Whisky inconsistencies: your experiences?
Contrary to what many people might think (and what some whisky producers might suggest), sometimes the producer’s standard offerings do change. But don’t expect them to send out press releases or run ads telling everyone.
Why would a whisky’s flavor profile change? There are many reasons, but many times it comes down to having enough whisky stocks to keep the flavor profile consistent. If there are gaps in production, or if the marketing department forces the blender to bottle more whisky than they have appropriate stocks, then the flavor profile will change and the quality might suffer.
I’ll offer a few examples of recent experiences I’ve encountered. Ardbeg 17 year old kept getting older year after year until they finally discontinued it. That’s because the Ardbeg distillery was closed for most of the 1980s, making it impossible for Ardbeg to put out a 17 year old over the past decade. The owners kept the age statement on the label the same, but the whisky got older and its flavor profile changed.
Another example I recently encountered is Pappy Van Winkle 23 year old Bourbon. When it first came out several years ago, there was a lot of oak in that whiskey–too much for balance. I tried a new bottling recently and the oak was in check, the balance was impeccable, and it really was a great example of an ultra-mature bourbon. In fact, I’ll be posting a review of it up on this blog in the near future. I still have my original example of PVW 23, and it really is quite different than the newer release.
Several years ago, a master blender gave me a bottle of his new release. He pulled me aside and said to me: “Be sure to enjoy this bottle, because after the first bottling I don’t have enough quality sherry casks to duplicate it. The next bottling won’t be the same.”
So, tell us about your experiences. Have you noticed inconsistencies in a particular whisky over the years?