As you may have read here (or listened to, if you are one of the Liquorature core) Lance and I have occasional volleys regarding our views on reviews. Topics include, but are not limited to: subjectivity, assignation of a numerical rating, format, etc. One of the topics that has cropped up a few times is my lack of reviews for those truly awful whiskies out there.
The observation itself is valid. A quick perusal of the whisky reviews here will attest to exactly Lance’s point.
So…should my integrity be doubted? Should be nosing/tasting abilities be questioned? Should a high degree of skepticism be employed when reading these reviews?
Short answer…absolutely. These reviews ARE subjective. They are comprised entirely of my personal evaluation and will continue to be so. You, as a reader, should always question what is put in front of you.
So, why are the reviews seemingly universally high? Simple, really. Whisky is expensive. I, and we, buy it to enjoy it. A low end rum may only gouge you for $15-$20, while a low end single malt will still cost somewhere in the low $30’s. Of course, we all pad our cabinets with a few of those buffer bottles that help preserve the good stuff (or to offer guests you just…don’t…like), but the secret is to find those affordable bottles that are actually really good so we never have to drink rotgut. More on this in a future post.
The moral however is that we in the whisky world are spoiled by choice. There are thousands of exceptional malts on the market (and more to come as the world stage is being shared with many new distilleries in far-flung corners of the globe). When shelling out our hard-earned ATM-dispensed food stamps should we buy a clunker just for the novelty of writing a review of an inferior product? I don’t care about creating a bell curve based on my reviews, so this becomes incidental to me.
Lance’s point hits home more on his side of the fence. Being a rummie, he is at the mercy of the liquor outlets and their prejudices. A tour of almost any outlet will show a vastly more expansive Scotch whisky section than rum selection. It is quite feasible for our resident caner (and his newfound disciples – notably Robert and Bauer) to exhaust the choices rather quickly. Lance has, in exasperation, mentioned this challenge many times. We whisky anoraks on the other hand are still overwhelmed by the available choices and future prospects.
This brings me back to the point. I have not found many bad whiskies yet, because there are too many good (or at least promising) ones to try. I tend to have an idea (through other reviews, distillery history, local industry resources and whisky forums) as to the quality of what I am buying before presenting plastic. Further, many of the whiskies reviewed are from tastings, where an ambassador is highly unlikely to present anything less than the best of his/her line, or are Liquorature club selections. The Liquorature selections are always chosen with a view to impress, not shock.
Alas, fear not…for I have tried some really…not good drams. I will not mention names here as future reviews will cover them when I am brave enough to re-pop those corks. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad whisky is lying to you. Fortunately for us though…there aren’t that many. Relatively speaking
A final note…
I recently picked up the latest edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion. The introduction to this edition speaks to the character as well as the integrity and expertise of this sorely missed whisky legend. It mentions Michael’s adherence to the ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ idiom. While I do not necessarily agree to this philosophy, I will admit I do not go out of my way to review what I feel is an inferior product.