that whisky right away. That’s a fairly easy
decision to make if your strategic horizon is the next fiscal quarter...
There have always been ‘no age statement’ (NAS) bottlings, but for
many years the official bottlings often came in a range of fairly standard
age varieties, for example 12 years old, 15yo, 18yo and 21yo. Older
expressions were more expensive and that was (partly) because the
longer maturation time came with extra costs for the whisky distilleries.
Thanks to the dreaded angel’s share and other factors, the ‘value’ of
whisky goes up as it gets older and most customers understood this.
Most Scotch whisky labels and packaging carried an age statement
during the 20th century. Many still do, but more and more new releases
just don’t make any specific mention of the age of the whisky any more.
The fact that many novices hadn’t developed their noses and palates yet didn’t help.
A ‘modern’ whisky tastes perfectly fine to most people - until they have had the chance to sample a malt
whisky that was produced in the 1960s or 1970s. Unfortunately, those stocks are disappearing fast...
Entire days go by without me sparing a single thought on the nephelometer - but the production of
malt whisky and other spirits would be much harder without it. This instrument measures the concentration
of particles in a liquid. People are able to estimate the ‘thickness’ of a solution based on visual cues like
cloudiness or thickness, but a nephelometer can produce much more exact results. As such, it can be
an important tool for whisky production - particularly during the mashing stage.
In Scotland it takes three years before the new make spirit that flows from the stills is allowed to call
itself Scotch whisky. The ABV of the fresh (malt) spirit from pot stills is generally a little lower than that from
(grain) spirit from column stills, but still far too high to be enjoyed comfortably by the average person.
What’s more, without the influence of the cask the bouquet and palate are not developed yet.
The use of new oak - a.k.a. virgin oak - casks for the maturation of whisky used to be illegal.
Oddly enough, new oak casks are usually cheaper than second-hand casks that used to contain bourbon
or sherry. With the whisky industry becoming ever more cost-conscience, more and more new oak is used.
The concept of English whisky is odd enough, and St. George’s distillery in Norfolk doesn’t make it any
easier for their customers to track down their products. Around the year 2000 their whisky was sold as St.
George, but nowadays they carry several brands like ‘The English’ and ‘The Norfolk’ (grain whisky).
Belgian independent bottler ‘The Nectar’ quickly became famous in the mid-noughties thanks to an active
PR strategy, but the quality of many of their releases didn’t live up to the hype. There were a few great
releases, but the majority of bottlings I’ve tried were actually sub-standard. Their prices were not though...
This may be an explanation for the fact that the company seems (mostly) dormant these days.
The neck is a part from both a pot still and a bottle - in both cases one of the upper parts.
A pot still has it’s ‘neck’ right above its fat belly - apparently stills don’t have chests. The length and slope
of the neck varies between distilleries but can be several meters long. The neck of an average bottle is
much shorter and can usually be measured in millimetres. On most bottles it’s the spot where the wide
bottom part turns into a narrow pouring funnel. The level of the whisky should be higher than the neck...
(* The old technology used for Malt Madness doesn’t allow me to present the information in the most user-friendly
way possible. Check out my new personal website for a fresh attempt at a site, covering a wider range of topics.
The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Ltd. from Japan was founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934. He learned
the art of distillation in Scotland and even picked up a Scottish bride before returning to Japan in 1920.
These days Nikka owns three distilleries; Yoichi (est. 1934) and Miyagikyo (est. 1969) in Japan and the
much older Ben Nevis distillery in Scotland. Their Scottish distillery was acquired as early as 1989.