Di Blasi wrote:Mr. Murray's high rating of a "92," (for example), is what catches my initial attention when I research if I should purchase a bottle. I'll read further about how he rated that whisky, the characteristics which gave this score to help my final decision of purchasing or not. His rating system, whether we use it or not, or even understand it, just makes it easy for us humans; (we like an easy to understand numerical rating system: "hi=good, low=bad!") to help us move towards a negative or positive vote. It's similar to a restaurant or movie that receives top accolades...
The above point did catch my attention. It sounds to me like JM's ratings serve you well when trying to understand what a whisky is about Di Blasi. Descriptive terms would serve me better than numerical ratings as I'm not sure what a 23/25 for nose means. I'll give an example why I find his reviews hard to understand.
I recently bought 3 bottles of 20yr Brora (Rare Malts) @ $135 each, and wanted to know more about what I'll be drinking in the future. I figured at $135/per for 20yr CS bottlings even a sub-par bottling (based on expectations) would still be good value, and because there is only so much Brora around, I may not get an opportunity to grab Brora on sale again. So I look up the entry in the Whisky Bible, and here's what it says...
"Brora Rare Malt 20 Years Old dist 82, db. (89) N21, T23, F22, B23. A characterful little soul with an improbable honey theme. Though lacking the smoke that the average Brora lover demands, it offers other sweet glories. 58.1%"
So what I get from this is that it's more honeyed and less smokey that other Broras, and has some sweetness. Other than this, I infer from the marks that he likes the nose slightly less than the other attributes. His rating of 89 translates to "very good to excellent whiskies definatly worth buying" on the scorechart on page 8.
My problem is as follows: I've only had one Brora before (two 1/4 oz samples) so I can't really compare to other Broras. Lacking this basis for comparison, I'm not sure what "more honeyed, less smokey than other Broras" means. I realize JM likes the whisky and thinks it's worth buying according to the score he gave it, but why does he think this?
I'm not sure what " characterful little soul means" without some sort of context. And although I understand from the scores on nose, taste, finish, and balance that he likes all aspects of the dram, I'm not sure if I would. On one hand, JM likes his Ardbegs and his pure pot still whiskies which I also like. I also respect his choice of Alberta Premium which I think outclasses most whiskies at its price point although I don't think it compares to SMs or most bourbons. On the other hand, his higher ratings for regular blends over malts means we have different preferances.
So I'm left with a general impression that he likes the 20yr Brora, but I'm not really sure why. I find that MJ's style is easier for me to understand as I far prefer descriptions. There are certain whiskies that JM does go into depth about, and these are worth reading. But I still can't get the " malt battling with the grain" description which I get a few times in this book.
Overall, I think there's great potential for me to reexamine some blends like Grants and Bells due to this book. And I really do want to try BNJ. And I understand that he can't get super decriptive with every entry - there's just too many. And for me, that's the crux of the thing. The strength and
weakness of his book. So many whiskies reviewed that I'm sure I'll be able to use it some time during LCBO sales. But the lack (generally) of in-depth notes means that info on any one expression can get skimpy.