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?

Sláinte
Edward

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

The Smoky Dram’s 12 Whiskies of Christmas – 2014

Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Arnold Photography

Now for the second year running (hey seems like this may just become an annual ‘thing’ that I do) I present, not the 12 days of Christmas, but rather ‘The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas’ to offer my selection of 12 drams that could be enjoyed this festive season. This may be either as a present for a family member or friend, or most importantly, a present for yourself. Feel free to pass this one to a friend or family member if there is something that you would like in your stocking this year.

As usual, my list is made up of whiskies across price categories, ages, regions and ABV strengths. So hopefully there is something suitable for everyone on the list below and also all of these whiskies are available in South Africa. Your best bet though, for getting your hands on one of the whiskies and if you are in the Johannesburg region, is to visit the WhiskyBrother shop in Hyde Park. If none of the below appeals to you I am certain that they will be able to help you find a dram to your liking. Another alternative, if you like to travel out the city, is to visit Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom. Here you can sample a huge selection of whiskies, including the ones below, to see which one is your favourite.

So without a further ado, here for 2014 are:Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Banner

Less than R350

  1. Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (43% ABV) – R200
  2. Famous Grouse The Black Grouse (43% ABV) – R220

R350 to R600

  1. Tomatin 12 year old (43% ABV) – R390
  2. Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select (43.2% ABV) – R440
  3. Highland Park 12 year old (43% ABV) – R490
  4. Nikka Pure Malt – Black (43% ABV) – R560
  5. Teeling Small Batch (46% ABV) – R590

R600 to R1000

  1. Talisker 10 year old (45.8% ABV) – R640
  2. Glenfarclas 105 10 year old Cask Strength (60% ABV) – R810
  3. Bowmore Darkest 15 year old (43% ABV) – R960

Greater than R1000

  1. Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask Strength (57.8% ABV) – R1700
  2. Octomore Edition 6.1(57% ABV) – R1700

I have been fortunate enough to of have tried (and enjoyed) all of the above whiskies and can say that they are all very fine drams. All that is left to say is that I wish all a festive, peaceful and happy time over the holidays.

Sláinte and Happy Holidays’ to all!
Edward
 
The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Why whisky and flux capacitors do not mix

IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!

Oh, wait. I am getting my movies mixed up. GREAT SCOTT(ish whisky)! The time circuits must have malfunctioned! I blame my absence from my blog on flux capacitor malfunction.

Flux Capacitor_The Smoky Dram

There I was, happily traipsing through time looking for those now-hard-to-get-bottles (Ardbeg Supernova 2014 Edition anyone?) when they are not so hard to get, when trying to get home to my own time I ran out of plutonium 252! Needlessly I could not generate the needed 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the flux capacitor.

Lucky for me I still had a nip or two of Octomore 6.1 in my trusty hip flask. Surely the 167ppm would be more than powerful enough to kick the flux capacitor into action? Well I found out that it did not, just as my stainless steel encased ox-wagon was about to hit 88 miles per hour (or 141.6 km/h for those who have not seen the trilogy yet), and as you can see below I fell just short of my timeline.

Time Circuits_Flux Capacitor_The Smoky Dram

So it took just little longer than expected to get back to my own time again (again), maybe one should not program the time circuits after a nip or three from the hip flask? So now that I am back, hopefully with no more temporal excursion anomalies, some things to look forward to on The Smoky Dram blog:

  • The first SA tweet tasting with Marc of WhiskyBrother (@WhiskyBrother) and WhiskyBrother store (@WhiskyBroShop).
  • Other twitter tastings and events I have been privileged to be part of
  • More musings, more whisky news (mostly via my twitter feed –  @TheSmokyDram) and even more reviews!

So until then, happy dramming! 
Sláinte
Edward

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Celebrating a couple of ones

Why a celebrations of ones? Well instead of the usual my blog is 1 year old, I decided to wait a little while longer, so I could celebrate my blog being 1 year, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day old! Hence the:

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

My first posts were on the reasons for another South African whisky blog, my first review (the stunning Laphroaig 10yo) and the news that a South African whisky, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, won the award for the World’s Best Grain Whisky in the 2013 World Whisky Awards. Together with my blog I also joined the #WhiskyFabric on Twitter with my @TheSmokyDram handle.

Some of my milestones and statistics were: 

  • 50 blog posts (this one being the 50th!)
  • 37 blog followers
  • 30 reviews done (so far, more to come)
  • 1525 Twitter posts
  • 383 Twitter followers
  • 4 Tweet tastings (including the first one for South Africa)
  • 180 whiskies tasted

Some of my highlights from my first “official” year on my whisky journey were: 

What an amazing ride it has been so far. I am looking forward to the next leg(s) of this journey.

Sláinte

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas

Smoky_Dram_Whisky_Blog_Christmas

As we gear up for that wonderful time with family and friends, some of us are either dropping very subtle and not so subtle hints as to which whiskies’ would be most appreciated as a Christmas gift, or we are the ones looking for a drammable present for someone. Below I present, not the 12 days of Christmas, but rather ‘The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas’ to offer my selection of 12 drams that could be enjoyed this festive season.

My list is made up of whiskies across price categories, ages, regions and ABV strengths. So hopefully there is something suitable for everyone? Also all of these whiskies are available in South Africa (if our allocation has not already sold out on some of them). Your best bet for getting your hands on one of the whiskies on the list, if you are in the Johannesburg region, is to visit Marc at his WhiskyBrother shop in Hyde Park. If none of the below appeals to you I am positive that Marc will be able to help you find a dram to your liking.

Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Arnold Photography

So without a further ado, here are the Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas:

Less than R350
1. Three Ships 5 year old (43% ABV) – R145
2. Bain’s Cape mountain whisky (43% ABV) – R220

R350 to R600
3. Evan Williams Single Barrel (43.3% ABV) – R370
4. Nikka from the Barrel (51.4% ABV) – R450
5. Big Peat (46% ABV) – R460
6. Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV) – R540

R600 to R1000
7. Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength (58.5% ABV) – R680
8. Redbreast 15 year old (46% ABV) – R790
9. GlenDronach Allardice 18 year old (46% ABV) – R940
10. Laphroaig 18 year old (48% ABV) – R980

Greater than R1000
11. BenRiach Authenticus 21 year old (46% ABV) – R1800
12. Glenglassaugh 25 year old (45.3% ABV) – R2900

I have been fortunate enough to of have enjoyed all of the above whiskies and can honestly say that they are all very fine drams. But just for in case you would also like to get a little something extra as a stocking filler, my suggestions would be:

Books
Malt Whisky Companion by Michael Jackson (updated by D.Roskrow, G.D.Smith and W.C.Meyers) – R280
Whisky, The Definitive World Guide by Michael Jackson – R440

Glassware
Glencairn Glass – R130 for a two-pack or R380 for a six-pack

All that is left to say is that I wish all a festive and happy time over the holidays and hope that the only smokiness is from the dram in your hand and not from the cooking in the kitchen!

Sláinte and Happy Holidays’ to all!
Edward

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

My 100th Whisky tasted

I recently reached a whisky milestone, my 100th whisky tasted. This prompted two things. The first was naturally “I need to try and taste something special or different for my 100th”. Enter Marc of WhiskyBrother who said that he would provide me with a blind sample of something special for my 100th whisky. The only clue I was given was the ABV. You can follow Marc (@WhiskyBrother) and myself (@TheSmokyDram) on twitter tomorrow for my notes on what I think it is and the reveal from WhiskyBrother  as to what is actually is. My guess and what it is most likely to be continents apart.

Secondly, it got me looking back on my whisky journey so far. It has not been a very long one as it has only been four and a half months since my first blog post ‘Another SA whisky blog‘ and my first review ‘Laphroaig 10yo’, both of which were posted on March 24, 2013. However, my official tasting journey started just over a year ago, according to the first entry in my now (in)famous red moleskin whisky tasting notebook. This was when I attended a ‘Misty Isles’ tasting on the 19th June 2012 and where I tasted 4 whiskies; Jura Superstition, Highland park 12Yo, a Talisker 10Yo and a Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

So here’s to my 100th and to a very long whisky journey still to come.

Update: So my 100th was revealed by Marc to be none other than the Glenglassaugh 25 Year Old, which was bottled for the Whisky Academy.

Glenglassaugh 25yo_Smoky Dram

It is a vintage cask of Glenglassaugh specially selected by Jonathan Miles for the Whisky Academy. It was distilled in 1986, before the distillery was mothballed, selected and bottled in 2011.

Sláinte
Edward

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

The Smoky Dram is still alive

You may have noticed a lack of updates on the blog recently; in fact the last update was 14th June! This was due to me been laid low by some illness, even after going to the doctors 3 times before finally getting better. Then add to that a set of sick 5 months old twins, with the mother also being sick, and you can imagine it was not a nice last month or so for the Smoky Dram household.

But that is now in the past and onwards and upwards I say. Some things to look forward to on The Smoky Dram blog:

  • Next review
  • SA Ardbog day with WhiskyBrother
  • I reach my 100th whisky tasted with a blind sample. Thanks to Marc of @WhiskyBrother for the blind sample. Follow me on twitter (@TheSmokyDram) for my notes on what I think it is and the reveal from WhiskyBrother as to what is actually is.
  • More musings, more whisky news (mostly via my twitter feed) and even more reviews!

So until then, happy dramming!

Sláinte
EdwardThe Smoky Dram Whisky Blog