My goal with this series of “Whisky Review Preamble” posts is to paint a clear picture of me and my whisky tasting process so you can decide on how much value to place on my whisky marks. A rating of 95 can only be useful if you trust the reviewer!
How I Experience Whisky
I like to experience everything a whisky has to offer. This includes packaging, the distillery website, and other people’s experiences of the whisky (including tasting notes, but also by sharing the whisky with others when I can). My experience with a specific whisky usually starts before I buy it. I’ll hear about it from a friend, from Ralfy, or on a blog somewhere. I will sometimes look at the distillery website before buying the whisky, but I usually end up exploring the website after purchase (I am usually a bit frustrated with the heavyweight marketing on distillery websites).
I will rarely buy a whisky on impulse. If I do, it is usually a cheap blended whisky that is on sale.
My tasting notes are the result of two sets of steps. The first is the “bottle break in” where I get to know the whisky, and the second is the creation of tasting notes and a rating.
- Discover the whisky – usually on the internet, sometimes through a friend, sometimes in-store when one is on sale.
- Decide to buy the whisky. This decision is usually based on some combination of price and perceived quality (from reading/watching reviews).
- Once purchased, a whisky will usually stay on my shelf for a number of month before it feels like the time to open it. My perception of the whisky can change in this time.
- Decide to open the whisky.
- Experience the packaging. This does not change the taste, but it can change my expectations and perception.
- The box
- The bottle
- Possibly the distillery website (in the case of Laphroaig, for example, every bottle comes with points you can redeem on their website).
- Open the bottle, pour a glass, take a picture. I am a relatively skilled hobby photographer, and like to take a nice picture of the whisky for later.
- Enjoy the whisky without writing anything down.
- Continue enjoying the whisky for a few weeks (or months, in some cases) until I feel comfortable enough with it to create tasting notes.
Writing Tasting Notes
- Pour a glass of the whisky.
- Prepare my tasting notes. I have a template that I fill in with things like the name, age, alcohol percentage, purchase date, and other information.
- As a part of preparing my notes, I observe the color. I use the following chart (a slightly edited version of a common amber scale):
- Without water, nose the whisky. Take notes.
- Without water, taste the whisky. Take notes.
- Observe the finish of the whisky. Take notes.
- Add distilled water as appropriate.
- With water, nose the whisky. Take notes.
- With water, taste the whisky. Take notes.
- Observe any changes in the finish.
- Decided on a rating. Usually by the time I have tasted the whisky with water, I have decided on a range for the rating. I review my notes and then finalize my rating.
- Write a conclusion. Generally just any thoughts I have about the whisky. A lot of the time I think about how the whisky compares to others, and if it is really worth the price to me.
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