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rating whisky

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rating whisky

Postby Marvin » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:21 am

Do you rate whisky out of 100 like the professionals? I dont really see how it's possible to do that. How do you define what 90%, 80%, 70% etc is?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:33 am

I couldn't possibly, and I no longer pay very much attention to such ratings. They simply aren't meaningful to me. It's like saying Guernica is a 96, but The Night Watch is only a 92. I can enjoy art, or whisky, and even like one better than another, without trying to force them onto a scale of comparison. Of course, if Jim Murray says Saskatchewan Super rates a 99.5, it will catch everyone's attention, including mine, and will foster some discussion as to what that's all about. But ultimately I don't much care.
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Re: rating whisky

Postby Lawrence » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:46 am

Marvin wrote:Do you rate whisky out of 100 like the professionals? I dont really see how it's possible to do that. How do you define what 90%, 80%, 70% etc is?


Why don't you see why it's possible?

I heard of lots of people who do and can and often rate whiskies myself (but I'm not a professional nor do I play one on TV).

It's actually quite simply and it's become it's easier with experience.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:05 am

It's easy to develop criteria for rating anything you want, but it provides an arbitrary and incomplete picture at best, and I have found it to be an entirely unsatisfactory predictor of whether I will actually like a whisky or not. Even if I myself developed such criteria, the scores I came up with would still be a poor predictor! "Guernica shockingly short of tonal variety and balance." The only way to know is to drink.
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:08 am

I wasn't asking you Mr Jet Lag.

:wink:
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Postby Thesh » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:18 am

Ratings for something like this never work out. To get an accurate rating, you would need to base it off of an average of 100 people who have similar tastes to yourself. Even rating based on style is ineffective. If you don't like a style, you might like a dram that tries to go for that style, but executes it poorly to the point where it is something that fits your tastes. Liquor is too subjective to put much into ratings.
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Postby Drrich1965 » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:55 am

For me, rating is just a fun way part of the process; it is one of the ways I compare. In my excell spreadsheet, I do rate each whisky I taste, but I also write tasting notes, thoughts, comments and context. Is it "objective" or "relaible"? Of course note, but it is part of the fun.

I use a hybrid of what others have done. 90s are the greats, 85 and up are highly reccomendable, 80 reccomendable, 75 average, 65-75 are flawed, but drinkable. Below that, we are getting rough.

Do I take ratings too seriously? No, but I enjoy having it as part of the whole whisky experience...If it adds to your pleasure, great. If it gets in the way, than no need.
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Postby Di Blasi » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:53 pm

As moods and tastes and such change, I don't rate whiskies either. I just have favorites among my open bottles and current "what am I drinking now?" And of course, in months and years to come, I'll remember "Wow, I really enjoyed that whisky!" But if I were to taste it again today, perhaps it wouldn't be as good as I remember it. I guess for me it's more of a Zen thing, enjoy now, tomorrow there may be no more whisky to enjoy! And can you imagine going back to your tasting notes years later, to select your top rated whisky, only to find you must've been drunk from it, cause it today gets half the rating you gave it so many years before. We change, and our tastes do too. I remember Jim Murray re-tasting some of his top scoring whiskies, only to show them losing huge points, almost becoming undesireable!
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Re: rating whisky

Postby corbuso » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:12 pm

Marvin wrote:Do you rate whisky out of 100 like the professionals? I dont really see how it's possible to do that. How do you define what 90%, 80%, 70% etc is?


You can rate whiskies like you want. The only recommandation is to be consistent with your ratings, otherwise they are not very useful. I would also recommend you to go back time to time to your "standards" in order to avoid bias and you should try to taste your whiskies in the same conditions.

Personally, I always taste my whiskies at home, with the same glases, at around the same time and before eating anything.

Rating or scoring whiskies is might be quite subjectives. Therefore, one should not only look at the scores but also at the tasting notes. The rating of one whisky is very personal. One might like very sherried whisky, one will rate better the peaty ones and so forth.

Rating helps you to make your choice, but the final choice is up to you.

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Re: rating whisky

Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:39 pm

corbuso wrote:Personally, I always taste my whiskies at home, with the same glases, at around the same time and before eating anything.


I taste whisky at home, in pubs and restaurants, on distillery tours, at other people's houses, atop the Goat Fell in Arran and along the Big Strand in Islay. (Not really on the last two, but I wish I had.) I use the same glass at home, but get a wide variety elsewhere. I dram before eating, after eating, late at night, at 10:30am on the 9:30 tour.

Okay, I'm being intentionally obtuse; I know you mean when you are rating. And I apologize for going on a bit of a jag about this lately. I'm feeling very contrary since I got home! But I firmly believe that whisky is a part of life, not apart from it; it's about taste and enjoyment, not chemical analysis. Dancing, not dissection! Context is everything, and removing any living thing from the atmosphere in which it swims just kills it. That's why I simply can't see any point in trying to rate whiskies. Can any esthetic experience be reduced to numbers? Of course not. Why try to objectively quantify what is such a gloriously subjective experience? Drink it in, bathe in it, revel in it, love it, hate it, live it. It's the Water of Life. I am not a number, I'm a free dram! (Okay, I'm losing it....)

Disclaimer: This is how I feel, and I in no way want to say that others should feel the same. If "objective" analysis and numerical rating are part of the way you enjoy whisky, no one can say you are wrong to do it. As well, I freely admit to reading (and promptly forgetting) all of the ratings in the back of Whisky Magazine. But it's a poor substitute for having a real live dram! I'd rather listen to Beethoven than analyze the waveforms on an oscilloscope.
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Postby bamber » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:05 pm

Numerical ratings are inevitable. If you prefer whisky 'a' to whisky 'b', but like it the same as whisky 'c', they score: a=2, b=1, c=2. As one compares more and more whiskies a comparitive scale evolves naturally.

Perhaps it is more helpful to think of relative ratings as being indicative of the likelihood, an individual will enjoy one whisky over another.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:07 pm

bamber wrote:Perhaps it is more helpful to think of relative ratings as being indicative of the likelihood, an individual will enjoy one whisky over another.


But that's exactly why I stopped being interested in numerical ratings--because they aren't indicative of the likelihood I will enjoy a dram, no way, no how. The things being quantified--nose, palate, finish, balance, to take Murray's system--are a spectrographic slice of the whisky experience, and placing equal weight on those four narrow abstracts for every whisky makes no sense to me. If I had Murray's incredible palate and used his criteria, I would no doubt rank Alberta Premium as a superior experience to Balvenie 15, as he does (I presume--I don't have his ratings handy). But I know which one I'd rather drink, by far, and I am unable and unwilling to devise any sort of logical system for translating that preference into a numerical ranking. I look at other people's ratings, to be sure, but I'm much more interested in what they have to say in support of their ratings than in any actual numbers. People's opinions are interesting! Ranking and rating are distractions. I've been asked several times lately what my "favorite" malt is, and the question is absurd to me--I like the range of malts, to try different things. If I rated them all, I could easily name the one that rated highest, but, to trot out the old cliche, that would be like naming my favorite child based on, say, school grades (not an issue for a childless bachelor!). It really has no meaning.

I hope I'm not coming across as hopelessly cranky here--I'm going on and on because I think this is an interesting topic (Good on ya, Marvin!). I'm perfectly happy to have some spirited opposition! I'd like to think that a newbie, or anyone not sure how he feels about things like this, can read this and feel that he doesn't have to rate and rank, or even make detailed notes, to enjoy a dram, and be passionate about whisky, and hang out here and talk about it with the rest of us. Obviously, many here like to do those things. There's no wrong way to enjoy whisky, although there are certainly some that make many of us cringe! I guess the message is be true to yourself. And be prepared to defend yourself! :P
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Postby jimidrammer » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:17 pm

I write notes and rate Whisky for the fun of it. Not everyone has the same idea of fun. It started out as a way of keeping track and evolved into a part of the hobby. I sometimes look forward to opening a new bottle and writing about it as much as sitting down with an old favorite. As far as how to score, I use the A,B,C,D,F method from my school days. Anything below 59 is a failed grade.
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Postby jimidrammer » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:19 pm

Hey, I became a Gold member with that last post. But what's in a number, right :wink:
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:32 pm

Tattie - I agree with some of what you say. The fundamental point is that everyone's taste is different. I found MJ's tasting notes of less avlue than JMs because I couldn't agree with his heirarchy of scoring whiskies. With JM, I broadly agree, although I think he has an obvious bias towards peat and Ardbeg (+ Glenmorangie and Glen Moray). Provided I factor this into my reading, I find him a reliable guide for my palate.

I find tasting notes enhance my appreciation of whisky - whether I read someone else's notes or make my own. Sometimes I just make my own mentally. I think it helps to be able to name the various flavours and aromas - somehow the naming alows me to capture them more fully. I'm happy to accept that a lot of it is power of suggestion, and sometimes I seem to detect the same flavour over and over again for a week or so. For example, I got chocolate constantly at Whisky Fringe and I was interested to see Gordon got cola cubes on most of his 1965s the other night. Perhaps we pick it up because we were primed to look for it, perhaps it really is there and is just coincifdence. The point is that it makes for a more enjoyable session IMO.

When I do tasting notes, I tend to do aroma, palate and finish - copying shamelessly from JM. I don't score, though. I think scores are more relevant if you are tasting in order to recommend to others and I normally taste for my own enjoyment. I am sure different people have different scales, but what matters is that they use them consistently. I do wonder, though, whether a scale from 1-100 is really necessary if people only use the 80-95 within the range.
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Postby bamber » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:41 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:But that's exactly why I stopped being interested in numerical ratings--because they aren't indicative of the likelihood I will enjoy a dram, no way, no how.


Are you sure though. If we sat you down with the bottom 100 single malts in JM's book and the top 100 malts, don't you think you'd be more likely to enjoy a larger proportion of the top ones more ?

MrTattieHeid wrote:If I had Murray's incredible palate and used his criteria, I would no doubt rank Alberta Premium as a superior experience to Balvenie 15, as he does (I presume--I don't have his ratings handy). But I know which one I'd rather drink, by far, and I am unable and unwilling to devise any sort of logical system for translating that preference into a numerical ranking.


So you like Balvenie 15 more than Alberta Premium. For simplicities sake let's say you score them 85 and 75 respectively :D

MrTattieHeid wrote:I hope I'm not coming across as hopelessly cranky here--I'm going on and on because I think this is an interesting topic (Good on ya, Marvin!). I'm perfectly happy to have some spirited opposition! I'd like to think that a newbie, or anyone not sure how he feels about things like this, can read this and feel that he doesn't have to rate and rank, or even make detailed notes, to enjoy a dram, and be passionate about whisky, and hang out here and talk about it with the rest of us. Obviously, many here like to do those things. There's no wrong way to enjoy whisky, although there are certainly some that make many of us cringe! I guess the message is be true to yourself. And be prepared to defend yourself! :P


Of course I agree with you here. In fact I find 'tasting' rather than drinking whiskies can spoil the experience. I generally will taste a whisk(e)y formally once and then stop worrying about it. I realised the other day that I've never done notes for one of my all time favourites - Van Winkle Rye. In fact I could not describe it to you now. Except that it is delicious :D
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:01 pm

bamber wrote:So you like Balvenie 15 more than Alberta Premium. For simplicities sake let's say you score them 85 and 75 respectively :D


Okay...so all whiskies I really, really like are 95; all those I really like are 85; those that I like okay are 75; those I can stomach are 65; and Alberta Premium is 52 3/4. There! That was easy! :P
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Postby Marvin » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:14 pm

I dont have a problem with people rating whisky but out of 100? Come on! Out of 10 or 20 maybe but 100 is just over the top.
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Postby Scotchio » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:17 pm

I sometimes try to do ratings but they are totally unreliable. eg I thought my last Ardbeg 10 was ok when I opened it 82pts but by the end of the bottle it was superb 92pts. My palate and tastes are pretty variable to. It does beg the question how reliable are one off ratings from a freshly opened bottle even from an "expert" like JM
Having said that I'm waiting for my new Bible and no doubt will seek out the higher rated examples ahead of the others especially if the Maniacs ratings and every other buggers are pretty positive aswell.
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Postby bamber » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:29 pm

Marvin wrote:I dont have a problem with people rating whisky but out of 100? Come on! Out of 10 or 20 maybe but 100 is just over the top.


Yeh but if you only rate them up to 10, you get to 10 and you've got nowhere to go, but with a 100 whiskies can be a whole lot better. ;)
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:31 pm

Marvin wrote:I dont have a problem with people rating whisky but out of 100? Come on! Out of 10 or 20 maybe but 100 is just over the top.


Well, that doesn't trouble me at all. (I really am very contrary today.) If you rate one whisky an 8 and another a 9, and then a third falls in between, it's 8 1/2. Next thing you know, it's 8.7 and 8.8 out of 10, which is the same as 87 and 88 out of 100. And if you rate something 8 3/4, that's 8.75...now you're scoring out of 1,000! But if a simple scale works for you, that's fine with me (quite aside from my philosophical problem with scoring at all). Hey, sooner or later you're going to have a dram of Glen Spinaltap--it goes up to 11!
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Scoring Whisky

Postby Wendy » Thu Nov 02, 2006 7:21 pm

Hi Marvin,
The professional tasters in the industry apply a formula to scoring whiskies. It may be helpful to understand that when, for example, Jim Murray scores a whisky out of 100, he has broken 100 into four factors with a rating of 25 given to nose, taste, finish and balance. The total of each category provides the overall score that is placed on each whisky sampled.

Cheers,

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Postby Marvin » Thu Nov 02, 2006 8:26 pm

How can you even rate each of those out of 25??
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:21 pm

Marvin wrote:How can you even rate each of those out of 25??


25 is heaven. 0 is hell. Everything falls somewhere in between. I don't understand the problem, Marvin! Nor do I understand how I ended up on this side of the discussion. :? I don't see the point in scoring whiskies at all, but if you choose to, what difference does it make how big the scale is? People use whatever scale they think allows them to make meaningful differentiations. If your level of appreciation is simply "like/don't like", all you need is 0-1. If you have tasted hundreds of whiskies and find many different levels of flavor and appreciation, you will necessarily want more gradation. I'm not sure why you find that difficult.
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Postby DramMeister » Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:05 pm

I found MJs and then JMs ratings very useful when I was taking my first stumbling steps into the world of malt whisky.
For example, I occasionally (approx annually) go with some whisky buddies to a pub that has over 400 whiskies. The first time we went, it was overwhelming, and pretty much picked randomly - although we discovered 3 greats - mortlach 16 clynelish 14 and longmorn 15 - that I hadn't been familar with.
On the next two visits, I research thoroughly beforehand, and tried many new, and highly rated - by MJ and JM - malts.
Now, however, I think I have just about enough knowledge to find my way round all those malts - but I'm sure I'll take both books with me just to get some ideas...

Having said all that - I don't rate whiskies myself, but I sometimes make tasting notes.
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:27 am

Marvin wrote:How can you even rate each of those out of 25??


On your scale it would be 2.5
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Re: rating whisky

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:26 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:
That's why I simply can't see any point in trying to rate whiskies. Can any esthetic experience be reduced to numbers? Of course not.




Sorry to burst your bubble but welcome to the Matrix :lol:


MrTattieHeid wrote:


Disclaimer: This is how I feel, and I in no way want to say that others should feel the same. If "objective" analysis and numerical rating are part of the way you enjoy whisky, no one can say you are wrong to do it. As well, I freely admit to reading (and promptly forgetting) all of the ratings in the back of Whisky Magazine. But it's a poor substitute for having a real live dram! I'd rather listen to Beethoven than analyze the waveforms on an oscilloscope.



Should use that as your sig .....


.... but is anything real :twisted: (Sorry back to the Matrix again :lol: )
Last edited by irishwhiskeychaser on Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:32 am

I do score .... :shock: however I go for a simpler version.

I personally score mine out of 10.

No marks for nose, taste or finish eventhough I do the notes for referal on style of whisk(e)y

My score is X out of 10 for total enjoyment. And wether I would want to replace.
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Postby Wendy » Fri Nov 03, 2006 2:15 am

At this stage, I am becoming more comfortable with writing my personal tasting notes than scoring whiskies. I still don't quite understand the principles behind that formula. But, I also thought three years ago that I would never be able to write tasting notes. And saying that, most of my tasting notes, I just keep to myself or share with my close whisky friends. I enjoy "tasting" whiskies and tasting "blind" is tremendous fun for me. The experts do provide more than food for thought; for example, if you don't like rye whiskies than a high score is going to seem absurd. But, this is where the experts help me to take that leap into uncharted territory. I personally think it is not about loving it or hating it, but more about expanding my repetoire into the world of whiskies. If Mr. Murray rates Alberta Premium with a score that rivals a beloved Balvenie than, yes, I want to taste it. I want to know what all the fuss is about. But I also want to understand that it is about the quality of a true rye whisky that is being laid on the table. Would I have known that without the guidance of Mr. Murray, absolutely not. Within that knowledge, if my tastebuds or papillae agree or disagree seems less important.
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Fri Nov 03, 2006 2:26 am

Totally agree Wendy ... I think alot of people do not fully understand JM's tasting notes & methods and to be quite honest I do not blame them in a sence but I reckon that the guy is trying to be as honest as he can be. However sometimes I think that is JM's own fault for being too objective .....
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Postby Admiral » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:47 am

Surely scoring is only for one's own clarification and point of reference?

For example - Jim Murray's scores are pretty meaningless to anyone who dislikes Ardbeg. Likewise, Michael Jackson's scores are meaningless to anyone who dislikes Macallan.

Your palate is your palate, and their palates are their palates.

However, I DO find my own ratings helpful, and if I score a whisky at 7.5 or 8 out 10, then I know when I look at my notes two years later that it was a good whisky and I enjoyed it.

Whether that means anyone else is likely to enjoy it is irrelevant. :)

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Postby TheLaddie » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:50 am

I rate whiskies out of 2: "Yes please" and "No thanks"

This is basically because I have a relatively unsophisticated palate and nose. I am getting more out of my whiskies nowadays (practice...). People like Jim Murray and Michael Jackson can score whiskies out of 100 because of their experience and memory but it is all subjective. You only have to read the tasting pages of Whisky Magazine to see how subjective it is. How often do you see both reviewers describe the same flavours and aromas in their reviews of the same whisky? If the pros can't agree why should we mere plebs worry if we can't pick out the chocolate and honeycomb in Uigeadail?

Would I choose a whisky scoring 94 over one that scored 92 in a book? Frankly I'm not gonna notice the difference in quality. You are a better man than I if you can.
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Postby Admiral » Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:19 am

Frankly I'm not gonna notice the difference in quality. You are a better man than I if you can.


Thank you, you're very kind! :wink: :D
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Postby TheLaddie » Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:27 am

Admiral wrote:
Thank you, you're very kind! :wink: :D


Yes I am. Feel free to buy me a drink. :P
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Nov 03, 2006 7:16 am

Hooray! Some excellent dialogue, and interesting points of view. I would like to say that I find valid argument even from those who disagree with the points I've made; I don't really consider it so cut-and-dried.

Wendy wrote:Within that knowledge, if my tastebuds or papillae agree or disagree seems less important.


Wendy, what could possibly be more important than what you like? I want to know what the fuss is about, too, and furthering one's knowledge is a noble aim--I consider, for example, the hideous dram of Littlemill I once had a most worthwhile experience--but if you think, as I do, that Alberta Premium tastes like kerosene, of what possible relevance to you would Murray's high opinion be? (Okay, it was witch hazel.) Of course we are all interested to hear what the "experts" say, and we love to match our own opinions against theirs. Yes, we can learn from them. But surely you are beyond needing an avatar for your whisky journey, which is after all your own. And more to the point, of what relevance is the lousy number, and the artificial and arbitrary method of arriving at it? If Murray says AP is marvelous, yes, I want to know why; and of course I am free to agree or disagree. But the attempt to quantify the quality of experience with a number is a meaningless exercise. Even in Murray's supposedly objective system, all a high number means is that he likes it. Is Ardbeg 10 really well balanced? Of course not! Why should it be? It is what it is, and we love it for that, or hate it.

irishwhiskeychaser wrote:However sometimes I think that is JM's own fault for being too objective .....


Rubbish! (With all respect, iwc.) Tasting whisky is an inherently subjective experience. Certainly he tries to be objective, but it's simply not possible, and it smacks of what someone described as a "lab mentality". If someone presented you with a chemical analysis of whiskies and said it showed that you should prefer an Inchmore 10 over a Glen Googly Bait Barrel, would you accept it? Of course not--you must taste for yourself. Likewise, if Jim Murray really could use his nose and palate to provide us with objective data, it wouldn't be of any real use to us. What he can do, what he does do, is tell us what he likes, and why. And actually, he's quite good at that, and it is proper food for thought and discussion. But it all must be taken on the understanding that it is his experience, that none of us can share entirely. The notion that a score of 95 objectively signifies anything is misguided.

I'm sorry, it's late here, and I'm afraid I'm not being very cogent anymore. Let's come back tomorrow and argue some more. This is the best thread we've had in ages! Great fun.
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