When I want a purchase recommendation, I value most the opinions of people who have purchased a product. What’s helpful to me is whether simply someone is satisfied with their purchase, and if so, would they buy again. This is the approach I use when reviewing whiskey. Know that I’ve purchased every bottle reviewed here and I’m giving my recommendation based on that purchase.
As a result, my scoring system may be a little unconventional. I don’t use an absolute and somewhat abstract 100-point system. Frankly I don’t know what an 87 tastes like and I don’t know how to communicate that to you. Instead I have five simple labels that hopefully will help you in your next purchase. It’s important to note that value is a part of this evaluation. For example, if I feel a price of a bottle is too high for the quality/experience, this will negatively affect the recommendation to buy it. Similarly if I feel the price is low, the price will positively affect the recommendation. Typically, this is a half level bump or knock. All this information will be detailed in the text of the review, so you should have a good understanding to make your own decision for your tastes and budget.
Each label has a number 1 through 5 and a .5 step to add a little gradation between levels. If I rank something a Buy a Bottle, a 3.5 Buy a Bottle will a stronger recommendation. If I note in the text I feel the bottle is a great value, this likely means the bottle got a 0.5 bump in the score.
My Ratings Scale
Shut Up and Take My Money – 5.0
My highest rating that recommends the whiskey would be worth paying a premium and jumping through hoops. I’d buy extra bottles and if it were to be discontinued or experience a shortage, I’d start to fill up the bunker best I could.
Buy Again – 4.0/4.5
I enjoyed the bottle and recommend buying again. When this bottle is empty I’ll likely go out and buy another. If it were to go away I would be sad, but wouldn’t freak out.
Buy a Bottle – 3.0/3.5
The bottle is a good and I recommend buying it to enjoy. While I was satisfied with the purchase and experience learning about it, I probably buy different bottles before buying again.
Try a Glass – 2.0/2.5
I enjoyed the whiskey, but not enough to pay for a bottle. If I had tried this first at a whiskey bar, I wouldn’t have gone out and bought a bottle.
Pass – 1.0/1.5
Life is too short to drink this whiskey. It may not be bad. It may be really cheap. It’s just not good for much more than getting drunk and there are better vehicles for that.
Below that… let’s call it:
I’ve Made a Huge Mistake – 0.0-0.5
No explanation needed.
In each review under the Details section I’ll list bottle pricing. This will help give context of what I paid and my opinions on value. Because liquor prices can be so multivariate involving taxes, government pricing controls, sales, and demand-based pricing, whenever possible I list MSRP from the distillery and will indicate as such. Otherwise I will list the price I paid.
Periodically I’ll try to update pricing on reviews, and if so, I’ll indicate a year next to the price. If there’s no date next to the price you can assume that was the price at the original publication time.
Your local pricing will likely differ in either direction. I hope my review comments will be helpful in reconciling your own value decision based and your local pricing. If you find a bottle much more expensive than listed, at the bottom of most reviews I list some alternatives.
I think of Bourbon in four classifications based on rye contents. Wheated, low rye, standard rye, and high rye. Each review is tagged for this, so you can browse similar Bourbons. This isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s simply a way to break things down into a manageable classification. This classification does not affect reviews other than to provide a way to find similar whiskies.
I consider a low rye Bourbon as containing less than 10% rye. There aren’t too many of these Bourbons on shelves and most can be found from Buffalo Trace. Standard rye I call 11% to 20% or so. This is the bulk of Bourbons. High rye is above 20%. Lastly, wheated Bourbons contain no rye and use wheat instead as its secondary grain.
I also have a special Bourbon category for high and barrel proof bottles. These are grouped based on high alcohol proof rather than rye content since that I think is their primary feature. I draw the line at around 110-proof or so. That’s admittedly a little arbitrary, but probably as good of a number as any.
For rye whiskey I think of them as two categories of low and high. Low tend to be around the legal minimum of 50-60%. High is 90% or more.
Scotch and world whisky… we’ll save that for another day.
Whiskey taxonomy is based on knowledge of mash bill recipes. Distilleries don’t generally freely share this info, so specific recipes may be based on rumors or just guesses. I’ll do my best to find accurate info and other times try to guess well.
In most reviews I’ll offer some alternative recommendations. I try to limit alternatives to similar types of whiskey and close in price. Perhaps you want to find something similar, or something is out of stock, or the price is out of whack and you’d like to research some other options. My goal is to offer some similar whiskies and do so within ballpark prices.
I’ve purchased at least one bottle of every whiskey I’ve reviewed at retail. I feel it’s important to have skin the game when recommending purchases, I also think it’s important to evaluate it enough to put a dent in a bottle. A 4-oz sample is hardly enough, in my opinion, to give it a proper review.
I understand it may be unconventional and confusing, but it’s how I wrapped my head around whiskey as I’m learning it, so that’s how I’m documenting it here. If you have questions or comments, please hit me up in the form below.
Thanks for visiting and your interest in whiskey!