Not a member? - Register and login now.
All registered users can read our entire magazine archive.

How influential are the whisky reviewers?

All your whisky related questions answered here.

How influential are the whisky reviewers?

Postby Scotchio » Sun Jul 08, 2007 9:17 pm

Just curious to know the thoughts of other members on this. Given that Jackson's Whisky Companion is many peoples 1st port of call when they discover malts and that Jackson tends to rate whiskies with bigger flavour profiles most highly, especially peated or sherried malts to what extent do you think this book has shaped your own and others ideas of what makes a good or complex whisky.
Scotchio
Gold Member
 
Posts: 803
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2005 10:06 pm
Location: devon uk

Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Jul 08, 2007 10:56 pm

I think you've hit the nail on the head--for most of us, Jackson was indeed the first writer to influence our thinking to any great degree. As we get further into the experience, we learn, not to dismiss Jackson, but to take a wider variety of viewpoints into consideration. Finally, I think we learn to trust our own judgment above all others'.

And yes, Jackson's views fit very well with the natural inclination of relative novices to seek bold flavors and broadly distinct variety. I can recall thinking that there were a few really distinctive malts, and a whole lot of things that tasted pretty much the same. I'm a little more sophisticated than that now (I hope!), and, more important, I have a bit of an inkling of just how much more there is for me to learn...and a vague sense that that inkling may just be a drop in the barrel!
Deactivated Member
 

Postby killerwhale » Mon Jul 09, 2007 6:51 am

I agree with Mr. T, and I'll add that once one knows which flavour profiles one likes, then ones own opinion becomes more important and although it's nice to read others views, ultimately it comes down to what one enjoys.
User avatar
killerwhale
Gold Member
 
Posts: 683
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 2:40 am

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:19 am

Reviewers are, of course, just human beings. So, their assessments are always subjective. Michael Jackson always gives 'sky high marks to Macallan expressions. Ditto, Jim Murry to Ardbeg expressions.

I use various reviews to give me an overall feel for the likely quality of a malt. No more, no less.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby corbuso » Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:42 am

The influence of the reviewers is very strong. Just look at how quickly the bottles scored 95+ by Jim Murray or M. Jackson are sold and what is now their values at auctions. JM or MJ are a bit like Parker for wine.
These books are very influencial and having a few highly rated whiskies will contribute to the positive image of a brand and quite often distillers quotes these books to promote their single malts.
I think that most of us went through these books at a start to select their whiskies, before you get more experienced and try to develop your own selection preferences.
For the others, since the possibility to taste single malts is very limited, they will have to make their selections either using these books or following the seller's advices (which can be also influenced by these books) and you have an another categorie of whisky enthusiasts who will buy these highly rated whiskies to impress their friends...

Corbuso
......................
ww.whisky-news.com
corbuso
Gold Member
 
Posts: 878
Joined: Tue May 24, 2005 11:56 am

Postby bamber » Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:18 am

I'm convinced that JM, not only advised me of what to buy, but also what to like and what language to use to describe it.
User avatar
bamber
Double Gold Member
 
Posts: 1913
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2004 3:57 pm
Location: Bristol, UK

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:23 am

bamber wrote:I'm convinced that JM, not only advised me of what to buy, but also what to like and what language to use to describe it.

Me too - and I don't think that is a bad thing.

I'm wary of people who claim to have outgrown the critics and whisky writers. The basic fact is that they get to taste vastly more whiskies than I ever could. Therefore, provided I find a critic with whose palate I can identify, their recommendations save me a lot of expensive disappointments. Of course, I will also try whiskies at festivals and at specialist whisky shops and that will put me on to some good whiskies, but that is still just scratching the surface. And sometimes, I buy a bottle just becasue it looks interesting - with no guidance from others and no tasting. I often seem to regret those impulse purchases...
Deactivated Member
 

Postby bond » Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:24 am

I can't deny being initially influenced by the reviewers, especially given that I need to shop for all my malts overseas.

Today, however, I am probably more influenced by this forum than MJ. If more than a few people rave about a whisky, I am certainly going to pick it up.

Cheers
bond
Gold Member
 
Posts: 513
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 1:29 pm
Location: New Delhi, India

Postby bamber » Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:26 am

Nick Brown wrote:....And sometimes, I buy a bottle just because it looks interesting - with no guidance from others and no tasting. I often seem to regret those impulse purchases...


I've done that too many times: It's old, its fairly cheap, It was bottled in 1998, I've not heard of it, I'm disappointed with the first taste end up struggling through a £50 bottle of whisky.
User avatar
bamber
Double Gold Member
 
Posts: 1913
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2004 3:57 pm
Location: Bristol, UK

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Mon Jul 09, 2007 2:38 pm

I've always found it is a matter of getting used to the critics tasted ...

Say in regards to JM...


I now know that if he says Glen Glug 12.63 year old is a great bottle I know to trust him as he said the same for the 11.24 and the 15.82 year old and I thoiugh both were great too.

However I now know that the Glen Gobble that he raves about is just not my cup of tea....

So you need to know where a critic is comming from in the first place.
User avatar
irishwhiskeychaser
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 3644
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:27 pm
Location: Galway, Ireland

Postby lambda » Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:58 pm

What I am wondering how biased you think you are when you first read a review before tasting it (confirmation bias). I know I am. If I first read a review about a malt, it is very difficult for me to form my own opinion. Similar to tasting with a friend.. if she says she tastes 'x', it is difficult not to detect 'x', unless it's very obviously not so.
lambda
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 2004 10:08 am
Location: Netherlands

Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:18 pm

I also believe the whisky writers have a large following among the single malt enthusiasts. I used to read their reviews myself. I rarely do so anymore and haven't bothered to buy the latest editions of whisky bible and I don't really care about their reviews - usually. I like to make up my own impression of a whisky which is new to me - and then look up Dave Broom's review on this site to see if matches. Very often there will be at least something similar in his notes and my own impressions.
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Postby Sherbs » Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:56 pm

The reviewers are a fantastic starting point, but once you understand what you like you are the one to trust.
Sherbs
New member
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 5:31 am
Location: Calgary, Canada

Postby Scotchio » Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:21 am

lambda wrote:What I am wondering how biased you think you are when you first read a review before tasting it (confirmation bias). I know I am. If I first read a review about a malt, it is very difficult for me to form my own opinion. Similar to tasting with a friend.. if she says she tastes 'x', it is difficult not to detect 'x', unless it's very obviously not so.


This is an interesting point. i remember from my college days conducting experiments with confederates whereby a subject when asked to pick the longest line from a set would be swayed by the confederates into not trusting his own perception. Likewise when swapping and tasting mystery malts it's interesting how blatantly obvious a whisky's trademark characteristics become once you know what is in the glass.
Scotchio
Gold Member
 
Posts: 803
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2005 10:06 pm
Location: devon uk

Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:53 am

I think one of the funniest examples of influence from a whisky writer is when single malt drinkers use whisky reviewers concepts which have no basis in taste; such as Highland Park as the perfect allrounder . Whatever constitutes being a perfect allrounder? If Highland Park was a car would it have been a station wagon with enough room for a Grand Danois?
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 10, 2007 4:58 am

I think Jackson intended the "greatest allrounder" tag as a sports metaphor. It certainly has taken on a life of its own. Somehow reminds me of Steve Howe winning Guitar Player's "Best All-Around" award five years running.

I can recall thinking that I would never bother with a whisky that Jackson rated below the mid-80's. I now have favorites that he or Murray rate in the low 70's, and there are, I'm sure, some high-scored ones that leave me cold. So I simply don't pay any attention to scores anymore, except in idle curiosity. In fact, I don't really read tasting notes very much, either...I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

I take Nick's point about finding guidance, but I guess I'm perfectly happy to wander aimlessly! I've had more than a few disappointing bottles, but I can't think of any I've regretted entirely, to the point of wishing I hadn't bought it. Even the few tough slogs have been educational, and I almost wish sometimes that I had more of them, so I could keep trying to understand them. But I rarely buy repeats even of bottles I do like...I'm certainly not going to buy a second bottle of something I didn't get, in hopes of figuring it out.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby wandering pict » Tue Jul 10, 2007 6:54 am

What a really interesting topic. :)
I have the books mentioned and in some sort of perverse way actually like to try the whisky first and then read the review, more to see whether I agree and if I can find some of the characteristics mentioned. :twisted:
I agree with the comments above about liking a particular product being personal and therefore I/we shouldn't pay too much attention to the "experts" view.
I suppose that we are just keeping their bank balances healthy :wink:
wandering pict
New member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 8:36 pm
Location: Falkirk and the rest of Scotland

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:57 am

Of course, such books are very quickly out-of-date. So if, like me, you enjoy trying new expressions, they're not hugely useful anyway.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Leither » Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:12 am

eelbrook wrote:Of course, such books are very quickly out-of-date. So if, like me, you enjoy trying new expressions, they're not hugely useful anyway.


Exactly, the web is an important consumer tool in the wide whisky world - that's why these days I find this site and others such as Whiskyfun more useful for me than say JM's bible. However I must admit that I did find the Bible very useful in my novice days and I still refer to it as JM's tastes seem to be fairly similar to mine.
Leither
Gold Member
 
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 1:28 pm

Postby Scotchio » Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:29 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:I think Jackson intended the "greatest allrounder" tag as a sports metaphor. It certainly has taken on a life of its own. Somehow reminds me of Steve Howe winning Guitar Player's "Best All-Around" award five years running.

I can recall thinking that I would never bother with a whisky that Jackson rated below the mid-80's. I now have favorites that he or Murray rate in the low 70's, and there are, I'm sure, some high-scored ones that leave me cold. So I simply don't pay any attention to scores anymore, except in idle curiosity. In fact, I don't really read tasting notes very much, either...I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

.


Just as well he didnt say Jack of all trades, Hps a funny one , not light enough as an aperitif and not always weighty enough for a nightcap.

If you ignore his ratings Jackson can be very informative especially in identifying the key components of a malt. I dont understand how his ratings work except as a means of identifying his favourite distilleries. He does earmark the classic starting points for the beginner but is useless when it comes to picking out good examples from the less well known distilleries.

I remember too looking at his ratings and wondering why on earth anyone would buy malts rated below 85pts. The curious thing is his notes dont seem to match these ratings,eg Knockdu 21 has sumptuous notes;"creamy, deep soft, fragrant, beautifully balanced" 77pts :shock:

Actually it was having a bottle of this LFW whisky of the year that stopped me taking his ratings too seriously. I tend to try almost anything now but i do fall back on JM ,Malt Maniacs and recommendations from this site in my choice of bottlings.

It's interesting that jackson's highly rated malts still lie at the core of most peoples collections and I do wonder whether most people's perceptions of what defines balance and complexity would have different if he hadnt favoured fuller flavoured malts ahead of the more subtle complexities of some of the comparitively lighter speysiders.

In a way though he does point you toward whiskies with distinct identifiable flavours which once you understand and recognise enables you to better understand other whiskies. Also whilst I dont agree with his ratings in a lot of cases, his book would have been much less helpful to the beginner if as in the whisky bible there were 90 plus rated bottlings from every distillery. To the beginner that could be pretty overwhelming .
Scotchio
Gold Member
 
Posts: 803
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2005 10:06 pm
Location: devon uk

Postby Reggaeblues » Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:47 am

Bamber may "...end up struggling through a £50 bottle of whisky."

I on the other hand, am struggling NOT to finish a £15 bottle of 12 YO glenfarclas!( Sainsbury's, last month!) Deelicious! How a standard Macallan should taste!

You could say it was MJ who made me aware of this distillery's profile with the high marks( generally hi-80s as I recall)he gives their whiskies.

I guess JM was a progression for me in terms of the breadth, sheer variety and down to earth manner of his presentation, but like folks have said , it was MJ's more open, less critical style and colourful presentation that made the world of SMSW increasingly attractive...and with both Lagavulin(16 and DE)s at 95( both of which I fell in love with before reading him!) i was impressed!

Respect!
Reggaeblues
Double Gold Member
 
Posts: 1945
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 2:42 pm
Location: Reigate, UK

Postby atoto » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:09 am

I've been searching the internet for tasting notes / message boards that coinside with my tastes and came across this site.

http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/inde ... pic=8737.0

I use it a a reference guide when I ready to buy something new. Too bad it's an old site (from 2004) and no longer running anymore but it has not disapointed so far. Thanks again "Tyson" where ever you are!!
atoto
New member
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2007 6:07 pm
Location: New Jersey

Postby shoganai » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:41 am

I'll admit to using MJ's scores to decide what bottle to buy next. Not so much because I "trust" the scores, but I've been in situations where I've tried to decide between two or three similarly priced bottles from different distilleries of which I know nothing and the numbers (and of course all of the wonderful advice received on this forum!) are a pretty quick and easy way to decide. Maybe next time I'll just flip a coin, or buy the one with the lower score.
shoganai
Silver Member
 
Posts: 449
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 8:25 am
Location: Philadelphia, USA

Postby JWFokker » Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:45 am

I generally use reviewers as a point of reference. I don't assume whiskies that Michael Jackson gives a 9 will be a 9 for me as well. With the multitude of flavors that whiskies possess, a number simply cannot do them justice. Whisky reviewers are no different than movie reviewers in my opinion. As much as you have to learn what your own preferences are, to garner anything of value from a review, you have to learn what the preferences of the reviewer are in contrast to your own.
JWFokker
New member
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:22 am
Location: Kingston, NY

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jul 13, 2007 4:51 pm

i use both mj & jm as a reference too

i'll use my knowledge along with their suggestions to give me some guidance when im browsing for something new or different


out of the two mj gets my vote as he's a local bloke


ash .
Deactivated Member
 

Postby bamber » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:57 pm

atoto wrote:I've been searching the internet for tasting notes / message boards that coinside with my tastes and came across this site.

http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/inde ... pic=8737.0

I use it a a reference guide when I ready to buy something new. Too bad it's an old site (from 2004) and no longer running anymore but it has not disapointed so far. Thanks again "Tyson" where ever you are!!


Tyson is an occasional poster here:

http://www.whiskymag.com/forum/profile. ... file&u=790
User avatar
bamber
Double Gold Member
 
Posts: 1913
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2004 3:57 pm
Location: Bristol, UK

Postby pmullin » Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:34 am

Like several others have stated, I find that MJ, JM and the Whisky Magazine reviewers (Broom, Pacault, Nouet et al) are excellent reference points once you figure out where you agree with them and where you don't.

For example, my tastes generally align with JM for Islay/Island whisky and bourbon, but there isn't much correlation in our tastes for non-peated single malt scotches.

With respect to Irish whiskey, I find that the WM forums are the best source of guidance, as I get the impression that none of the "big name" reviewers are real Irish whiskey fans.
User avatar
pmullin
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 189
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:33 am
Location: Fredericton, NB, Canada

Postby laphroaig10_65 » Mon Jul 23, 2007 2:46 pm

Reviewers are very important at the beginning, when you don’t know the topic, you are approaching the matter, you are afraid to waste money, and you look at the scores of different reviewers; then you distinguish among them, because the reviewers estimate in different manners. Afterwards there is no influence nor for choice and for judgement, but they continue to be a point of reference for comparison.
Bye
Luca
laphroaig10_65
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:54 pm
Location: Italy

Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:51 pm

laphroaig10_65 wrote:Reviewers are very important at the beginning, when you don’t know the topic, you are approaching the matter, you are afraid to waste money, and you look at the scores of different reviewers; then you distinguish among them, because the reviewers estimate in different manners. Afterwards there is no influence nor for choice and for judgement, but they continue to be a point of reference for comparison.
Bye
Luca

Luca - I know this is a widely held view, but if you look at any critic, they'll find some bottlings from a distillery to be outstanding, some to be OK, and some to be way off the mark. No distillery is consistently good. Now, the only ways to find out which are the good bottles are (a) taste them; or (b) ask someone who has tasted them. Although people's tastes differ, I'd still value someone else's view on a whisky before I buy it unless I can get a taste myself. That saves me making mistakes, losing money, and being saddled with having to drink 28 disappointing drams. So my question is: now you don't look at reviews before buying, how do you avoid the duff bottlings and hit the good ones?
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Frodo » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:10 am

Nick Brown wrote:No distillery is consistently good.


Ardbeg?
Frodo
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2472
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2004 2:22 pm
Location: Toronto, Ontario

Postby laphroaig10_65 » Tue Jul 24, 2007 10:52 am

Nick Brown wrote:
laphroaig10_65 wrote:Reviewers are very important at the beginning, when you don’t know the topic, you are approaching the matter, you are afraid to waste money, and you look at the scores of different reviewers; then you distinguish among them, because the reviewers estimate in different manners. Afterwards there is no influence nor for choice and for judgement, but they continue to be a point of reference for comparison.
Bye
Luca

Luca - I know this is a widely held view, but if you look at any critic, they'll find some bottlings from a distillery to be outstanding, some to be OK, and some to be way off the mark. No distillery is consistently good. Now, the only ways to find out which are the good bottles are (a) taste them; or (b) ask someone who has tasted them. Although people's tastes differ, I'd still value someone else's view on a whisky before I buy it unless I can get a taste myself. That saves me making mistakes, losing money, and being saddled with having to drink 28 disappointing drams. So my question is: now you don't look at reviews before buying, how do you avoid the duff bottlings and hit the good ones?


Right, Nick, but in my opinion the approach becomes different respect to the beginnings: the knowledge increases its value and it gets more important to enlarge the range of bottles known than to look for anything else. Single malts tout court are the assurance, and I’ll have a value added also if I’ll choose a luckless dram.
Thank you
Luca
laphroaig10_65
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 180
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:54 pm
Location: Italy

Return to Questions & Answers

Whisky gift and present finder