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Issue 111 - If you can't say anything nice...

Whisky Magazine Issue 111
April 2013


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If you can't say anything nice...

Mark is a U.S contributing editor for Whisky Magazine

I try to look for the positive in things, I really do. Like most, I was brought up by people who spouted the old bromide: “if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all”. Not exactly the kind of career advice for a journalist, huh? Nor is it the kind of thing you tell a judge in a whisky competition, either. I recently served as a judge for the American Distilling Institute's annual competition for craft distillers, and the experience tested my generally genial nature to levels I haven't experienced since I covered Alaska politicians for a living. We were told: “the entrants will be receiving your score sheets, anonymously, of course, so please try to be positive with your comments.” Let me be clear, there were some excellent whiskies in the competition. But there were many more that forced us to use our creative writing skills:

Tasting note: “This whiskey is memorable, with a unique style and flavour.” Translation: “Not only will I never forget tasting this thing, but I want to have my tongue sandblasted.” Suggestions for improvement: “Your fermentation seems to be off. Possible contamination in the washbacks.” Translation: “The only way this could be improved would be with a match.” As we nosed and tasted blind samples around the table in semisilence, my colleagues and I would look at each other as one approached a particularly bad entry with a combination of schadenfreude and sympathy, waiting for the reaction. At the end of two days o...

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