Whisky Myths and Legends – Part II

Monday, eleven o’clock at night. My daughter sneaks into the dark room in her socks, where she surprises me putting the finishing touches on a bucket of whiskey and Angostura that I dared to call an Old Fashioned. Daddy, I can’t sleep.” I think, quickly “like me” – i think. But that this problem would be solved as soon as I finished the glass in my hand. Why sugar? I ask, in a tone that is both affectionate and uncomfortable. What follows was a dialogue that I tried to reproduce as truthfully as possible below.

Because there is a monster under my bed but baby girl, your bed is a trundle bed, no monster can fit under there, only if it’s a planarian. Awkward silence. Dad, what is a planarian?forget it baby, there’s no monster under your bed, look, come on, I’ll show you. I rest the glass on the piano. She hesitates. But daddy, aren’t you afraid of the monster?no, little girl, i’m notbut daddy, aren’t you afraid of anything?actually, darling, I’m afraid of a lot of things, but not monsters, because they don’t exist. She turns her head to the side, like a puppy that doesn’t quite understand what one is saying – and what is there that you’re afraid of?

I think a little. I’m afraid of a lot of things. But I immediately answered an obvious one. Bills. She looks at me with interest. Is a Bill a monster? No, little girl, but a bill exists. She squints her eyes and sharpens her gaze. But – how – do – you – know – that – monster – doesn’t – exist? I give up. I don’t know, maybe monsters exist and they just ignore me because I’m as primal a life form as the planarian abovementioned. I believe in so many things that don’t exist, too.

And the world of whisky is like that too. Full of beliefs. Myths, legends, stories that are perpetrated from drinker to drinker, and that have no real basis. Some of them are as follows.


Okay, that’s easy. It’s not, and Red Label isn’t seven or eight years old either. Both are, in fact, what is known as NAS – No Age Statement.

According to the rules of the Scotch Whisky Association, for a Scotch whisky to be called “scotch whisky” it must – among other rules – spend three years in oak barrels of no more than seven hundred liters. But, normally, the age is higher than this. When whiskies from different casks are blended, the producer must put the age of the youngest whisky on the label. So if you mix a ten year with a twenty year, the label will say ten year. Or not.

Or not because the producer has the option of not declaring age. In this case, we do not know exactly how old the youngest component is. But we know that, as a rule, it must be more than three years. And both Blue Label and Red Label fall under this rule. But it’s obvious that they’re not the same age. Sensorially, Blue indicates that it has much more mature whiskies. Including grain whiskies that must have spent a long time in oak barrels – that’s why it doesn’t have those sharp edges, which we find in some other blends.

Whether the price is worth it or not is up to each drinker to decide. However, it is worth remembering that the “no age statement” is a market trend, and that there are fantastic whiskies that do not have any number printed on the label, such as Macallan Reflexion, Dalmore King Alexander III and Bruichladdich Classic Laddie.


This is a complicated legend. Because, to be honest, we don’t really know where it came from. We suspect this is a prejudice borrowed from the world of pure malt beer – that is, made from 100% malted barley. Many of the beers we know and that are widely consumed in Brazil contain a large proportion of corn in their recipes – up to 45%. Others, however, use only malted barley. The latter tend to be fuller-bodied and, due to production costs, also significantly more expensive.

Over time, and because of this market positioning, the brewer who went through pseudo-enlightenment starts to despise corn beer – for him, it is synonymous with a cheap drink, simply smooth and without any complexity or flavor. In fact, not just pure malt. Wheat is also valid, rye, triticale, buckwheat, oats, rice, anything. It just can’t be corn. And then, as whiskey is basically a distilled beer, one thing leads to another, and, out of nowhere, corn in whiskey is bad.

The fallacy is actually blaming the corn. There are incredible beers made from corn – although the cereal is well used for simpler beers – as well as whiskies. Pappy Van Winkle bourbon whiskey, the most desired in the United States, with bottles that can easily reach thousands of dollars in price, has a predominance of corn in its mashbill (recipe). Just like Woodford Reserve, a bourbon well loved by enthusiasts. So here, the summary is – there is no point in simplifying. It’s not the corn’s fault, but of whoever manufactures the whisky. There are also dreadful single malts, too.


This is a myth that, in large part, was fostered by the scotch whisky industry itself. And that, later – due to enormous demand and scarcity of highly matured stock – had to be denied.

Maturation is a very important stage in whiskey production. Some sensory characteristics only emerge over time. And a lot of time – especially those characteristics brought about by oxidation. Oxygen, present in the air, reacts with certain components of the drink. It is the esters, thiols and phenols that provide some of those pleasant aromas in their preferred dose, and which lose or gain strength with oxidation, depending on their nature.

Whiskies, while maturing in barrels, oxidize. They are in constant contact with the air, due to a gap in the barrels. And this element directly influences its flavor. Even though other tricks to accelerate maturation are employed – such as, for example, the use of quarter casks – the flavor profile provided by decades in a barrel cannot be simulated in any other way.

Time softens some characteristics, too. Peated whiskies, for example, are sensorially more peated when they are young. Over time, a process of degradation of phenols occurs. Which is a physical-chemical process, and can happen through oxidation, absorption, extraction, etc. Furthermore, with the increase in the influence of wood, the phenols become more discreet.

Finally, there is a matter of balance. A whisky that uses a very strong cask – a first fill of sherry, for example – reaches its break-even point very quickly. The balance point is where, sensorially, the new-make spirit can be felt as much as the barrel. Nothing overlaps.

So, in short, age does not equal quality. It depends on the subject. If you want an extremely peated and alcoholic whisky, for example, it’s best to bottle it young. If you use a very powerful barrel, too. This is the case of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (for the first example) and Aberlour A’Bunadh, for the second.


Sorry if I’m aggressive. If you keep an ordinary thing for thirty years, it will not become extraordinary because of time. It will continue to be an ordinary thing. Old and ordinary. So, here, the answer is quite simple – only extraordinary whiskies, with real collectible value, really rare and desired, tend to increase in value. Simpler whiskies, which were widely sold, have no collecting value. It’s a simple matter of economics, considering supply and demand. A whisky will only appreciate in value if the supply is lower than the demand for it.

Not worth much.

A parallel can easily be drawn with automobiles. Some old cars are extremely desired and sought after. They are those who broke paradigms, or who marked an era with innovative design or creative engineering solutions. The Mercedes-Benz Gullwing, for example, the Hemi-Cuda or the Corvette Stingray. They were rare cars that became even rarer, each for their own reasons. The Marea Turbo, however, will remain just a Marea Turbo. Until it catches fire.

Likewise, a Ballantine’s Finest or a Pinwinnie Royale haven’t changed much in price. A Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition or a Brora – whose distillery closed in the 80s, however – increased in value incredibly. There are a few exceptions, such as White Horse from the sixties, but they only confirm the rule.

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