How does a whisky prove its age?

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Some whiskies are losing their age statements while others are bringing age statements back due to pressure from customers and commentators alike. Whatever the current fashion there is no denying that old whiskies with an age statement are demand consistently high prices. So here’s a question – when you buy a bottle, how do you know the whisky inside is actually the age it claims to be? How does a whisky provide proof of age?

To answer this question I asked artisan blenders and champions of transparency Compass Box Whisky. This is the very same Compass Box who last year broke EU law by disclosing the age of every component part of their This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart releases. In response they launched a transparency campaign asking that producers be permitted, but not obliged, to tell customers the age of every whisky in the bottle.

I asked Elif Yontucu, Operations Manager at Compass Box, how they verify the age of the whisky that goes in to their blends. This is what she said:

“There are strict controls in place regarding the age or age of youngest spirit (AYS). Spirit (whisky) cannot move without the knowledge of ‘’date of filling to wood’’ and customs and our bottler would check this at the point of receipt of casks”.

“When we purchase casks from our suppliers, there is a transfer of ownership which is recorded on paper. This includes age of cask (fill date) and litres of alcohol in that particular cask. This information is then sent to our bottler and they record this in their system. They won’t be able to receive any casks without the ‘’fill date’’ information. So when casks from different ages are blended, they record the age of the youngest cask used in that blend”.

“Once bottled both customs in the UK and customs at any borders spirit crosses can ask for evidence of AYS which can be provided by the manufacturer of the whisky. I am told by our bottler that many auditors from official bodies and from their customers would also check this on a regular basis as well as trading standards and the Scotch Whisky Association”.

So there you have it. It turns out there are a lot of check and balances in place to ensure that producers, bottlers and distributors can verify the age of their whisky. Thanks to Compass Box for being so informative!

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