Russell's Reserve is the premium brand of whisky from Wild Turkey Distillery. If you've been reading my reviews, you'll know I've loved everything that comes under this label. Russell's Reserve Straight Rye is priced at $30 and is readily available. Complaints of a bourbon shortage do seem overblown with whisky like this that's easily available.Read More
From removing the cork, to tipping the bottle, to the pour, Mortlach Rare Old is a fine experience. The bottle screams “expensive whisky.” That being said, the marketing is likely to enrage many. Bragging that your whisky is "rare” and “old" has the same stereotypes associated with driving an embellished large car. Maybe there are some insecurities there?Read More
In 1900, Gooderham & Worts was the largest distillery in the world. It was located in what is now Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The company was started by James Worts, a Englishman that opened up a prominent windmill in Canada. He went into business with his brother-in-law, William Gooderham.Read More
Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) whiskies are highly sought after, rarely found, and cherished by the quarter-ounce when poured. I was at Buffalo Trace Distillery to do a tasting of the 2015 collection prior to release. When I posted a photo of the collection on Twitter, I was challenged with “why bother?" What’s the point of reviewing BTAC when there's so little supply released that it's nearly impossible to get?Read More
Colonel E.H. Taylor championed the Bottled-in-Bond act of 1897 that served to protect bourbon drinkers in an era where poisons, flavouring, and un-aged spirit were all common additives to whisky. The designation means the whisky has been aged at minimum of 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse, bottled at least 50% ABV, and made in the same distillery during the same year.Read More
I got tired of writing whisky reviews
There’s a format to each whisky review that goes something like this: Interesting factoid, some history, tasting notes, and a score. There’s definitely a place for long reviews, and there are reviewers that do this incredibly well (Hey Davin!), but these are not everyday reviews.
I’m tossing out my old (and long-since unused) whisky review format. I want to write reviews I’d like to read. The new review format is shorter and it’s driven by the current whisky market. The reviews will include a hundred-point tasting score and a rating. The combination of a taste score and star rating for whisky seemed ridiculous at first, but the more test reviews I wrote, the more it made sense.
The Whisky Cabinet Rating
With rare exceptions, there are no bad whiskies. As a consumer, though, navigating the waters of which whisky to purchase can be a challenge. It’s important to keep categories in mind: Rye? Bourbon? Scotch? That’s an excellent place to start when buying whisky. Next, what are you looking for? Oaky bourbon, or cheap rye, or well-aged sherry finished scotch? These are just some examples of the many categories whiskies falls into.
The theme of my book is The Whisky Cabinet—finding the most delicious whiskies in the world. The sub-theme has always been value, price, and positioning in the market. Taking this a step forward, I’ve worked on a simple four star rating system.
This four star system pits the whisky against other whiskies in its category and considers such factors as the taste, price-point, availability, and prestige (which can work for or against the whisky). It works as follows:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original
The higher the star-level, the fewer whiskies in that category. Under this system, four star ratings are rare. And since the landscape of the whisky world changes (age statements are removed, new products are released), whiskies might gain or lose a star over time.
The Hundred Point Whisky Sipper Score
I have privately rated whisky for several years, but I never quite felt comfortable posting these scores. They didn’t tell the entire story. Alone, it’s not a perfect system, but with the star rating it has a place in the review. Each reviewer defines their scoring system differently. This is how I view it, keeping it simple:
- 90+ Remarkable, whisky that stops the conversation at a party
- 80-89 From good to approaching remarkable
- 70-79 An okay whisky
- Below 70, probably undrinkable for most whisky sippers
For the taste score, I break down the whisky to its core elements. Nose. Palate. Finish. Balance. Construction. Uniqueness. Flavour. A well structured whisky that offers a broad range of flavours and complexity is likely to get a higher score.
All whiskies are rated based on how they taste in tasting glasses at room temperature.
Difference Between Tasting and Drinking
I couldn’t possibly talk about rating whiskies without noting the difference between tasting and drinking whisky. Tastings are done at room temperature, in tasting glasses, and in a quiet environment. Scores are achieved by tasting the same drink repeatedly, and comparing it to other whiskies of the same or similar categories.
Drinking whisky is the pure enjoyment of the spirit. Any whisky scoring over 80 points will make for an excellent drinking whisky (assuming you like that category of whisky). When out in the sun, or at home with friends, the difference between an 82 and an 88 scored whisky won’t matter overly much.
However, like a delicious plate of food, a whisky that scores over 90 points should stop the conversation at the table. That’s how I score the whisky.
I’ll be posting whisky reviews regularly moving forward, and we’ll get to see whether or not we are in simpatico. As reviews get posted (there are plenty in the queue), this system will start creating it's own dialogue. More on that later.