Thoughts on Reviews, Scotch and Scores

March 2015, initially posted on r/scotch

First of all, thanks for stopping by! These are my thoughts on reviews, and if you read the longer part also on scotch and the world in general…

I stumbled across this idea while reading a review by u/tintin777 on reddit, liked it and, well, adopted it. Which on the internet most of the time and thus in this case, reads as “stole” it.

By now you’ve probably noticed that I tend to talk (or write that is) a lot and by my humble use of your highly appraised language you may have figured that I’m far from being a native writer/speaker. Therefore, first of all “sorry!” – I’m trying to give my very best to get my ideas across but sometimes either my weird sense of humor or my lack of lexical skills might get you confused.

As I’ll try to do in my reviews there’ll sometimes be a long and a short version so one does not have to read all of my thoughts just to get a score/review on a Scotch but still can if that is of any help or amusement.

So, let’s keep it short at the beginning. These are my very basic thoughts on Scotch and reviewing.

Very Short Version:

  • be grateful and respectful
  • Whisky is for sharing (not shareholding)
  • don’t believe what you haven’t tasted yourself
  • what ever makes you happy, makes you happy. Be proud of it and don’t try to like/be something you don’t
  • in my humble opinion, situation (not only including where you sit but also your experiences etc) and expectation matter a lot when it comes to judging things (books, cigars and well whisky), therefore I a) usually try to get two or three similar tasting situations on one Scotch and present you a summary of my notes of these sessions and the average score
  • be nice, I’m a foreigner and I’m far from being as precocious and snobbish as I sound…

Long version:

First of all, remember that we are blessed. Scotch – no matter how “cheap” – is a pure luxury product! Not only that, but you have the time and the leisure to master your own time, sit back, relax, maybe put a little music on and get lost in a dram full of memories (good and bad) and the promise of an exciting future ahead.

Even if that exciting future holds nothing but another sip. Most of the time I’m totally happy with just that.

For me this leads to several thoughts. Take Scotch serious and don’t take it serious but never take yourself too serious. Sometimes just take a step back and glory the moment. AND be nice. In the words of the late Michael Jackson (the one with the beard, belly and glasses) if someone went through the trouble of producing a beverage and age it for several years at least it deserves a thorough and attentive judgment. (YES, I know its a big industry with big money behind it, be critical but not cynical!)

Be respectful, even if you don’t find anything good in a certain Malt maybe someone else is looking for just that. Who knows?

Second “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” And your taste. Sometimes there are reviews I totally disagree with. That’s normal. We’re all different. There is no right or wrong in what you taste.

Nevertheless one should try to find the right balance between a personal review and one that many people can relate to. Take reviews as a hint where that Scotch might lead you or what you could find in that malt. That’s the way I treat reviews – unless I know a person, his background, preferences and mode of expression very well…and you rarely find that outside the real world.

Third “What ever makes you happy, makes you happy!” Don’t pretend to like that fancy bottle of Port Ellen if you don’t. Just because one pays an unreal amount of money for it still might taste like the lower part of a lamppost in a busy part of town. In winter. With lots of snow around. Not even yellow but rather brown/reddish really ugh looking well “snow”…And if you like that bottle of Ye Ole Blender’s reserve NAS blend, be proud you do – don’t feel ashamed.

A lot of what we taste has to do with expectations and situations. Good company can make up for a…erm not so good scotch, but it won’t work the other way around. (Yes, I would also spend some time in company I don’t enjoy for a dram of PE…but I guess you get my point?)

And if I buy a bottle most of the time I’ve read a lot about it, thus I do have a very certain expectation of it. Maybe I’ve had other expressions from that distillery or a lot of reviews tend to point in a certain direction – nevertheless if those expectations might be met or not, they influence my taste. Because that’s how our brain tends to work. My point is, if you like that  Ye Ole Blender’s reserve NAS blend don’t be afraid to say so, that might lead to someone looking at that certain expression with new (or unbiased) eyes and he might come to like it as well…

Fourth, when someone tells you that he is going to show you a picture of a thing, lets say, a dragon in a few seconds, everyone of us will instantly picture his or her version of a dragon – or to be more precise of the dragon that we expect that someone might be going to show to us in such a situation – in his or her brain. Sometimes more sometimes less conscious. Into that pre-real-picture dragon all our experiences about people showing you things, maybe about our experience with that certain person and of course dragons are incorporated creating a unique version of the soon to be shown dragon. In turn, how we rate the experience of getting shown that dragon depends – not only of course – on how our expectations have been met and our previous knowledge.

This leads me to two things, first, I try to tell you something about the situation and my expectations prior to the tasting and second, I try to taste a sample at least two or preferable more times and my reviews is the summary of my different notes on that. As by getting to know a dram one – at least I feel like that – levels his expectations closer to “reality” and of course our senses adapt to what’s going to come…

Last, “be nice” even though I tend to come across quite smart ass and precocious, I’m not. I try to give my own impressions as good and honest as I possibly can, but sometimes we might just not share the same cultural and lexical background or I’m just stupid and/or wrong. That does also happen a lot, though I don’t do that on purpose 😉

Well, thank you for reading the longer part – I hope you enjoyed it at least a wee tiny bit. I certainly enjoyed putting it down…

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