Scotch whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years.
If a bottle of Scotch whisky shows an age statement, e.g. "12 Years Old" means that the youngest whisky in the bottle is at least 12 years old.
Scotch is bottled at a variety of ages, from 3 years to 50 years.
Grain whisky is most often used between 3 and 5 years old in blended whisky brands. It is also in demand at various other ages in blends: 5, 8, 12 years and older. Johnnie Walker Black Label and Chivas Regal 12 are both 12 year old blends whose combined case sales are over 10 million cases, or 10% of the total market. These two brands alone require high volumes of 12 year old grain whisky.
Malt whisky is used in blends from any age over 3 years old, but typically would be between 5 and 10 years old as malt matures more slowly than grain.
10% of malt is destined for bottling as ‘single malt’, i.e. the product of a single distillery bottled without the addition of any other malt or grain whisky. Age statements from 10 to 20 years are popular with consumers, but there has been a recent increase in bottlings of single malts which don’t declare an age statement.
Brand owners often point out the importance of maturing whisky in good quality casks. It is well known that different cask types (sherry, bourbon, etc.) have a significant impact on the way a whisky develops. And it is equally true that a first-fill bourbon cask will mature whisky faster, and possibly better, than a cask that is nearing the end of its useful life. But, for the majority of customers, age statements remain one of the key factors that influence their purchase decision.
Read about no-age-statement (NAS) whisky in 'NAS whisky's bold statement of taste'.