When I'm trying to figure out how to score a malt, it really helps me to 'virtually' compare the whisky I'm drinking to
certain 'benchmark whiskies' that I'm fairly familiar with. Do I like this whisky more or less than the old Glenfiddich
NAS that scored 60 points? More or less than the Glen Grant 10yo that scored 70 points? More or less than the Oban
14yo or Glen Ord 12yo that scored 80 points? More or less than the Ardbeg 'Lord of the Isles' that scored 90 points?
With every sniff and sip I'm zooming in on my 'final' score for that dram - or at least my score for that occasion.
But enough about my own opinions - let's hear from other maniacs that may or may not believe in scoring whiskies...
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
You can find the 'official' translation of our average scores
on the matrix and monitor in the little table above, but
those of you that want to know about the finer details of my own personal scoring system could take a little detour
to my Malt Madness website. There, I've explained my own feeling-score ratio fairly detailed in Liquid Log Entry #30,
as published on January 1, 2000. However, if you prefer to stick to the essentials, here are my main thoughts on it;
Scores enable us to express our feelings much more accurately than general classifications like 'nice' and 'very nice'...
What's more, using double digits to express our opinion about a whisky allows us to crush those numbers in many
different ways. Even though our personal rating scales are not always 100% compatible (some use the area
below 50 points with glee, while others don't) most maniacs have come to use a relatively similar 'range'.
During our first decade, we seem to have been pretty consistent in the 70-90 points area, but scores tended to
diverge near the extremes of the scale. Some maniacs can be at tad too generous across the board for me, but
then again some of the other maniacs may feel that my own personal ratings are a little too 'severe'. And then
there's the matter of personal preference, of course - not everybody likes peaty or sherried whisky the same.
Pick up a whisky book or magazine and chances are you'll see whiskies scored.
Whether on a scale from 1-100 or with different numbers of stars, attaching a single number to a whisky is a clear and simple way to tell others what you think of the whisky. A '93' must be a real cracker and a '48' really cr... not so good. At the core of the MM Empire lie the Matrix and Monitor, which contain scores on scores and scores of whisky. But despite being a maniac myself, I don't usually score the whiskies I taste. And despite that, Johannes still hasn't kicked me out (;o). I think we've agreed to disagree on this issue and, as Johannes said to me recently, we're both too old now to change our ways.
For me, there are two reasons why I don't score whiskies for myself.
The first one is that a score is a one-dimensional number, whereas I experience the taste of a whisky in multi-dimensional space. So how on earth can you capture a point in multi-dimensional space in a single number? From a mathematical point of view that is impossible unless you have a specific algorithm. But which algorithm to choose? I much prefer not to get a headache from trying to do the mathematically impossible and simple enjoy the taste of whisky with all its dimensions firmly in tact.
Now before you rub my nose into the fact that for the last two years I've been a judge for Whisky Magazine's "Independent Bottler's Challenge", which requires of judges that they score the blind-tasted whiskies on a 1-10 scale (with halves allowed), yes, I have been, and if asked again next year, I'll certainly say yes again. But having a big box of samples to score once a year is not the same as having to score whiskies as standard, all year round, every time you taste one. I thought it would be fun to be involved with something like that (it was!), especially because it wouldn't force me to score all the time. And yes, I'll admit that getting something like 8 liters of good whisky for free didn't exactly push me in the direction of saying no to Dominic's invitation.
The interesting thing is that, quite unexpectedly, it gave me a second reason not to score every whisky I taste.
During the tasting and scoring for WM, I noticed that my experience of a whisky is slightly different when I'm scoring it as compared to when I'm not. Many of you probably know that I'm a biologist and it turns out that when I'm tasting a whisky for the purpose of giving it a score, the scientist in me takes control, and very clinically, tries to judge whether that whisky is a '7.5' or an '8'. No time for distractions about how wonderful the peat plays through the sweetness. Of course, I taste the peat and the sweetness, but turning myself partly into an analytical machine which needs to produce an output, makes me enjoy the whisky in a slightly different way. If I'm tasting a whisky simply to enjoy it, my brain doesn't go into 'analytical mode' and allows me to really enjoy it for what it is. Often, I don't even want to write down tasting notes, as that also sets the analytical part of my brain in motion. I can't help doing that, it's just how I'm wired. And I guess this wiring played a part in me wanting to become a biologist, a scientist, from when I was very young.
Of course, lots of people, including the vast majority of maniacs, enjoy scoring every whisky they taste.
Let me make very clear that I have absolutely no problem with scoring whiskies; it's just not an aspect of my personal enjoyment of whisky. Everyone should experience whisky in the way they most enjoy. If your enjoyment includes squeezing all those wonderful dimensions into a single number, then by all means, do so. I'd still be more than happy to share a dram with you.
Only thing is, I won't score that dram …
Well, well, Lex... You bring up a lot of interesting points.
Let's start with your reasoning that scores are one-dimensional and unable to 'capture a point in multidimensional space'.
Quite right, and it might even be a valid argument if our ultimate goal would be 'capturing points in multidimensional space'.
But it's not; and we don't even have our own spaceship yet, so we might as well focus on more realistic goals... ;-)
Malt Maniacs is all about 'sharing the malt mania'.
For many maniacs, part of the 'sharing' involves comparing their impressions of a whisky with others.
However, if you browse through the pages of Malt Madness & Malt Maniacs - not to mention WhiskyFun - you'll notice that the tasting notes made by one person can be significantly different from those made by another. For example, if you compare Serge's tasting notes for a particular whisky with mine, there will be more differences than similarities. I think we've all gone through an initial period of anguish and despair after buying our first single malts and one of Michael Jackson's whisky books. When I didn't find most of the aroma's and tastes I was 'supposed' to find in many malts I initially thought I was just nasally handicapped. However, as I tasted more and more malts I did find a lot of other aromas and tastes, not to mention a relation between the profile of a single malt and factors like 'terroir', wood type and age. So, I wasn't completely crazy after all - or at least not quite as crazy as I had previously feared...
As I grew older and wiser I learned that several things are important when it comes to comparing notes.
First of all, everybody's 'frame of reference' is unique. Somebody working as a professional chef or sommelier will have smelled many more different fruits, vegetables, etc. than for instance a miner or car mechanic. A chef may be able to distinguish between the aroma of a golden delicious and a granny smith where others find just 'apple' or 'fruity'. What's more, one's vocabulary is also influenced by things like local cuisine and plant life. When Krishna and I recently discussed the fragrances we found in a number of whiskies I often didn't know any of the stuff from India that Krishna mentioned. Likewise, when I referred to Dutch specialties like 'Balkenbrij' and 'Kopkaas' Krishna didn't have a clue what I was talking about. And of course, there's the most important issue of all: personal taste.
Which conveniently brings us back to the topic of scores.
When the first malt maniacs started 'the matrix' many years ago, it was understood that our scores were supposed to reflect our purely personal opinion about a whisky, COMPARED TO OTHER WHISKIES. That last bit is crucial - I agree it's impossible to express the multimedia experience that is a glass of malt into two digits, but you can compare the amount of enjoyment it provides to the amount of enjoyment other whiskies provide. Of course, PERSONAL taste and preferences are very important here. Some people like tannins in their whisky, some don't. Some people prefer a malt matured in a sherry cask while others might rather go for a bourbon matured malt. In that respect, I agree with Lex that a score by itself doesn't say much. However, that changes when you can compare those scores to others.
That was the reasoning behind the Malt Maniacs Matrix - the initial inspiration for the MM Awards.
On the matrix and the monitor you can compare the score of one maniac with those from between two and eleven others. Because the matrix and monitor now contain thousands of different malts, it's easy for visitors of the site to find out which maniac has tastes similar to their own. All they have to do is select a dozen single malts they like themselves and compare the scores various maniacs have given to those malts. Also, if nine out of ten maniacs like a certain whisky, chances are other people will do so too.
So, the scores were never meant as an 'objective' or 'scientific' gauge of the 'quality' of a whisky. I don't think the 'quality' of a whisky is something that can be established in scientific terms; just like beauty it's in the eye of the beholder.
Any more comments on this?
I have yet to read an argument against scoring that was not based, at least in part, on false premises.
Like Lex I am trained as a biologist (cytogenetics) though I no longer work in that field. Let's begin by saying that for me, scoring whisky is and ART not a science. My tasting notes are not repeatable, except grosso modo, but my scores, even months or years apart, generally are.
There is absolutely no requirement to score every whisky you drink.
In fact once you get good at it and your scores become repeatable, that would be kind of pointless, wouldn't it?
I too experience the right-brain ecstacies of just dramming a Laphroaig 10 by a smoking fireplace or sipping Johnny Walker Black on ice on a patio discussing politics. And I re-dram those malts I've scored in the 90's, not so I can re-score them but so I can luxuriate in them. Do I stop dramming when my equipment is not 100%? Of course not, but I do stop scoring.
There is no algorithm.
A whisky with an ecstatically great nose really doesn't need much of anything else to rate high in my books.
Great palate? great score, regardless of the rest. Unbalanced? Great!! I LOVE unbalanced whiskies. Every peat monster, by definition, is unbalanced as is every sherry monster. The number simply shows, on a scale from 0 to 100, how much I want to experience that whisky again. That means there are whiskies in the 40s and 50s that I would still go back to. Yes, scoring is personal and that is why I am such a fan of the Matrix - it lets me see how lots of other people have scored a whisky. I am sure that a major factor in a neophyte's malt purchase decisions is scores he reads in books or magazines. Since maltmania is about sharing, I feel privileged to contribute to such a concise and accessible medium for conveying many opinions so very succinctly.
The Matrix and the Monitor rule!
Scoring whiskies in a competition IS different. It is less contemplative, much more analytical and ever so clinical.
Scoring whiskies blind, while educational, is not for the fragile ego. Scoring with no clues as to what you are scoring can be very demanding. This is not a patio or fireside exercise, but is a wonderfully effective way to keep your palate tuned. But scoring in isolation is not like scoring with a bunch of friends with whom you can discuss and share your impressions. It's a whole lot less fun.
Still the challenge of judging whiskies is a pleasure unto itself.
I like scoring whisky. It sharpens my palate and I hope it helps others find the best malts on which to spend their hard-earned money. I don't do it every day or with every malt but when I do it, I find it adds yet another dimension to the already multiply layered ones a well crafted malt brings to my conciousness.
I think the debate is well argued by the originators - Lex, who is already "against" and Johannes going for "for". The other maniacs may follow suit to align with the two sides. I think of a surfer on net, who has just been
initiated into world of whiskies looking for credible info on whiskies. The Matrix is the perfect source of information for him. It gives him/her the instant source of whiskies which not only provide him/her with scores but
also the other vital info like abv, bottler, cask no. etc. It is the right kind of initial info that equips him to deal, when he likes to buy certain stuff in the market. The surfer leans whether to avoid a Loch Dhu or certain
Edradours in favour of malts which are scored high. I have been informed by many of my Indian friends that they find the Matrix, the singular best feature in entire Malt Maniacs website. Without Matrix, we will be just like
another ordinary bunch enjoying their whiskies.
Where scoring goes awry sometimes is, is when somebody is asked to blind score the same whisky which he has already scored. When I was at Johannes's place last week, Michel visited in one evening. During the afternoon Johannes and I were discussing a certain a malt which Michel gave 93 points, where as others put it in higher seventies (sorry, I forgot the name of the sample). Well, in the evening we gave it to Michel to blind taste and give score. He gave 78 points, 15 points below his initial score. When we declared the fact, Michel defended that the sample for which he gave 93 points was very different from what he tried in the evening. The 93 points sample was fresh from the bottle and the environment was completely different. He contested that this sample has taken lot of air from the half empty bottle. Perfectly agreed – different whisky levels in a bottle and different environs give different tastes. A perfect example is – tasting SMSW in India. If not consumed quickly, malt deteriorates faster in India and the scores would not be consistent.
However, the above fact should not deter one to score a whisky if he or she wishes. If we were to simply taste whiskies with only metaphor to resort to for discussion, much of what we have thought about the whisky would be lost in time(especially with guys like me who is becoming old). But if we had tasted and gave a score to it, it would be easy to bring back all metaphor attached to it and we can enjoy and relive all things that happened when we tasted the sample. When I gave 91 points to that 27 y.o Green Bracla (57.9%) I still remember how I enjoyed the left over, sitting in a small little hotel room in Srinagar in that strife ridden state of Kashmir last winter.
Giving scores or not to is purely a personal approach and I was even mocked at in India when I was seriously taking down notes between sips while those around me were "enjoying" their stuff. I said to them, for me enjoying whisky is a serious business and it gives me great pleasure to put my little thoughts on record for "them" to visit our website and see whether I was enjoying my whisky or not.
I must admit that even today I find it difficult to get the entire bouquet of nose and palate in a malt. At the same time my spectrum of description of nose and palate has increased over the last three years and can I can now safely differentiate a donkey from a thoroughbred. My scoring is outcome of how I feel a malt on my nose, palate and the over all texture, finish and the Euphoria it leaves me with at the end. I think it goes the same with all those maniacs whose noses and palates have grown over the years!! I find it much more fun and more importantly, easy to share the fun by giving a two dimensional number rather than not to score at all. The scores are more solid and less skewed now as the database is growing up and with removal of lowest and highest scores, the Awards and Matrix has gained more credibility than ever before.
I think it is pointless not to score a whisky when you have spend a considerable amount of time and energy with it.
So why not score it and declare the whisky you are drinking is good or bad.
This is my response.
I know that some very learned maltsters are positively phobic when it comes to malts and numbers, but for me giving malts a score was just part of malt appreciation. When I first joined the Earls of Zetland Malt Tasting Club in 1991, I didn't really have any idea or any system for scoring malts, however, as the club finished off the tasting events by scoring each whisky tasted out of 10, I sort of fell into the numbers game from the very beginning of my 'malt career'.
Of course being a raw neophyte at the time, there were plenty of crusty old sea dogs with at least 10 years of malt appreciation under their belts that were most forthcoming with advice. The essence of the advice provided to any tenderfoot on how to make decisions on whiskies put before them and work out what a malt is worth numerically was a very rough guide and is offered here for anyone who's interested.
< 5 out of 10 - undrinkable without the addition of Coca-Cola - bad wood, sloppy distilling or other obvious flaws.
5 - 6 - usually bland and boring or too young with no depth or older malts with serious wood faults.
6 - 7 - nothing obviously wrong, just not exciting or for older malts, lack of balance.
7 - 7.5 - good solid spirit; balanced, rounded and well made with no discernible flaws.
Could be served to malt cognoscenti without embarrassment.
7.5 - 8.0 - very good with some distinctive and memorable qualities.
8.0 - 8.5 - excellent - worthy addition to one's top shelf.
> 8.5 - superb and stellar - something worth seeking out - provoking covetousness.
Production of one of these at a malt function gains instant access to the inner circle.
Of course there were differences amongst contemporaneous tasters in the Earls of Zetland as some tended to benchmark whiskies around a fulcrum of 7 while others (including me) gravitated over time towards using 7.5 out of 10. This upwards creep in my scores over the last decade has meant that malts I am very familiar with (Macallan 12, Laphroaig 10 etc.) have moved from 79 & 80 to 83 and 84 respectively. I don't think it is a case of whiskies getting better (as the same thing happened with identical bottlings tasted years apart : Glen Grant 26 Royal Wedding and Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve both went from 86 to 88 over the two tastings four years apart), I just think that I have become more comfortable with awarding higher marks than I used to be. Thus with growing experience and affection for the world's finest spirit, my benchmark has ridden up from 7.0 to 7.5, which has turned out quite useful for the purposes of the Malt Madness Matrix as it mirrors the reality, if not the original intent of Michael Jackson's scoring spread. Which is not to say that my scores didn't need adjusting, just that it was a reasonably simple matter. My original range of scores was from 60 to 90, with the benchmark at 75, therefore it was simple to adjust my scores for the Malt Madness Matrix.
So basically my rating system is benchmarked at 75, with the whiskies I consider superior starting at 85.
and those I consider inferior below 65. Any whisky scoring above 85 is one that excites and delights, so if you sneak a peak at the Malt Madness Matrix, you can see the malts that I hold in high regard.
Hi, fellow maniacs, I'm in a rush so no long and detailed explanations but here are just a few quick points:
* I'm in favour of scoring whiskies.
* But only if that's done responsibly and seriously (experience needed).
* A score should be a 'summing up' of detailed notes and impressions.
* A score isn't a judgement because there isn't any laws. It's highly personal.
* A score, like any mathematical 'expression', should be based on measurable (sort of) criteria.
* For instance, I favour both complexity AND compactness, typicality AND originality etc.
* Yet, I don't like to 'decompose' a score (like nose, palate, finish, mouth feel etc.) because I think those elements
are highly variable in their relative importance, depending on each whisky.
* We shouldn't score if we don't have enough time to 'screen' a whisky properly.
* Scores are relative to other scores. That's why I like to try different expressions from the same distillery at the same time.
* Using benchmark malts is important, to avoid 'scores volatility' depending on moods, shape etc.
* A user should know the taster's background and tastes before 'using' his scores.
* It's always better to read the tasting notes alongside a score. Just a score can be misleading.
* A score should always be explained. Again, it's just a summing up.
* Scorers should always respect the people who made the whisky and be fair.
* When in doubt, don't score!!!
I probably forgot many points...
A lot of people ask me the relevancy of scoring a whisky or for that matter any other beverage, wine, beer, vodka, pina colada for all who cares. Well if you ask me, scoring a malt can be very relevant, very relevant indeed, but
only if you know the taster better then just his name or picture. And just a score, a number is in most cases not enough, not if that is just a single score, a single opinion. I would not like people to start looking for a malt
just because I scored it 90 points or so, that could well be very deceiving and could lead to misinterpretations. If people however read in depth a tasting note, that could already give more information about that whisky. I
tend to like and thus score high a delicate, fine and fruity malt especially if that is mixed with old fat good sherry, that is ultimate enjoyment if you ask me. But if you don't like this kind of aroma's or want a malt
to be heavily peated then you will you be disappointed if you go for that malt just by looking at the score....because it might not be up to your expectations.
So scoring a malt is very relevant.... but in my opinion only if you know the taster personally or if you have access to his tasting notes.... otherwise they are just a personal impression of the author....
(Oh yes, before becoming a Malt Maniac I never scored my whiskies.....)
Ah.... I'd say we've found something to disagree on, Luc...
If I understand it correctly you do agree with my earlier point that scores only provide a personal perspective.
However, from that you seem to draw the conclusion that you have to 'know the taster' and also read the tasting notes.
Hmmm... Yes, I agree it's better to 'know the taster' a little - maybe not personally, but if you check out the matrix or the monitor it's easy enough to compare your own score or 'classification' for a whisky with those of several other maniacs. You should be able to find one or more maniacs with tastes similar to your own, I imagine. Having the tasting notes for a malt on-hand directly as well would indeed be even better, but don't forget that the main purpose of the matrix and monitor is to provide an OVERVIEW - as long as we don't use a database it will be very hard to conveniently add the tasting notes as an extra 'layer' to the matrix and/or monitor.
For now, I'd like to focus on another issue, though.
When we started the very first matrix many years ago we also had a long discussion within the maniacs about the sense and nonsense of scores. If I remember correctly we came to the conclusion that scores should be 'benchmarks' for the overall enjoyment that a whisky provides. Needless to say, it's very difficult to reduce the multimedia experience of a dram to two digits. Of course, there's the matter of personal taste (some like peaty whiskies, some don't) and there are so many facets of a dram that are 'weighed' differently by different people (balance, development, complexity, individuality, colour, finish, response to water, etc.) that 'scoring whisky' may seem like a daunting task for some relative novices in maltland. Well, it's really extremely simple once you've managed to make a start and 'get in touch with your feelings'. The key is unlocking your unconscious - I'll write a short 'primer on scoring whisky' a little later.
However, first I'd like to invite Luc to dig a big pit for me to push him in...
Luc... I know you have a 'system' for scoring whisky - could you please explain a little bit more about that?
A lot of people score a whisky, a lot of people put their appreciation of a malt into a number on 10 or 100.
Not only the maniacs... In fact quite a lot of people score malts or other beverages and they all use a system.
Whisky Magazine has one, Jim Murray has one, Serge has one... and so do I.... I have always used the 4 x 25 points system and I would love to elaborate a bit more on this system. I try to divide a malt in 4 sections, each worth 25 points.
The first is the NOSE, the aroma's that touch my nostrels, those yes. For me the evaluation of the nose is the most important one. A lot of my friends always ask me :"Luc, come on, taste the whisky...." I tend to take my time guys... the more aroma's I can detect the more points a malt gets on my 25-point scale. And if these aroma's please me as an individual, the more I'll score it too. Hé, I'm only human.
The next section is the TASTE, the mouthfeel, the body of the malt, the way it coats my tastebuds and this is also expressed on a 25 scale and again if these please me I'll higher my score. And for that matter, my tastebuds are mine... nobody else's tastebuds....
Then I evaluate the FINISH, the length, the aroma's that come back, the wrapping so to speak.
The longer the better, the more wrapped the better, thus resulting in yet another score on 25.
Finally I score the BALANCE/COMPLEXITY. This is in fact a double score within 25 points.
So you could say 12,5 for complexity and 12,5 for balance. Complexity is simple to detect. The more aroma's you can detect, the more complex this malt is. And the balance is a total appreciation on the way the malt in a total perspection behaves. If the malt would have a nose full of fruit, a palette full of peat, a finish of sherry... the balance would be low.... in my whiskybook that is...
But again, my whiskybook is just my whiskybook, that is not the holy bible, by far it isn't.......
And besides from scoring......
Make sure you know the taster and have access to his notes.... This will enlighten you how to interprete his/her scores.
Hah! I've got you by the balls now, Luc. You've fallen into my fiendishly set trap...
I like principles, but they would have to be the CORRECT principles - which yours clearly aren't ;-)
Just kidding, but I do think there are some problems with using a 'system' or 'principle'. It SUGGESTS a certain solid logic or 'scientific' element where there really is very little. The enjoyment of whisky is a very personal experience and depends very much on one's personal tastes. Those tastes are not 'etched in stone' and can develop over time, but it's hard to like a whisky of you simply don't like the smell or taste.
It seems you do agree with my earlier point that nosing & tasting a whisky is a personal experience.
But as such, different people will value different elements in the equation differently. For some people the nose is the most important 'feature' of a whisky while others primarily get enjoyment from the taste - or high proof. And even within the same person, different aspects of a malt might be appreciated differently on different occasions. For example, on good nose days the aroma's in a malt whisky can provide me with much more fun than the taste, but on bad nose days the taste is pretty much all I have to go on. And the finish? A lot of people include that as a standard component in their tasting notes, but I like to keep things as simple as possible. If I smell it it goes with 'nose', if I taste or feel it it goes with 'taste'. Some malts have a finish worth writing about, some don't; I certainly wouldn't let the finish determine 25% of my score. As far as balance goes - that can be a good thing, but I like some 'rough edges' as well in some malts. So, even if you use a 'system', it would have to be a unique system that works for YOU - and probably not for anybody else.
Maybe this system works perfectly for Jim Murray, but for me personally it's too 'analytical'.
Let's face it - dogs have far better noses than people, so if there's any analysing to be done we should leave it to the dogs.
In fact, my brother and I - and our dog Floris - have experimented with that. As it turns out Bailey's Irish Whiskey Cream is 'better' than actual whisky. So there you go, you can't argue with science...
So, my problem with any similar 'system' is that it creates the ILLUSION of logic and science.
Maybe scientists are indeed able to completely analyse whiskies and determine what the BEST MADE whisky is - but I think the malt maniacs and most consumers are more interested in finding the BEST LIKED whisky. And that's why most maniacs use a 'benchmarking' system - we compare the overall enjoyment a whisky provides with that which other whiskies have provided us in the past. Individual tastes can differ, but by collecting the opinions of twelve or more people in the awards (and on the matrix and monitor), we're able to at least find some 'common ground' and find an average score that usually reflects the 'general consensus' amongst the whisky loving public.
I could go on for a few hours, but perhaps I should get back to work on the MaltMenu now...
None of the members on the MM Awards jury are so-called
'professionals' - and most maniacs would likely be offended
if you called them experts to their face. But we know which
malt whiskies we like. How we translate our opinions on
whisky into numbers deserves some explanation though....
Back in the 1980s, when I was still a little Dutch 'male chauvinist piglet', one of
my favourite summer pastimes was hanging out on a café terrace with some
friends and some drinks. Simply getting drunk becomes boring after a while,
so we used to keep it interesting by commenting on the people passing by.
If those people happened to be of the female persuasion (and preferably
somewhere within our own age bracket), we often used to express our
opinion in scores. Not that we could be considered experts on women
by any stretch of the imagination, mind you - but that little detail didn't
stop us from having opinions and 'scoring' women nonetheless...
A few pages on the Malt Maniacs site developed in very much the same
way... Features like the MM Matrix, the MM Monitor and the MM Awards
are all grounded in the fact that we have found a way to express our
opinion with two digits. And because the maniacs ALWAYS publish their
individual scores (well, the 'amateurs' at least) you can hold us accountable.
Further down this page you can find the perspectives of a few different malt maniacs on the topic.
Lex Kraaijeveld kicks off the discussion with his observations on scores. So, the fact that Lex doesn't actually
have his own column with whisky scores on the Malt Maniacs Matrix (yet) didn't give him pause... ;-) However,
before we get to the 'discussion' part, I would like to go into the 'meaning' of the numbers on matrix & monitor.
You can find a slightly more detailed 'legend' a little further down, but the (original) meaning of the scores is;
Over the years the maniacs have discussed the topic of
'scores' many times, mind you... However, many of these
discussions were private, so they didn't appear in the
form of an E-pistles in our Archive as such. Because the
results of the Malt Maniacs Awards are determined by the
individual scores given by the jury members, I felt it might
be useful if we brought the topic up again when we
started dramming for the MM Awards 2006 - especially
because we still disagreed on a few (mostly minor) points.
SUPER BLUE (90 points & more)
DARK GREEN (85-89 points)
LIGHT GREEN (80-84 points)
DARK GREY (75-79 points)
LIGHT GRAY (70-74 points)
BLUSHING RED (Below 70 points)
The sky is the limit! The most amazing malts money can buy; absolutely legendary 'Aqua Vitae'.
Highly recommendable. This is the good stuff we crave, (almost) universally loved and appreciated.
Recommendable - plain & simple. You really can't go wrong with these whiskies. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Better than average, but not something worth hunting down. There are better single malts available.
Below average, but not something that should be actively avoided either. Could do better, though.
Hold it! A score in the 60's or even lower is reason for extreme caution. it means: downright avoidable.
90 POINTS & MORE
LESS THAN 70
Really EXCEPTIONAL whiskies. (So, that's a very small minority of maybe 1 or 2%.)
The HIGHLY RECOMMENDABLE whiskies, usually saved for special occasions.
The RECOMMENDABLE whiskies, perfect as a 'daily dram' if the price is right.
Whiskies that are (BETTER THAN) AVERAGE - compared to other malt whiskies.
Whiskies that are BELOW AVERAGE - compared to other (single) malt whiskies.
Very good for a blended whisky, but NOT VERY GOOD for a (single) malt whisky.
That being said, what's the purpose of assigning scores to a single malt whisky - or any other type of whisky
for that matter? Well, our scores should most certainly NOT be interpreted as our opinion about the 'quality' of
a whisky. There are many 'competitions' where the jury (mostly 'professionals') hands out awards for the 'best
made' whisky in an ever growing number of categories. The malt maniacs, as a group of amateurs, would be
very hesitant to make any claims about which whisky was 'produced the best'. However, most of us are pretty
adept at telling how much we like a certain whisky by now - and at expressing that opinion in two digits:
Before I go any further, I should point out that I've been using this scale on Malt Madness since the 1990s.
During the first few years, all maniacs seemed to all use pretty much the same scale. But as the team grew and
the years passed by, we've experienced a phenomenon we called 'score inflation' - the fact that the 'average'
score for an 'average' whisky kept creeping upwards. Especially younger members on our team (and a few that
have to interact with industry people on a regular basis) seem to rarely give scores below 80 points these days.