Weightings In Ratings
So…wanna know how we do it?
Whiskies are graded on the following scale:
Nose /30 – This may cause a little consternation among the purists who insist whisky is a drink and therefore palate should be the primary weighting. I argue that we are ‘having a dram’ and not simply ‘drinking’. The devil is in the details, but the implication behind it is that there is more to it than simply ‘tip…swallow…sigh’. Hey…this is an overall experience and there’s simply no way around it…the nose is far more sensitive than the taste buds. I personally, and many of the more experienced whisky folk I know, spend an awful lot of time with their nose in the glass. This is as much (if not more!) of the experience in dramming as simply sipping. Finally…this allow allows a whisky to come ‘ahead by a nose’ in terms of scoring. (Terrible humor…I know).
· Flavor /25 – Of course this needed a heavy weighting as well. A whisky can’t warm our gullet without traversing the mighty tastebuds. How enjoyable the journey down is what dictates this score. Consideration for flavor, texture (‘mouthfeel’ or viscosity) and strength are all taken into account.
· Finish /20 – A good drink has to finish strong. High scores for a dram that fades on rich pleasant notes and lingers for long whiles. Conversely, one may also find bitter notes, oak-saturation and a thin quick fade on lesser malts. If a whisky takes you an hour or so to drink, simply because the flavors linger and you don’t immediately need another sip, well…you’re probably on the right path.
Balance /25 – So…at the end of the day, the real reason I do this is because I feel I have something to offer. My reviews are based on my experience. This allows me to form an opinion. This final category, the most subjective of all, is where I can award/deduct points for any and all of the following:
· Overall balance and complexity.
· Whether or not the whisky lives up to hype/price point/ostentatious presentation/previous bottling/etc.
· Simple recognition of a distillery at the apex of its powers achieving something unique, and occasionally beyond what I would be expecting.
· Preferred presentation. I’ll push my personal agenda here. Whisky should be bottled at 46% and higher (preferably cask strength) and non-chill-filtered. This will automatically earn my favor.
· Personal attestation of a favorite. Hey…my personal tastes and palate should be accounted for, if for no other reason than helping the reader recognize my tendencies and preferences which they may or may not agree with.
This break down is probably familiar to most of you. It has been slightly tweaked to meet my personal feelings about whisky, but the basic structure is fairly standard. A hundred point scale allows for the tiniest nuances to mark the difference between great and f*cking brilliant. Throw half marks into the equation and we have a very detailed scale.
Now…my personal caveat: Our noses and palates are entities unto themselves. They are moody and fickle. Bash ‘em around with a ton of salt, garlic, spices, meats, etc and they will be in a vastly different condition than early morning after a cup of black coffee. The same dram may score different marks at different times. Hopefully they would be close. Generally they are. I try to taste on multiple occasions, but sometimes this is not possible. A prime example is very old and rare whisky that circumstance may dictate is only poured in measured dose. At the end of the day…I do my best. I am fallible. I also like to be challenged. If you note differences and care to discuss…drop me a line.
Reviews, by nature, are subjective. These little jottings are meant to do nothing more than help share my impressions of the whiskies I am tasting. In turn, the fallout is to help others make informed decisions when spending their hard-earned money. You may not always agree with what I like/dislike, or for that matter even the individual notes I find, but hopefully you’ll come to recognize why I reach the impressions (and conclusions) I reach.
To date I have tasted hundreds of whiskies that run from new make spirit pulled hot from the still to the world’s oldest bottled whisky. I have tasted whisky made from different grains and from countries that span the globe. Blends, single malts, blended malts, ryes, bourbons, grains, etc. This means nothing more than that I have some experience and breadth to my knowledge. Things are always changing. I am always learning.
Most of what is reviewed here are products I have purchased, had at tasting events or had poured by friends and mates. In the interest of transparency, I make no secret that I do receive samples from time to time (though this is quite difficult in Canada), which do get reviewed here. These are generally an ounce or two in a small glass bottle, and my approach is no different than had I bought it with my own hard-earned food stamps. Hopefully the reviews here stand on their own merit, but if there are questions regarding source, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Finally…I do this because I like talking whisky. I make no money (indeed, it costs me a lot!), do not advertise (as you can see) and have never received full bottles for review. Ever.
My intentions are simply to spend my time immersed in something I love, interact with other passionate souls, drink great whisky and share what I’ve learned in hopes that others avoid some of my mistakes or may be led to a great drink. I help friends and local businesses when I can, but never at the expense of integrity. I hope the content of ATW speaks to that.
– Curt (for ATW)