On Rating Whisk(e)y

As I’ve put up more reviews on this blog, and discussed rating schemes some more with some friends, I’ve had a few changes of heart regarding both my rating scheme and my review structure. Quantifying enjoyment of whiskies is a very difficult thing to do – I sometimes wonder if simply stating a result, i.e. 87/100, is a better way of actually grading whiskies than dividing it up into divisions of smell, taste, finish, etc. With that, too, if one particular category within those divisions outshines the rest, I find it can cover for the deficiencies of others because my mind just basks in that element and has a natural tendency to ignore the deficiencies – something I try to reflect in my “conclusion” score. I don’t mind the “linear” model, of evaluating smell, taste, and finish as I do, as this is how I tend to drink my whiskies, though the enjoyment is a little more blurred than clear cut compartmentalization of the three. There are other models out there, but this I find does well to gauge a whisky for me.

Sometimes I wonder if a bigger spread is merited in my ratings. This is partially because the enjoyment of whisky isn’t necessarily linear, at least in my ratings – the difference between a 94 and a 90 is much more than that of a 74 and 70. It is difficult because I think my scores are similar to the other ratings out there. Out of curiosity I took a look at a my first 125 posted reviews (a few of them to come), I have the following distribution of ratings, with an overall average of 85.5:My first 125 Ratings I have reviewed 111 of the same whiskies as Jim Murray has, and, for these whiskies, the following graph compares my rating distribution to his:

JMAnd, similarly, for the 89 whiskies I have reviewed compared to ratings from Whisky Advocate:

WAFor the same whiskies, Jim Murray and Whisky Advocate had an average of 88.4 and 87.4, respectively, compared to my averages of 85.2 and 86.7. Thus, in this quick overview, it appears I mark my whiskies a bit lower than Jim Murray and Whisky Advocate, with more of a spread in both cases.

I frankly don’t know what a 100 would taste like, or even a 99, and I certainly don’t know what I would put as a 0, 20, or 30. I will keep my ratings consistent within themselves for now, in terms of my evaluation of which whiskies are best, but with a few changes. I haven’t been consistent at all with bottle/presentation scores, and after tasting some heavily marketed, wonderfully presented, and poor tasting whiskies – I care less and less for the bottle as an integral part of the rating scheme. And most, frankly, are decently presented – though I think all of us would like a bit more information on the actual whisky where possible. Thus, I am going to get rid of that part of the rating scheme – and even go through the effort of adjusting all my previous ratings.

The 5/100 points from the bottle and presentation score I’ll shift over to the finish, as I find 15 points out of 100 doesn’t give enough resolution for me to differentiate well enough between them and give it enough weight – this will also shift the previous scores slightly. Beyond this, I’ll change up my review format in the future (after I post the remaining 20 reviews I’ve already written) to try to better reflect overall impressions and what makes whiskies unique or special – focusing on better communicating the major players in the profiles of the whiskies rather than having a wordy description of all the detail within – I find I can’t do much better than skim my reviews as they have been previously structured. Enjoy!

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