March 29, 2006

Reviewing Booze Is More Than A Numbers Game

NumbersWe spend a lot of time reading what people say about booze, and one of the things that has always bugged us is the numerical ratings system used by many reviewers. Tasting liquor is an incredibly subjective experience, and one man's water of life is another's toilet water, as attested by the fist fights and shouting matches that often break out in our tasting sessions.

OK, the fist fights are just for fun, but you'll notice in our liquor reviews that we just try to tell you what it tastes and smells like to us, and give you an overall impression, rather than numerical scores that're only worth the pixels they're displayed on. And don't get us started about the flowery language we read in some of the reviews - we're guilty of getting purple with our prose sometimes, but not on the scale we see from some established reviewers. As far as we're concerned, we think about taste and quality as compared to the price, and give you our thoughts through that filter, along with some relative comparisons with other brands if we can.

It seems our good friend Kevin over at The Scotch Blog has similar feelings about ratings and reviewing in the whisky world, and he has let loose with both barrels with some interesting thoughts about reviews and reviewers.

Ask any renowned whisky maven (or drinking buddy) his or her favorite dram, and you are likely to be given (if you're lucky) a short list, along with a litany of exclusions and limitations, about how "favorites" depends on the time of day, time of year, food accompaniment, mood or present company. And all that is quite fair.

How then can the same person give, what to all intents and purposes is a score based on an apparently absolute scale? I believe they simply cannot.

As a result all ratings are relative - a whisky is scored relative to the mood you are in, the other whiskies you might be trying, where you are sitting as you try them, what you had for dinner, the time of day, the argument you had with your girlfriend the other day, if you know anyone at the distillery, what you perceive others think of the expression, etc.

That being said, I don't like ratings, don't agree with the concept, and hereby call for a general ban on the use of any rating system in the whisky industry (Yeah, right. I'll keep dreaming). In the meantime, I shall continue to take ratings (as should you) with a grain of salt - even from the most respected reviewer.

The Scotch Blog: Have Ratings/Tasting Notes Gone Too Far?

Keep reading to see Kevin deconstruct an actual review - it gets fairly heated, but we're pretty sure our eyebrows will grow back in time for Easter dinner. Very thought-provoking, and t's something to keep in mind before you run out to buy a bottle because some dude gave it a 7.4523958 out of 10. As for the weaselly language, we're hanging this over our computer so we'll see it the next time we swish some booze and try to remember how to spell "priapic" for our description of the bottle.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at March 29, 2006 12:55 PM
Recent Comments

I happen to like toilet water. Alcohol burns my tummy.

Posted by: The Missus at March 30, 2006 12:20 PM
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