Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Does it matter – Age Statement

So there's much ado about the recent drop in the Old Weller Antique Age statement along with the change in packaging and label. There are pretty much two camps:

Wait and see what happens, but in the end, if you like what's in the bottle, does it matter.

I like an age stated bourbon and I'm mad as hell about this change….it does matter.

Where do you stand? Does the age statement on a bottle mean something to you and if so, what? Does the marketing aspect appeal to you? Does the age statement speak to a level of quality? Does it affect your purchasing decision in favor of the age statement? Is it not a factor at all?

I'll tell you where I stand. I like the age statement. I agree that taste is the important factor when it comes to bourbon and everything else is secondary, for the most part. BUT….if given a choice, I'm more apt to lean toward age stated bourbon over an NAS sitting side by side on the shelf. For the average consumer, I think price is the determining factor, e.g. more expensive means better quality. For those of us that have been around bourbon for a while, we know that's not true, Woodford Reserve 4 Grain is a good example. Some good bourbon has lost their age statement over the last number of years and to me, it's a shame. But, the market and bean counters drive change and as such, it is what it is. I wrote in my earlier blog about the OWA I recommended you grab some bottles to bunker and I think it's still good advice.

My impression in reading the various forums is that an age statement is important to the majority, and I fall into that camp. I would rather have an 8 year Old Fitzgerald 1849 than the current NAS bottling. I would also argue that when the age statement is taken off the label, and younger whiskey ends up in the bottle, taste suffers, but that's just my personal drinking opinion.

So, what say you…..matter or not matter?


  1. The age statement question has a yes and no answer for me. No I am not someone that will only buy bottles that have an age statement. There is a lot of quality out there that goes NAS. I am fine with those. If all I cared about was age statement all I would drink would be Beam. The problem is when a bottle goes from age stated to no age statement. Is BT going to cut the price of OWA because they got rid of the 7 years? NO. Time in the barrel is a major expense that is factored into the bottle and now I am paying the same for something that could be younger. I have a problem with that.

  2. I think age statement matters in bourbon but in the case of OWA it being a wheater it matters more. Wheaters do much better with more age and proof than a rye bourbon so an age statement and proof statement is very important. Don't get me wrong I like my rye bourbons with age and proof but the youth really shows in a wheater.

  3. Paul - I agree that wheated bourbon's do better with age as a general rule.

    Dan - I also agree but as I mentioned, there's been a number of age statements falling off labels of some good bourbons as well as the other factor of lowering proof. My opinion is that those changes usually reduce the quality.

  4. Yes and Yes... I know it matters and I prefer to know what the min age going in the bottle is.

    For those in the camp of "does not matter", go get a 1992 WT 8 yr, a 1994 WT Old #8, a 1997 Old #8 and a current 101.

    For the longest time the claim was "the 101 is 8yr", then it was "it averages8 yr", now you hear nothing.... try a blend 5-7s at best.

    You can have your soap box back not Greg :)

  5. I have postulated that perhaps dropping the age statement on OWA was part of a larger realignment of the BT brands. I don't know this for certain, but anecdotally it seems to fit. Here in Idaho and in Oregon (Both control states) Buffalo Trace is now about $23 a bottle, and the cost of the Weller products have increased. In Oregon OWA has increased to $25 a bottle, and in Idaho it has increased to $22. These are not insignificant increases, OWA used to be $19 in Idaho and $17 in Oregon. Percentage wise those are large changes, and it looks like they will eventually jack the weller prices above their flagship. In this way they are becoming more like Beam with their flagship as their lowest price bourbon. I think the age statements on the Van Winkle products are safe for now, since they are so ingrained in the brand imaging, and they are already top shelf prices. It will be interesting to see if over time they take all the age statements off of their mid shelf products. I think Cowdery was right when he said that WL Weller SR will be the next age statement to fall. I guess only time will tell, but the reviews of the NAS juice to date have all been very favorable. My two cents...

  6. Em - I'm in complete agreement with you. I can't think of a single label that has lost proof or age statement that was better for it. Just look at Eagle Rare and Russell Reserve for proof and Normal WT, EW 1783 or Old Fitz 1849 for age.

  7. Don - those prices reflect the state monopoly and the fact that they can charge anything they want. Take Montgomery County MD which is a county controlled ABC where the rest of the State is private retail. The county is a not for profit and as such, OWA sells for $15.85 and you're paying north of 50% increase over that. VA does the same thing by doing significant mark up on liquor as well as hitting us with the tax burden on top of that. It's rare if I shop in VA anymore, it's just too expensive.

  8. the Bourbon Crusade OWA just hit the shelves at Julio’s... and that is damn good juice. As I understand it, all of the new bottles of OWA taste really good...

    Like that of the WT Old #8, the first years were better than the last yrs of the 8 yr... marketing is an amazing thing... but just like "change you can believe in" it does not last...

  9. I just received my three bottles Em. For those who want to try out Ryan's selections go to He does a very nice job picking out the honey barrels.