Reviewing empty whisky bottles as I drop them in the recycling. Why?
The enjoyment of whisky is just about as subjective as anything else in life, yet we are reassured by general consensus and feedback from trusted sources about their perception of a whisky’s quality and its prospect as a value.
I’m happy to take in what flavours a reviewer tastes in a whisky but really I want to cut to the chase and know if it’s something they would recommend. You can more or less interpret that from their given score.
While I myself don’t particularly pay too much attention to scoring a whisky, I have to admit that I often do give the whisky a mental score. It might not adhere necessarily to a percentage, the 4 or 5 part 100 point scale, star rating or which of my shelves the whisky will appear on, but it is certainly a mental rating nonetheless. However, for me and my less articulate palate it takes a lot longer than a taste or a single dram to fully comprehend this.
Getting to Know It
As I work through and share a bottle of whisky, especially when I compare it and drink it in contrast to others, I build up a picture of my relationship with that whisky. Also, my first impressions can change over time and that makes sense as the whisky changes over time. It’s very rare for me to get through a bottle very quickly – not much session drinking is done when you have a young family at home – this means that each time I pour from an open bottle the whisky can have settled down a little more. Perhaps it’s rounded out a bit and had some time to breathe in the claustrophobic confines of its glass bottle. First dram to last is often very different. In the context of whisky appreciation, where bottles lie open on a shelf, I think there’s a validity in considering that.
By the time the bottle has finished, I have a pretty clear idea of how I interpret that whisky, and most importantly – am I interested in replacing it, or offering up the open space on the shelf to something new?
I Feel Guilt!
That’s the idea behind these slightly odd whisky review videos. However, they should be taken light-heartedly. As an example in the first video below, I gave scores out of 10 for each and I’m already regretting it. I recently had a dram of Glenkinchie 12 and, on reflection, the 7 out of 10 I scored it in this video could be viewed as a little harsh; not by much, but a little. Perhaps the same could be said for my thoughts on the Aberlour 16 (especially since that made my Best Value 2017 list – but that’s from the perspective of the wider-market value, where as I’m scoring it here based on replacing it or not, and the rules of my list meant I couldn’t add the A’Bunadh!). Such is the challenges with deciding how to score a whisky and then committing to a score on the context of the situation. Both whiskies were marked down a little by me not due to their lack of quality, but their lack of engagement to me – personally.
The rant surrounding the Longmorn 16yo 48% at £49 being replaced by a NAS Distillers Choice 40% £49 was valid, although I didn’t have time in this short video to expand. That one, I felt, was a cynical bottling and bore no resemblance to the 16yo. It tasted like an age-accelerated, over-engineered, sickly sweet whisky – think Tamnavulin Double Cask, or Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve; but twice the price. It is not, necessarily, a bad whisky but it was released at the same price as the 16yo and that’s plain rude. However, I’m happy to note that there’s a new 16yo release (with the inevitable price hike to almost £90) and I see the price has dropped a little on the Distiller’s Choice – not enough, but I’ve seen it for £42. If there are any DC lovers out there, I have a full bottle on the shelf that’s unlikely to be opened – I’ll happily trade it.
I’ll continue to stash the empties from our tasting nights and bottle kills with a view to sharing my summarised (distilled?) thoughts on any I feel I know enough.