To score or not to score? That is the question.

Many a fine (and not so fine) word have been written on the scoring of whiskies; from the how to score whiskies, through which whisky scoring scale is best to use and all the way through to why you should (or should not) score whiskies. So why add my 2 cents to the mix?The Smoky Drams whsiky score spread

This graph shows the spread of all the whiskies I have tasted so far across my scoring bands.

Well it may not be a milestone to many, but I recent reviewed my 50th whisky and in doing so also looked back at the previous 49 that I reviewed before them. I could tell from the reviews which ones I enjoyed more than others, but I could not see definitively which ones I truly enjoyed the most (from all those that I really seemed to like). I had to keep going back to my score sheet that I keep on my whiskies to do that (I do enjoy my numbers and it helps to keep me organised and to make my own buying decisions). So I decided to also add my scores to my reviews – plain and simple, right? Not quite so, read on.

My scoring philosophy (scale to use and why) was also largely influenced by some other whisky legends that I follow, namely Serge Valentin, Oliver Klimek and Dave Broom:

  1. I too feel that scores should always be used in combination with the notes and never as a pure standalone reference.
  2. My score (and review) is my own personal opinion that reflects my tastes, which whisky I particularly enjoyed and my personality – so as I really enjoy powerfully peaty whiskies, these would tend to be scored higher by me (though I try not to be too biased).
  3. I use the 100 point scale as it allows me, if forced to choose (desert dram, only one of the two for the rest of your life etc), to show which one I would choose. I had this particular problem (and funnily enough still have it) between the Laphroaig 10 and the Ardbeg 10, as I immensely enjoy both drams, but in the end the Laphroaig pips the Ardbeg by 1 point (for me).
  4. Most of my whiskies were tasted at least twice before reviewing and scoring them. Also there were times where a flight tasting contained whiskies that I have had before and know fairly well, so I could use them as a benchmark to rate the other whiskies against.

My dilemma_The Smoky Dram

So now that that has all been said and done, what does my whisky score mean to me? I usually go through 2 stages when scoring a whisky. The first is to put it into one of the broad bands below:

0 Reserved for the mythical whisky that I would not even give to people who drink their whisky with coke!
1 – 49 Flawed, not drinkable to almost not drinkable
50 – 79 Moderate flaws but for the most part drinkable
80 – 99 Very few flaws to exceptional. Highly drinkable
100 Reserved for that mythical “perfect” whisky – which I hope to never find (I am enjoying the journey too much!)

Then upon subsequent sips and tastings I refine it into one of the finer scales points below before settling on it’s final score:

0: Reserved for the mythical whisky that I would not even give to people who drink their whisky with coke!
1-24: Very heavily flawed, abhorrent and undrinkable.
25-49: Still very flawed and very hard to swallow.
50-59 Has some big flaw but almost a bearable drink.
60-69 Some minor flaws but kind of drinkable.
70-74: On or two moderate flaws, drinkable but nothing to get too excited about.
75-79: Drinkable and good, but plain and quite uninteresting.
80-84 Getting to the good stuff, pleasant and drinkable.
85-89 Very good, satisfying and recommendable.
90-94: Stunning, beautiful and excellent. Must try.
95-99: Unequivocally stunning and exceptional.
100 Reserved for that mythical “perfect” whisky – which I hope to never find (I am enjoying the journey too much!)

My reviews (and scores) make it easier for me to remember the finer details of the whiskies I have tasted, which become an almost necessity the more whiskies you taste. A final note, to stress once again, is that all my reviews are based on my own experiences and tastes as I travel on my whisky journey.

So what are your thoughts on the scoring of whiskies?


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

3 thoughts on “To score or not to score? That is the question.

  1. We’re of a similar mind to you when it comes to scoring: that is the score alone should never be considered without the notes that accompany it. Plus, as I’ve said in an article before, we can barely count to 100, let alone score out of it!
    We just do one to five stars. giving mainly 2s, 3s, and 4s. So there is a BIG discrepancy between a weak 3 star whisky and a good 3 star whisky. But hey, it gives us scope to change our minds!
    I like the graph BTW. Maybe I’ll have to concoct something similar…
    Keep on waffling,

    • Thanks for the comment Nick.

      Your reasoning in the comment is exactly why I decided on the 100 point scale instead. In the end it is the whisky journey that is important and ones enjoyment of it!

      Thanks for your kind words on the graph. I was wondering how my current spread stacked up and thought that it would add a bit of a visual aid to my post and not completely bore people with my verbose and garrulous writing!

  2. Pingback: Glenlivet 1988/2014 15yo – Signatory exclusively for WhiskyBrother | The Smoky Dram

Your comments and thoughts are welcome . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s