Monday 30 January 2017

A rant about low scores and why they are important.

(This article was written for Reddit's r/Scotch community and is just an opinion)

Hi everyone,

The other day a well-known whisky blogger called me out on Facebook, telling me that my very low score for Jameson Caskmates was unjustified, suggesting that I had scored it so low for ‘blog hits’ (whatever those are) and that if I don’t like a whisky, then I shouldn’t say anything.

Another famous whisky blogger liked the comment, suggesting he agreed.

When I said that I was just sharing my opinion, the commenter went as far as to suggest that it looked like I scored it low because of where I work (at another Distillery).

I decided not to reply back straight away, but actually think about what had been said and what I would say back.
I could have started a childish Facebook argument, perhaps pack my bags, never to blog again or just ignore it.
What I will do instead is to give some more low scores and explain why I think they are important.

Skip down for the rant

Photo courtesy of Master of Malt
Balmenach 2002 Provenance 46%
Colour: Pale pale straw
Body: Light/Medium
Nose: Young and pungent. Quite in your face, musky, moss, olive oil, green and a little earthy, verging on stale but there's some young esters keeping it at bay. Pear drops, green apple, some vanilla, some American oak.
Taste: Gentle arrival, smooth and fruity with apple and pear then spice kicks up with strong oak coming through, tannins, chocolate, green sappy oak, coffee.
Finish: Medium length. Unfortunate, green, sappy, tannins, cheap coffee, a little hot alcohol.
Bottled 2012 at 10 years old. Cask 9864.

Photo courtesy of Master of Malt
Strathisla 2005 Malt of the Earth 46%
Colour: Pale pale straw
Body: Light/Medium
Nose: Ultra clean, distillate style. Bubblegum, some young fruit- Green apple, lots of pear, pear drops. Sour building now, sour spirit, lemon, vodka, slightly stale with sweaty socks.
Taste: Sharp and sweet. Zingy with loads of lemon, lemon juice, lemon sherbet, a little spice developing then some chocolate. Again, slightly stale in development and finish.
Finish: Medium length. Young but with chocolate, spice and coffee.
Bottled 2014 at 9 years old.

Reviews #315-#316


Should we score whisky?
Well, I can’t give an answer for everyone but for me it works. As Serge of Whiskyfun says, I haven’t found a better way of showing (to myself) which cask of 2005 Ledaig I liked better, 900160 or 900159. For a long time, I didn’t score whisky. I wrestled with starting to score when I started posting here. In the end, Serge’s post here convinced me that it was a good idea. I then thought about it a lot and developed my system over a few months.
Some people use a 0-10 system, some A-E. Some people don’t score whisky at all. That’s fine.

Are low scores important?
If you are scoring, then yes. If you didn’t, none of your scores would mean anything! If you score everything 90/100 or even just between 90-99 then 90 is a low score for you. Just because I give stuff 40/100, doesn’t mean that it’s 40 for you. A 40 for me might be your 60 or 70 or whatever.
If you got a shite pair of headphones from Amazon that broke the first time you wore them, would you give them 1 star? Another part of low scores is trying to help people not to make the same mistake you did.

Does it matter that I work at another distillery?
Yes. Of course, it does. And it doesn’t matter if I say I’m going to be unbiased in my views or as truthful as the virgin Mary because how can you believe me. You don’t know me. It doesn’t matter if you are Jim Murray or John Doe though, everyone is biased. Some more than others of course. In the end, use your judgement and experience.
Am I rating Ledaig and Ardbeg highly to lure you into buying stuff from the distillery I work for? Am I rating Jameson and Tamnavulin low to put you off them, and instead buy stuff from the distillery I work for?

Should I keep my mouth shut?
Hell no! I’m not going to stop my passion because anyone tells me to. I love reviewing whisky, I love the nuances and flavours. I love being critical and if I don’t think something is up to scratch, I’m going to bloody well tell you about it.

If daveswhiskyreviews gives a low score, does it mean I won’t like it?
No. NO. Everyone’s tastes are different. I am only 1 person. I can only give one person’s opinion. That’s why I contribute to r/Scotch archive and, because alone I mean nothing. Together, we can build a picture of views from many people from different backgrounds and different tastes from all over the world and that means something.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to sit back and watch my huge blog hits roll in and make me a tonne of money from all the advertising I run, then open some exclusive samples from all the companies that send me free stuff. Sláinte

I’ll leave you with this quote from Serge.
It’s just a way of summing up impressions and opinions. Scores are opinions, expressed in a numerical form. They have to be put in relation with the taster who came up with the scores (and his experience as well as his possible commercial links to the bottlers), otherwise they are worthless. MOST IMPORTANT: in my view a high score doesn't mean you should rush out and buy a bottle or a palette, it means that in my opinion, you too should maybe try the whisky in question, provided we have similar tastes. Always try to taste a whisky yourself before you buy - if you can. – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun)

Update: What has come out of a few comments made on this article is that I will be putting a disclaimer on all my reviews, stating who I work for and being more open in general so that people can make their own opinions about my reviews and biases.


  1. Great Post Mr Cover. Everything in life is scored. Movies, books, music, food, cars, travel companies etc etc. Any sensible soul will read your blogs and if they have a similar outlook to you, will like the whiskeys that you like and vice versa. As you say, it is an opinion.

    How many times have you gone to see a movie with an actor you like thinking it would be rubbish because it only got 2 stars only to come out having enjoyed a great movie. Or the opposite!

    Keep up the great work. There is no compromise.

    Be yourself.



  2. Love it David.

    It is hard to give a low rating as it is hard to give a perfect 100 also. At the end of the day it is a personal rating system and it does not fit any other personal scale. Sort of an individual fingerprint.

    Enjoyed this blog post. Be true to your beliefs. Rock on!