Forums » Bottle Tasting Notes


    • 195 posts
    March 19, 2020 2:42 PM PDT


    Update: 6/11/13 Wine Enthusiast and L.A. Whisk(e)y Society ratings have been added.


    An individual’s tastes are as unique as their fingerprints. As subjective as taste is, everyday debates regarding the bourbon hierarchy take place on an objective level. Some reviews and top ten lists also take an objective tone, but after a while you learn that though they are created to help you find the right bourbon, they are closer to a poorly drawn map on the back of a napkin than GPS coordinates on an iPhone (back when they had Google maps of course).

    Each person has specific preferences with bourbon, from mash bills, proof, age, char number, to warehouse location. Whether you know what your preferences are or not, you have them, and the odds of someone writing a review or making a list having the same specific preferences as you is slim to none. The problems that arise from this are two fold when trying to find reliable advice on your next purchase.

    1. Just because I like something doesn’t mean you will like something and if I like something you don’t, that doesn’t mean that one of us is wrong.
    2. If I taste a bottle of a true small batch or a smaller release single barrel in the summer of 2013, a second push of that same offering in a different state or a season later is not likely to taste the exactly the same, especially if it is an NDP bottle. Different batch numbers from the same release in the same season can even prove inconsistent.

    To combat these problems, I take to the internet. I source multiple sites searching for the next best bourbon that will satisfy my natural desire for a well balanced and deeply complex pour. This creates another problem. The first thing that pops up on most search engines are non-bourbon specific publications attempting to drive sales or keep up with trends. If you are more than a novice bourbon drinker, these sites won’t be helpful. You don’t need to be told that Pappy is good, or that Jack Daniels isn’t bourbon.

    Maxim MagazineFox News and The New York Times have rarely (if ever) produced a whiskey article beyond trend heavy top tens and financial cash flows of conglomerate distilleries, but they sure do produce a lot of whiskey related articles. Aside from Fred Minnick, very few worthy reads have even been produced form national publications unless they allow an actual industry professional or “insider” to get a few column inches in the editorial section.

    The answer is to go straight to those industry professionals and insiders. Sour Mash Manifesto, Scotch and Ice Cream, Malt Advocate, Chuck Cowdery, Sku’s Recent Eats, and a few wider scope sites like Dave Driscoll’s Spirits Journal at K&L and Christopher Null’s posts over at Drink Hacker all do excellent work. These guys focus mainly on bourbon, American whiskey and whisky from across the pond. They know their stuff, they produce tons of reviews and articles on a regular basis on a various array of topics (not just Pappy Van Winkle).

    Sourcing 3 or 4 of these sites for reviews is always a great idea before buying a new bottle. I do it myself, so I figured I would start including some peer reviews with the “overall” comments in my reviews. Even better, up at the top of my site you will find the “Master Review List” page, where all the bourbons I have reviewed are paired with review grades and remarks from the guys above. Hopefully this becomes a helpful resource for you to source multiple reviews without spending too much time on bourbon sites. It is a bit of a peer pressure, group think approach to reviewing bourbon, but it should be helpful resource when researching bourbon.

    I still think it is very important to read through the reviewed bourbons you have had on 2 or 3 of these guys (doesn’t have to include me) so you can see if your tastes line up with the reviewer you are reading. If you think bourbon A, B and C are all C grade bourbons and I gave them all A grades, my reviews probably won’t be much help to you when I review a bourbon you haven’t had before.

    I am going to try and add more reviewers, maybe even Robert Parker if I have time, and I will update “Master Review List” every 2 or 3 reviews, if not faster.

    Keep in mind, an 9.0 from Jason Pyle over at Sour Mash Manifesto is closer to a solid A for him. John Hansell only grades the high end and limited release American whiskies on a regular basis Wine Enthusiast scores are vague at an almost random consistency, the L.A. Whisk(E)y society seems partial to the ryes while bourbons almost never reach an A grade, and Drink Hacker can have more than one reviewer submitting reviews for whiskey so, these scores don’t translate across the board.

    Josh Pyle from Malt Hacker’s Recent Eats

    This post was edited by admin at March 19, 2020 2:45 PM PDT