Shaken Not Stirred:
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We Need to Talk… About Whiskey Ratings
So… we need to talk, and nothing good ever comes from that opening line. It’s true, though. Let’s talk about whiskey reviews. There are related resources you can visit that have 75% of their scores landing somewhere between 88 and 95. While we know and understand that whiskey is good… they are not all created equal. Scoring a majority of whiskey reviews across a seven--point spread is a little dishonest and mostly useless. Kind of like chill filtration.
We DO NOT do that here.
This is not going to be a published guideline on how we rate whiskey. Take it more as a glimpse at the basic framework. Quite honestly, the secret sauce is our experts. They don’t all agree, and we often have to split up tense arguments in the break room. On top of that, there’s a lot of heat and bellyaching that comes in the door from readers when reviews are published. Heaven forbid that we review your favorite bottle at anything less than the 100--point fluffer job you want. As if.
Here’s the deal, our goal is to use as much of the scale as possible without going off the rails. Why? Because we want you know that there are differences in the whiskey we review, no matter how slight. This makes for a greater context of comparison in our reviews. For example, you can watch the evolution of scores across several batches of whiskey.
We know what you’re thinking and can hear the groaning already. Yes, that’s right… it’s helpful when dealing with craft and smaller distillers. We can talk about craft distillers all we want because we can and happen to enjoy doing so. Hell, some of these smaller distillers might be near you. Go try them! Not only are comparisons across their batches interesting, but it’s also fun to put them against small batch bourbon like Bookers and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. So there.
In the interest of disclosure, there are truckloads of whiskey being sent to us to review. We simply cannot keep up with the demand to consume and review the bottles. Not really, that is complete rubbish. However, we do get a few bottles for free, and we won’t compromise the integrity of our reviews for free whiskey. Maybe. The truth is a closely guarded trade secret.
As we look across all the reviews that we have done, our average score is about 78 – 80. Not too shabby, all things considered. Over time, we have reviewed things like Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, and William LaRue Weller. Once in a blue moon we get a hold of something exotic like Laphroaig 28--year. Neener, neener.
To date, there have only been 1 or 2 reviews that scored below 60. This is because after we tasted them, we didn’t want to drink them. Neither should you. There have been a few superb offerings that scored above 90. Bottom line, we want to show you how different everything can be and give you some great recommendations along the way.
All of that being said, here’s the scale we use for our reviews. The dreaded ugly truth about the bottles you love.
● 90 -- 100: Absolutely amazing, among the best whiskeys on the market
● 80 -- 89: Excellent, worth having a bottle or six on hand
● 70 -- 79: A really good whiskey, worth keeping around recommending to others
● 60 -- 69: An enjoyable whiskey, best enjoyed at a bar or purchased on sale
● 50 -- 59: Totally average, not off-putting, but certainly unexciting
● 0 -- 49: Varying degrees of bad, limited positive qualities, mostly flawed, and sometimes completely undrinkable; smash the bottle and scrape my tongue (DO NOT TRY THIS)
The scale is based on tasting a neat pour. Sure, we might add a few drops of water (GASP!), but that is (mostly) an accepted practice. The point is to see how it stands on its own. If something is really not good, we might recommend that you use it in a cocktail, but most of us believe in using quality ingredients in them. Sure, flaws can be covered up in fancy cocktails and you can get away with pawning mediocre whiskey off on unsuspecting guests. Well, WE WILL KNOW SO DON’T DO THAT CRAP TO US.
Bottom line: reviewing whiskey is not an exact science. The trick is to find one of our reviewers that you find the same aromas and flavors as their reviews state. Again, we don’t all agree with one another. That actually benefits you in a very big way because you stand a better chance of finding someone you agree with.
It’s whiskey and supposed to be fun. Enjoy it. Also, don’t get butthurt when we don’t review your favorite bottle the same way you feel. It’s whiskey business, not personal.
Robert (with extra snark courtesy of Mark)