Whisky Advocate

Which young whiskies are better than their older siblings?

August 11th, 2009

This is an offshoot of my recent blog posting on over-priced whiskies.

Give us some examples where you feel the younger (and less expensive) bottling from a distillery is actually better than the older (and more expensive) offering.

I think this is an excellent topic to discuss, because it can save a lot of people money and disappointment. I’ll get the ball rolling by starting off with four examples.

I like Macallan 18 over the 25 yr. old.

I prefer Caol Ila 12  to the 18 yr. old.

I like Suntory Yamazaki 18  more than their 25 yr. old.

And I’ll take just about any Evan Williams over their 23 yr. old offering for the export market (too much wood for me).

So, let’s see your comparisons. Include all whiskies, not just scotch. And if you can, list the prices of the whiskies too!

35 Responses to “Which young whiskies are better than their older siblings?”

  1. Kevin says:

    I prefer the Pappy 15yr over the 20yr.

  2. Yossi says:

    Great post John. I think this is another good way to get at some of those lower cost drams as it seems for every year added, the price goes up by $X.XX.

    Can’t wait to see what some people post.

    For my entry, I would take the Glenlivet 18yr over the 21 (actually, I’d take the 12yr over the 21 for that matter. Just my opinion. Love the simplicity of the 12.)

  3. jazz lover says:

    Springbank 15 over the 18 yr.

  4. I prefer the Macallan Fine Oak 25 over the 30. The same with Highland Park.

    I guess there are whiskies that are in the barrel too long and get over the top, since there are lots out there that get bad after many years.

    I am wondering whether there are whiskies below 10 years old that are better than older counterparts…

  5. smsmmns says:

    Interesting questions in recent days, John.

    While I am made slightly uncomfortable with the constant complaining about the price of luxury goods we all nonetheless choose to consume at increasing rates and thus contribute to the driving up of retail price, I have a few answers to your question (with scotch, at least):

    Old Pulteney 12($40) over 17($80)
    Glengoyne 17($65) over 21($130)
    Bunnahabhain 12($45) over 18($100)

    But are these cheaper drops “better” because we prefer to spend our money on them? I guess this brings up the contentious issue of “value” from your last post, and other posts in the past…

    Cuz I can think of even more examples I would rather spend more of my money on:

    Highland Park 18($100) over 12($40)
    Glenmorangie 18($150) over Astar($80)
    Glenfarclas 17($100) over 12($55)
    Balvenie 21($170) over 17(Rum Cask, $130)

    My liver deserves the best.

  6. Jeff H. says:

    In the same vein as Caol Ila 12 over 18 (which I agree with), I’d add Port Askaig 17 over 25 for pretty much the same reasons…lack of citrus “zest” and peat on the older expressions.

  7. WhiskyNotes says:

    I think smsmmns made a good point on quality vs. value for money. I think Balvenie 30 is better quality than the Signature 12yo, but considering the price it would be very difficult to recommend the 30 over the Signature.

    Highland Park 21yo is better value than both the 25yo and 30yo. GlenDronach 15yo is better value than 18yo. Talisker 10 is better value than Talisker 18.

  8. Jeff H. says:

    With regards to the question of perceived value as an influence on our answers…I just flat out like CI 12 over 18 and PA 17 over 25, regardless of price. The fact that the younger ones are less expensive is obviously a great bonus!

    I think taking perceived value into account, even if you technically like the older one better, takes the original question in a new direction, but it’s certainly a worthwhile conversation.

    Also, for people on “regular” budgets, you’re going to hit an across-the-board wall on value perception as soon as you jump into all of the latest super premium releases (e.g. Laph 25 for $500)

  9. Sleeping Warrior says:

    Ardbeg 2000, 6 year old at tasting, single cask and cask strength was infinately better than distillery standard 10 year old and watered down older ones. Too much water can ruin Ardbeg. The 6 year old (2000) was one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted.

  10. The mention of Laphroaig bu Jeff H. reminds me of their Quarter Cask.

    I think this is on of the best examples of value for money. The Quarter Cask is, according to me and many others, their best release. While it costs only 30 Euros (or 42 Euros for the travel retail) in the Netherlands, it is at the same price as their 10 year old.

    In my opinion the 10, Cask Strength, 15 and 18 cannot live up to expectations set by the Quarter Cask…

  11. Sam S. says:

    I like Van Winkle 15 over the 20.
    But like the other sm s, I would rather pay for HP 18 over the 12.

  12. Paul M. says:

    I’d go with the Highland Park 15 over the 18, the Ardbeg 10 over the Uigeadail, and the Glenmorangie 10 or Astar over the 25.

  13. Tony Menechella says:

    I prefer the Van Winkle 15 & 20 over the 23, though I’ve heard that the 23 has improved since the last time I tasted. I too would echo the Caol Ila 12 vs. the 18. I would like to see an expansion of this post to include the Indies and how some of their bottlings compare to the distillery bottlings; both in value and quality.

  14. Pete R. says:

    John, sometimes its hard to tell which releases are actual siblings, meaning that aging woods are at the very least similar. I have a hard time calling the Laphroaig Quarter cask the age sibling of any of their other releases as the quarter cask has clearly been aged much differently than the others. Nor do I think it 43% or 46% releases to be age siblings of cask strength releases with age statements as the latter typically have much more complex flavors. That said, I think there are plenty of simple age siblings to compare. But for my limited experience, only Laphroaig 15 over 30.

  15. @SdH: Laphroaig has been my favorite distillery for some time now, and I still like the 10yo the best. I know that many people out there prefer the QC and I suppose I am just addicted to the vanilla the 10yo delivers, but in my tastings the QC didn’t even come close to the depth I find in the 10yo.
    Anyway, I’m glad the 10yo is still more affordable around here than the QC.

  16. Neil Fusillo says:

    Let’s see…. in my opinion, some of the ones that stand out in my head are:

    -Laphroaig 10 over the 15.
    -Caol Ila 12 over the 18
    -Partial to the younger Balvenies, but they’re such a mish mash of finishes, that they’re not really siblings.
    -Bowmore 12 over the Bowmore 17
    -Jura Superstition over the Jura 16 (TECHNICALLY it’s a younger Jura sibling, although the process is a bit different)
    -Old Pulteney 12 over the 17
    -Springbank 10 over the 15

  17. Oboe says:

    As far as Scotch is concerned I think there is one in particular that stands out as almost always being better the younger it is: Rosebank. It really is a shame that such a beautiful whisky is only available in older age statements now. Though some are still fantastic, the younger expressions really are best.
    I have to express my shared opinions with most of the previous posts as well. Coal Ila’s 12 Y/O certainly stands out. Highland Park’s 12 & 15 Y/O I think are better than their older expressions – however I think this only applies to their distillery bottlings as I’ve had some amazing independently bottled older expressions. I enjoy the Dalmore 12 over the 18, as well as the Old Pulteney 12 over the 17. The Black Maple Hill 18 Y/O Rye I think is better than the 23. I like everything else in the Van Winkle line up over the 23 Y/O Bourbon. Same goes for Evan Williams. Vintage Bourbon 17 & 21 are better than the 23.

  18. John Hansell says:

    I agree with a lot that’s been said here, specifically:

    Port Askaing 17 v 25
    Vintage Bourbon 17 v 23
    Laphroaig CS 10 over the 15
    Glenmo 10 v the 25

    Tony, the Pappy VW 23 has improved significantly over the years. I have a sample from several years ago: very woody and tired. A recent sample I reviewed this past year was excellent and lacked the excessive oak.

    I’ll also add I liked the A H Hirsch 16 over the 20.

  19. I do agree with you guys on the Caol Ila 12 over the 18 & the Pappy 15yr over the 20yr.

    For me, I think the Bruichladdich 15 is better than the 18. I love the balance of sweetness and saltiness it has to offer. It’s one of my favorite daily drams.

    I would also take the Chivas 18yr over the 25yr. I honestly think the Chivas 18 is one of the best built whiskys in the industry.

  20. John Hansell says:

    Jason, I am with you 100% on the Chivas 18 v 25. That wasn’t brought up yet, but I’m glad you did!

  21. bgulien says:

    Lagavulin 12 yo Special release over the 16 yo (not less expensive ,mind)
    Bruichladdich Waves and Rocks over the more expensive B’laddies. They are just fantastic drams.
    And on a more exotic note:
    I like the Port Ellen 7th annual release better then the 8th, which is in Europe a mere $80 cheaper. The 8th isn’t worth the $80 premium. Looking forward to the 9th!!!!

  22. I like the Talisker 10 better than the 18 (God Forbid!)

    But in case anyone here is turned off of Caol Ila 18 because of the comparison to 12, I would just say that though subtle, the 18 is an absolutely wonderful scotch that I wish were easier to find.

  23. Barry J says:

    This is a great thread. Here I thought I was “puer ex gallia” as Caesar would have it. Being the novice that I am, it’s great to see so many of you seasoned enthusiasts loving the lower priced Whiskies (to “e” or not to “e”). Anyway, I recently had the Balvenie 25 ($400) and found that I certainly liked the Port 21 ($100) or the 15 yr old single barrel ($60). I suppose, the older it gets, the woodier it gets…wish we worked like that!

  24. John Hansell says:

    Very witty, Barry!

  25. Leorin says:

    I like Ardbeg 10 (L4) just as much as Lord of the Isles so it’s tie if you ask for the quality. But the LotI is at least seven times as much as the Ten.

  26. patrick says:

    Macallan 25 over 30
    Bowmore 12 over 18
    Bowmore 25 over 30
    Lagavulin 21 over 25
    Talisker 25 over 30 (in general)
    Bruichladdich under 16 are generally better than the 18-21 YO Bruichladdich
    Young Rosebank over older ones.
    BenRiach 16 over 20
    Longmorn 15 over 18
    Glenfarclas 21 over 25 and 30
    Glenfiddich 15 over 18

  27. Tony says:

    I would also kill for bottles of the Arbeg 17 or Springbank 21 of days gone by.

    I prefer the Bowmore 12 to the 17.

    I prefer the Aberlour 10 to the 16.

    Of the two Aultmore’s I have, I prefer the 11 year old picked up in Soho Whiskey in London.

    I have never had a Rosebank I did not love. This does for Port Ellen too. No matter how old either of those are, I love them each time.

    I prefer the Glenlivet Nadurra (16) to the 21 – but I find I really love cask strength whiskies as a rule of thumb.

    I don’t know if I prefer the Bunnahabhain 12 over the 18, but I don’t buy the 18 because I think the 12 is a better value. Perhaps I like the 18 more, but just don’t think it worth the price.

  28. Joe M says:

    I feel that regular Sazerac and the Thomas Handy edition beat the last couple of releases of the 18. The initial release of the 18 was one of the best things I’ve ever had, but has gone down hill after being vatted. Regular Sazerac is pure joy.

    Glenmo 10 vs Glenmo 15.

    I’m with stronglikecask on the Talisker.

    Regular Connemara beats both the 12 and the cask strength for me.

  29. mhaithaca says:

    Even before I saw you mention it, I thought of the Macallan 18 over the 25 as a good example.

    I wouldn’t say it’s better than its older siblings, but the Laphroaig 6-year is downright remarkable. Excellent for such a young malt.

  30. I prefer the Russell’s Reserve 6yo to their 10yo Rye.

    I’m also – like many here – a bigger fan of the Pappy 15 vs. the 20.

  31. Bill H. says:

    I agree with much of the above. I’d add Springbank 10 yo 100 Proof over anything short of the 21, though its profile seems to have changed, as have that of the 10 and 15, with the recent label change. (Has anyone else noticed this?)

    I prefer Yoichi 12 to 15 (and to the 10, but not to the 20).

  32. Dan Alban says:

    Surpised that no one has mentioned Elijah Craig 12 being better than EC18

    I agree with Pappy 15 over Pappy 20

    I am somewhat sympathetic to Talisker 10 over Talisker 18 – depends on the day for me

  33. Paul says:

    I second Yossi, I think the Glenlivet 18 is better than the 21yr.

  34. Chris from Greece says:

    Glenmorangie 15yo over the 18yo

    Balvenie 10yo (founder’s reserve) over the 12yo (doublewood)

    Jameson 12yo over the 18yo

    Laphroaig Cairdeas over the Quarter Cask (oops, is the QC older????)

  35. Aaron says:

    Lets go with the obvious – Talisker 10. I don’t know anybody that likes the 18 better than the 10. The other one for me is a blend – Johnnie Walker Black is better than Green (15) or Gold (18). I know they are different, but to me I’ve never been impressed with Green Label and at that price there are better whiskies – and the Gold lacks character. Kind of “not stylish” to like such a popular blend like Black Label, but hey, its damn good.

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