How To Rate A Whiskey: Scoring Whiskey Is Just Too Damn Complicated

Whiskey reviews aren’t that hard to write. In fact, since I started this blog a few years ago, it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a blog of some sort. However, creating a consistent scale for reviewing whiskey is another challenge all together.

It seemed easy enough when I first started writing, but the deeper into whisk(e)y that I went, the more difficult I realized it was going to be. I remember talking to a friend (and local whisk(e)y celebrity) Matt Wunderle after one of my early posts where I scored a bottle a 4 out of 5 stars, and he asked me “What I would consider a 5 star whisk(e)y?”. This lead me to start debating whether the previously rated bottle could really be considered just 1 star below a 5 star truly epic like pour like an early Willet Wheater, Limited Edition Four Roses Single Barrel, or everyone’s favorite “epic” reference Pappy Van Winkle.

At the time I was using a 1-5 star rating, and at the time it worked well enough. I got my point across and received the occasional angry email from those I gave 1 star and the deeply coveted “retweet” or “share” from distillers who received a high rating. This felt like a decent benchmark, however a lot has changed in the last 2-3 years. I promised myself I wouldn’t launch into any sort of diatribe about the industry and my thoughts on capitalism and greed as it relates to whisk(e)y, so I’ll part with one quick note. You might have noticed a gap in between articles, and that folks is because I went back to graduate school while working full time. Balancing those two important pieces of my life left me with little-to-no time for writing, but don’t you worry, if you were following me on Instagram or Twitter you know that I’ve been drinking my way into an even deeper understanding of the wonderful world of whisk(e)y by trying pretty much anything I can get my hands on… I’m excited to be back, and before I forget, I’m back with a much simpler approach to how I’m going to rate whiskies going forward. If you feel the need to have a letter or number grade there are plenty of other whisk(e)y blogs, but if you just need some helpful advice from a whisk(e)y enthusiast you came to the right place.

Going forward I will be rating each review with one of the following 3 options:

Buy It – this was a great pour, and if you can get your hands on a bottle it’s a worthwhile bottle to have in your collection.

Try It – this pour was average to me, it’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t do it for me, but everyone’s taste is different. So pony up to a bar near you, and decide for yourself.

Avoid It – Self-explanatory. This pour was either awful, or the cost far outweighs the quality of what is in the bottle.

Sounds easy enough right? Feel free to leave a comment one way or another and remember, drink what you like, not based on hype.

  • Rudy Alexeeff

    Any way you could do both? “Buy it” could be 4 stars and above. “Try it” could be 2-3 stars. Well, you get the idea. I like stars Ryan. It’s closer to a grade. The three phrases alone remind me of elementary gym class grades of “Outstanding, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement” or better yet “Maybe got an alligator in math.”