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wadewood
02-25-2013, 12:36
Fact - distillers send reviewers/bloggers free samples or bottles of their products for evaluation purposes.

So the poll is simple yes or no. Do you think on single barrel offerings the producers select what bottles get send out and pick whiskey that is better than the standard profile for that brand?

Vote yes if you think this has happened or No if you think this has never happened.

callmeox
02-25-2013, 12:51
Never is a very long time.

MyOldKyDram
02-25-2013, 12:58
Maybe?

Poll needs more options.

wadewood
02-25-2013, 13:08
Maybe?

Poll needs more options.

Polis Yes or No, but feel free to comment if you to expand on something.

smokinjoe
02-25-2013, 13:25
Has it ever happened...?

smknjoe
02-25-2013, 13:45
I'm inclined to say yes, but does anyone other than the distiller really know? It seems it would be in their best interest.

On the other hand, Chuck thinks his "honey" bottles from the distiller are the same as what he buys off the shelf.

berto
02-25-2013, 14:01
My gut says that it has happened before and will happen again. It might not be common practice but it makes sense that a company would send its most stellar product to be reviewed. Kinda how a restaurant makes sure the a reviewer gets flawless food and service.

Halifax
02-25-2013, 14:15
How else do you explain Evan Williams Single Barrel getting rated a 95 or 93? I've never drank an EWSB that I would rate higher than 86. It is good whiskey, not great whiskey.

smokinjoe
02-25-2013, 14:17
How else do you explain Evan Williams Single Barrel getting rated a 95 or 93? I've never drank an EWSB that I would rate higher than 86. It is good whiskey, not great whiskey.

I would explain it that you your tastes don't agree with those who gave it a 95 or 93.

Halifax
02-25-2013, 14:24
I would explain it that you your tastes don't agree with those who gave it a 95 or 93.

Or perhaps taste is but one of many factors as to why some whiskies receive extraordinary reviews.

weller_tex
02-25-2013, 14:42
Or perhaps taste is but one of many factors as to why some whiskies receive extraordinary reviews.

Chuck thinks we are all a bunch of conspiracy theorists for voting yes I guess..not about that at all. It makes perfect sense that Barrel #1 of EWSB, which would go out to reviewers and VIPS mainly, would be a honey barrel. As was noted earlier in this thread, if you ran a restaurant and knew a reviewer was coming, you'd do everything you could to not put your best foot forward. It makes no sense to send a reviewer just some random sample.

bingstein
02-25-2013, 14:46
What is the end game if it is proven that the answer is "yes"? Class action lawsuit against reviewers? Or distilleries?

OscarV
02-25-2013, 14:47
How else do you explain Evan Williams Single Barrel getting rated a 95 or 93? I've never drank an EWSB that I would rate higher than 86. It is good whiskey, not great whiskey.


Hear hear!!!
These reviewers gush like school girls over EW1B every year and it's not bad whiskey but it ain't worth the review or any review, it's just OK.

OscarV
02-25-2013, 14:50
What is the end game if it is proven that the answer is "yes"? Class action lawsuit against reviewers? Or distilleries?


Just the reviewers.
The distilleries just bottle it and sell it.

smokinjoe
02-25-2013, 15:14
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

SMOWK
02-25-2013, 15:26
Could another factor be that the bottle has not gone through the shipping and manhandling of the three tier system? The bottle shows up to the reviewer less disturbed than the bottle that was manhandled along the way.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 15:27
either the reviewers do get honey barrels/bottles, or most of us just have higher standards. even Jim Murray, who i most often agree with on taste profile, gives out some numbers that seem too high.of course, he also gives out some very low numbers on occasion...

when sazerac 18 first came out, bt let reviewers sample whiskey at barrel proof. I'm sure it was absolutely stunning! although reviewers may not have reviewed the bottled whiskey based upon what they first tasted, would it effect a value judgement on the final review?

SMOWK
02-25-2013, 15:29
I'd like to see all professional reviews done blind. If you've ever been in a blind tasting, you have probably been surprised at what can happen.

squire
02-25-2013, 15:40
I would be surprised if they didn't.

Lazer
02-25-2013, 15:50
I thought about starting a whiskey review blog with the objective of getting some of these free samples. On further reflection I looked at how much it would cost to go out and buy enough bottles for my initial reviews to get the ball rolling until the freebees started rolling in. I do have some whiskey bunkered, but how many reviews of Ritt BIB can I write? I realized that its going to be cheaper in the long run to just buy my own whiskey.

As far as the honey barrel's going to reviewers, who cares? I have my own honey barrels.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 16:12
I'd like to see all professional reviews done blind. If you've ever been in a blind tasting, you have probably been surprised at what can happen.


I would be surprised if they didn't.


let me respond to your two suggestions, and clarify my post a bit:

Firstly, blind tastings have their place, but not in most official reviews. Why not review the whiskey based upon how old it is? A blind tasting shows all of us our true preferences, or our preferences at a moment in time, but not necessarily what a 18 year old whiskey should taste like. The point of a reviewer is to be impartial, and review a whiskey in comparison to its peers and taking into consideration things like age, proof, barrel finishing, &c, so that the average consumer can say to themselves "Ah, Elijah Craig 18 year got a 94, so that's what an 18 year old whiskey should taste like!" blind tastings don't exactly allow that.

Secondly, no reviewer is truly impartial, however, I strongly believe that most of them do their best to be even when they are sent rare samples that the poor ol' consumer jus' can get. They're going to get rare bottles, we need to deal with it. The consumer's job is to figure out which reviewer's taste profile most fits their own.

Thirdly, the distilleries absolutely send honey bottles to reviewers. the job of the distillery is to sell stuff. The question is how often it happens, not if. The question is is it just a harmless sample here that may effect their opinion on another product later, or is it intentional manipulation? If they can convince Pacult, or Hansell, or Murray, that their particular hooch is the best, they can throw labels on it that say so. Distilleries use those labels, even if they're out-dated. Most distilleries are more honest with their customers now, than they were 10 years ago, I'm sure, but that's only because it is easier to find accurate information and with social networking the monster it has become, it's way too easy to get trapped in a lie or a mis-statement. Most consumers want to think that their Pappy Van winkles are still something extra-special (as opposed to just really good whiskey), that their OWA is still seven, and that baby saz is 6. Most people on straightbourbon can handle the truth, and WANT it. would be more willing to buy things from David Perkins if he explicitly stated on the label, this whiskey came from LDI. More likely to buy more Willett Reserve if it stated it was distilled at Heaven Hill, or at D.S.P. 354.


But let me condemn most of us here on straightborbon, as well. Sometimes we become so zealous in our quest for the truth, or in needing to prove that Pappy Van Winkle no longer contains S-W and is therefore inferior, that it drives distilleries to withold even more information, even more truth. People read straightbourbon, they respect our opinions. Pappy Van Winkle can lay a lot of credit for its success post mortem, for the legend that we helped create of S-W whiskeys here, and on all the rest of the social networking blogs and websites out there that talked about them.

WAINWRIGHT
02-25-2013, 16:13
I guess I don't understand the premise of a distiller NOT picking the best of the profile offering in a single barrel release.I guess if you look at it this way,it would be a lot easier to pick the best of a batch versus the most average or norm of the profile in any instance.I know this statement is somewhat silly in nature but on the other hand quite true and we are speaking of a single barrel release.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 16:16
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

Not me. I think it's safe to say that some barrels would be better than others, but in general EWSB is EWSB. Is it possible that some of the best stuff gets distributed differently? Absolutely. Is it possible that the distillers bottle some for themselves at barrel proof? Sure. Is it possible that reviewers like Hansell and Murray only try the stuff sent to them by the distiller, and that the distiller sends the best to everyone to intentionally mislead everyone? Possibly? I don't know that I buy that.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 16:20
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

Of course not, Joe. No one said that. But there's always some barrel variation, as we all know.

The point is that HH is going to put their best foot forward and make sure that barrel 1 is one of the very best barrels that they've chosen for that vintage, and they'll make damn sure that that's the sample sent to Hansell. I certainly don't blame them for this. What company wouldn't do this?

The point is that thinking that EW1B barrel #1 vs. EW1B barrel #123 are completely the same is quite naive, regardless of what some writers would have us believe.

Halifax
02-25-2013, 16:21
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

Here's one example of the 100 point scale:

http://www.maltadvocate.com/whisky_reviews.asp?Search=Y

A Good/Very Good bourbon would rank 80-89.

Giving EWSB a 93 or 95 rating would be to rank it among the best examples of whiskey produced. I don't see where anyone is suggesting that EWSB is a mediocre bourbon. Most of us agree that EWSB is a good to very good whiskey. As such it should receive an rating somewhere in the 80s.

Barrel #1 of each year's release may very well be an Outstanding/Classic whiskey and merit a mid-90s score. The novice consumer sees these 93/95 ratings and thinks to himself... Wow... EWSB must be one great pour. I must go buy a bottle. I doubt that the bottle he buys would merit anything close to those ratings handed out by experts. And there's the rub...

squire
02-25-2013, 16:23
People who have nothing to hide should have no fear of disclosure.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 16:23
Not me. I think it's safe to say that some barrels would be better than others, but in general EWSB is EWSB. Is it possible that some of the best stuff gets distributed differently? Absolutely. Is it possible that the distillers bottle some for themselves at barrel proof? Sure. Is it possible that reviewers like Hansell and Murray only try the stuff sent to them by the distiller, and that the distiller sends the best to everyone to intentionally mislead everyone? Possibly? I don't know that I buy that.


I would not say that they're trying to "mislead," but rather to get a leg up with a great score.

You think that Robert Parker isn't shown the best barrel samples from wineries? Of course he is. Historically people like Hansell and Parker will deny this, as it shows the fallacy behind score reviews, which is their bread and butter.

tanstaafl2
02-25-2013, 16:31
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

Not what I am saying but I would guess that barrels made in such large quantities, like many things, end up on something approximating a normal distribution of "goodness" such that there many average barrels, some good ones and some bad ones.

14812

Presumably the Master Distiller can recognize the good ones and those 900 are the best he can find.

But of those 900 hundred barrels it is still likely a spectrum of what is really good and what is even better, at least to the Master Distiller. And if he can tell which is which and he wants to get the best review he can wouldn't it make sense to select the one he thinks is the best of the best to send out for review and generate buzz? The #1 barrel might not turn out ot be be the absolute best. And there might be 10 or 20 or 50 that are as good or better. Or even 500 if that curve is really flat on the left end. So maybe barrel number 624 slips through and proves to be as good as #1 or #5 or #10. And maybe I as the consumer can't really tell the difference from #1 to #900.

But it seems pretty good odds, if he knows what he is doing, that the barrel the Master Distiller picks to be nitpicked by the "experts" is in the top 2-3% of what he regards to be the best of the best.

I damn sure would!

smokinjoe
02-25-2013, 16:38
Not me. I think it's safe to say that some barrels would be better than others, but in general EWSB is EWSB. Is it possible that some of the best stuff gets distributed differently? Absolutely. Is it possible that the distillers bottle some for themselves at barrel proof? Sure. Is it possible that reviewers like Hansell and Murray only try the stuff sent to them by the distiller, and that the distiller sends the best to everyone to intentionally mislead everyone? Possibly? I don't know that I buy that.

Agreed, E. If HH or any distillery would randomly pick just any Single Barrel to send to industry reviewers, I would have to seriously question their sanity. Yes, those selections would be the Best of the Best/Honey Barrel of their sample mix was. I'd do it, too. But, the tone of the conversation on this and the other thread from some here, is that the #1 Barrel is significantly "different", and not at all "representative" of what the general public receives, based on certain reviews. Not representative, as in not even close. I can only reach the conclusion that their implication is that the sample provided by HH, and/or the reviews by Chuck and Hansell, are lacking integrity.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 16:41
Agreed, E. If HH or any distillery would randomly pick just any Single Barrel to send to industry reviewers, I would have to seriously question their sanity. Yes, those selections would be the Best of the Best/Honey Barrel of their sample mix was. I'd do it, too. But, the tone of the conversation on this and the other thread from some here, is that the #1 Barrel is significantly "different", and not at all "representative" of what the general public receives, based on certain reviews. Not representative, as in not even close. I can only reach the conclusion that their implication is that the sample provided by HH, and/or the reviews by Chuck and Hansell, are lacking integrity.

They don't lack integrity, just credibility. There's a difference.

cowdery
02-25-2013, 16:42
On behalf both of distillers and reviewers, I would paraphrase what the president of Coke said after the New Coke debacle. we are neither that stupid nor that clever.

This is an interesting study in conspiracy theories, why they happen, and why some people believe them, but it has nothing pertinent to do with bourbon, producers, reviews or reviewers.

Consider this. Only one person in this discussion has tested this theory. Me. My conclusion is that it's false. The rest is either cognitive dissonance or flaming.

Josh
02-25-2013, 16:50
If everybody votes yes, does that make it true? Is this the "50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong" argument? Facts are not just popular opinions.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 16:54
It was only a matter of time before a certain writer told us we were all full of shit.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 16:55
If everybody votes yes, does that make it true? Is this the "50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong" argument? Facts are not just popular opinions.

The survey is intrinsically flawed, anyway. It simply says, Do reviewers get honey barrels? It doesn't ask if this effects score. All the ridiculousness here is our own doing.

OscarV
02-25-2013, 16:56
Ok, I give the latest EW1B a 100.

Josh
02-25-2013, 16:57
Ok, I give the latest EW1B a 100.

What is that out of?

squire
02-25-2013, 16:58
Hmmm . . . I thought I was accusing them of being clever.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:00
On behalf both of distillers and reviewers, I would paraphrase what the president of Coke said after the New Coke debacle. we are neither that stupid nor that clever.

This is an interesting study in conspiracy theories, why they happen, and why some people believe them, but it has nothing pertinent to do with bourbon, producers, reviews or reviewers.

Consider this. Only one person in this discussion has tested this theory. Me. My conclusion is that it's false. The rest is either cognitive dissonance or flaming.


It was only a matter of time before a certain writer told us we were all full of shit.
Honestly? Who better to voice a contrary opinion, than Cowdery? We KNOW he drinks weller and vw products on a regular basis, and we KNOW that he likes them. So when he says (and he HAS said this) "the current Lot B is much tastier than it was several years ago," I trust that statement because I know his flavor preference, AND I know that he's tried more than one "sample" of the given whiskey (wich immediately disproves the theory that reviewers are full of crap because they all have tried only the one sample that the distillery sent them.)


Additionally, if you've read Bourbon, Straight, than you know that Chuck's reviews are fairly devoid of "this is terrible whiskey" and "this is great whiskey." he clearly and concisely states that perhaps his favorite whiskey ever, is Very Old Fitz, and when he reviews other whiskeys, he simply describes them and talks about value. Quite frankly, exactly the kind of review that some of you really want (which is why you read all the threads on this site in the first place, to get an idea of the "vaule" of a whiskey from a group of people you consider your peers and trust.)

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:02
What is that out of?

His scatological orifice.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:04
But SERIOUSLY, we could test this, using the latest EWSB as the example. Find out which barrels the reviewers reviewed, and locate a bottle from that barrel. I doubt that Hansell and Murray and whoeever else all got the same barrel, right? Review those barrels in comparison to a handful of others, and see what the results are. or better yet, convince John or Jim to do it. It would be interesting: garner an average rating for the whiskey based upon the bell curve itself.

MauiSon
02-25-2013, 17:06
IMHO, a free bottle will always taste better than a bought bottle from the same barrel. There's a psychological barrier that is breached by a gift.

When it comes to EW1B, I doubt a huge number of barrels have been vetted when the 1st barrel is released. Perhaps 100 out of the 1000+ for the vintage. So, a good barrel may have been selected, but it's very unlikely to be the best.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 17:07
Honestly? Who better to voice a contrary opinion, than Cowdery? We KNOW he drinks weller and vw products on a regular basis, and we KNOW that he likes them. So when he says (and he HAS said this) "the current Lot B is much tastier than it was several years ago," I trust that statement because I know his flavor preference, AND I know that he's tried more than one "sample" of the given whiskey (wich immediately disproves the theory that reviewers are full of crap because they all have tried only the one sample that the distillery sent them.)


Additionally, if you've read Bourbon, Straight, than you know that Chuck's reviews are fairly devoid of "this is terrible whiskey" and "this is great whiskey." he clearly and concisely states that perhaps his favorite whiskey ever, is Very Old Fitz, and when he reviews other whiskeys, he simply describes them and talks about value. Quite frankly, exactly the kind of review that some of you really want (which is why you read all the threads on this site in the first place, to get an idea of the "vaule" of a whiskey from a group of people you consider your peers and trust.)

I have read the book, I respect his reviews, I respect his opinion of numerical scores, but I also expect a defense of Hansell. And Cowdery's own statements on score reviews would defend the position that any review may be flawed, including his own "testing of the theory."

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:11
People who have nothing to hide should have no fear of disclosure.

Sorry squire, about quoting your above: I misunderstood. I thought you were responding to SMOWK'S post, but in fact you were simply responding to the thread. But to address the quote I just quoted you on (:D), you really think so? In a completely open and fair society, that may be true. Are you telling me that corporate america, capitalism, is fair? Every business trying to sell something has something to hide anyway.... I don't want you to know the recipe I use to make my soft drink, or the exact nature of my gentle-ear-pasta in a bourbonese sauce con brocolli.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:14
IMHO, a free bottle will always taste better than a bought bottle from the same barrel. There's a psychological barrier that is breached by a gift.

There may be some truth here, but it's the reviewer's job. It stops being a gift when you get it every single day and then you have to laboriously type some drivel on a computer screen for ninteen hours straight.


I have read the book, I respect his reviews, I respect his opinion of numerical scores, but I also expect a defense of Hansell. And Cowdery's own statements on score reviews would defend the position that any review may be flawed, including his own "testing of the theory."

What's with the hatred for Hansell? Cowdery didn't defend him, he said that because he had tasted various whiskeys, he believed that the assertion of this thread, the spirit, if you will (no pun intended) was false.

White Dog
02-25-2013, 17:19
There may be some truth here, but it's the reviewer's job. It stops being a gift when you get it every single day and then you have to laboriously type some drivel on a computer screen for ninteen hours straight.



What's with the hatred for Hansell? Cowdery didn't defend him, he said that because he had tasted various whiskeys, he believed that the assertion of this thread, the spirit, if you will (no pun intended) was false.

What hate? I simply agree with the premise that Hansell's soaring reviews of EW1b, while having integrity, lack a certain credibility due to barrel variation, regardless of how many barrels HH has to choose from, and how good Parker and Craig may be at choosing. Why doesn't HH send him barrel number 2, 3 or 5? Barrels do vary, we all know this, and to write it off as conspiracy theory ignores that fact.

Halifax
02-25-2013, 17:20
Ok, I give the latest EW1B a 100.

Your shelf talkers should do well, and earn you a seat at the table...:lol:

MauiSon
02-25-2013, 17:21
It stops being a gift when you get it every single day and then you have to laboriously type some drivel on a computer screen for ninteen hours straight.

Does it? I doubt it. I doubt it all. "Get it every single day", "have to laboriously type some drivel for 19 hours straight', I just doubt those phrases apply to any reviewers.

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 17:29
And you might be right, especially given my obvious gross exaggeration. but how many reviews do the reviewers write in a year? I can't speak for Hansell because I don't follow his publications often, but Murray's whiskey bible contains thousands of whiskey reviews and scores, and they all read pretty much like they were written by the same person. Assuming that he updates even only 1,000 whiskeys in a given year, that's an average of two to three reviews every single day. How many total reviews WERE in the last whiskey bible? And how much spitting is done? Do they feel like drinking whiskey to wind down at the end of the day, and if so, what? I'm getting sidetracked, but what DOES Hansell drink to wind down at the end of a day? I think some of us have this perception that the reviewers get a whole bottle of Sazerac 18 year to drink all by themselves and then spend a week with the whiskey before writing an overblown and too-opulent review of the whiskey. I don't see that happening, either. The truth must be somewhere between.

squire
02-25-2013, 17:33
SERIOUSLY Erik? I can't be serious and drink whisky at the same time. That sort of thing will get you to propose marriage or something.

cowdery
02-25-2013, 17:57
For the record, I said current Lot B is as good as ever and remains one of my favorites. I never said it's better than it used to be. I also haven't said anything about John Hansell and see no reason to. John and I don't agree about everything but we've known each other for 20 years and I've never known him to be insincere about anything.

I'm not being dismissive of this idea. I'm taking it seriously and saying that in my opinion, based on my knowledge and experience, it has no merit.

But what do I know? I'm just a lying shill who talks out his ass and who's too drunk on free whiskey to know it.

MauiSon
02-25-2013, 18:04
Why would anyone update their review on a whiskey if it hasn't been changed and, more importantly, why would a producer send a reviewer a second bottle of anything that's already received a favorable review? So the reviewer can change his mind? Better turn on the old 'is it reasonable' filter, EP.

However, here's the rub - EW1B is essentially the same thing every year with just a new date tacked on. There's no claim of changing the mashbill or age or anything (except weather and storage location, perhaps). So, maybe in this particular case, a favorable review might keep the bottles coming, year in, year out. [Hmm... just working to find a reason for higher scores here - it ain't easy!]

hectic1
02-25-2013, 18:05
I'm just trying to figure out if this thread tallied more posts in 6 hours or the "shut down Ebay liquor sales" thread? Good work as always Wade...;)

I look at it the same way as many others here...you're going to put your best foot forward when you have the ability. The fact of the matter is that they control what barrel goes to reviewers so one has to believe they are going to select a barrel that they believe will yield a solid rating.

smokinjoe
02-25-2013, 18:09
They don't lack integrity, just credibility. There's a difference.

I see no reason to question either their integrity, or their credibility. At all.

cowdery
02-25-2013, 18:11
I'm just trying to figure out if this thread tallied more posts in 6 hours or the "shut down Ebay liquor sales" thread? Good work as always Wade...;)

I look at it the same way as many others here...you're going to put your best foot forward when you have the ability. The fact of the matter is that they control what barrel goes to reviewers so one has to believe they are going to select a barrel that they believe will yield a solid rating.

But why don't you finish the thought? If they send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, they can be easily found out and will be found out, unless in addition to all of my other flaws I'm an incompetent taster. And if they don't send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, then what are we talking about?

But thank you for saying that, because that's the nub of this thing right there.

bingstein
02-25-2013, 18:19
All I know is that Beam must have sent a "super honey" batch of OGD 114 to Liquor Barn and they must have passed along the rare, coveted "super duper money honey" bottle to me, because it is hitting the spot right about now. They must have thought it was going to Chuck :rolleyes:

MauiSon
02-25-2013, 18:24
Everyone knows the "super duper money honey" batches are kept in Kentucky (and sent to reviewers) to keep the natives from becoming restless. ;)

hectic1
02-25-2013, 18:26
But why don't you finish the thought? If they send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, they can be easily found out and will be found out, unless in addition to all of my other flaws I'm an incompetent taster. And if they don't send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, then what are we talking about?

But thank you for saying that, because that's the nub of this thing right there. I did finish my thought...anything additional would be your thoughts and not mine Chuck.

I've seen plenty of barrels that aren't "markedly uncharacteristic" for a profile but nosed/tasted better than others. You're 100% playing with a blind fold on if you don't think that there are certain barrels of EWSB that are going to appeal to the masses more than others. Please don't play the "oh poor me" card with me Chuck...it's not appreciated. You put out ratings and they're your ratings...I don't give your ratings any more or less credibility then a guy behind a liquor store counter...sorry but that's the truth. The fact of the matter is we all taste things differently and put different values on specific aspect of bourbon. I look for different things in bourbon and put a higher value on certain things then probably a lot of others...therefore unless I nose/taste it for myself all bets are off. ;)

I think it's pretty clear from the poll results that the vast majority feel that yes, they are sending "honey" barrels out for reviews...I personally don't care if they do or not as I'm really interested in EWSB.

CoMobourbon
02-25-2013, 19:02
No offense meant to anyone, but I feel like it would be best to address the question and it's immediate premises and not try prove our I-believe-in-personal-whiskey-taste credentials. We get it; we are all wonderfully unique and beautiful whiskey butterflies, we don't need no stinking reviews to know what whiskey is good, etc.

First, we should recognize that there must be some significant variation in barrels. The whole premise that tasters and master distillers can shape brand profile flavors based on factors other than age and mash bill depends heavily on the assumption that different barrels must turn out significantly differently. There are definitely differences, and there is likely a range in 'quality' - what most people would recognize as better or worse barrels. This range in quality may follow a bell curve or something like a bell curve.

Second, we should be able to agree that Heaven Hill does not pick completely random barrels; they need to avoid accidentally picking a less-than-average barrel on the low end of the aforementioned bell curve.

Also, I would think we should be able to agree that Heaven Hill does not pick amazingly meteoric barrels that are so good that they do not resemble the characteristics of the brand. As Chuck fairly pointed out, that would be stupid because it would risk exposing dishonesty and compromising faith in an already successful brand. (Unless we really believe that ALL big whiskey tasters work together with distillers in an elaborate ring of corruption, twisting their mustaches and cackling.)

The truth, then, must lie somewhere in the middle. Are reviewer barrels somewhat better 'quality' / 'tastier' than the 'average' barrel. Probably. I voted yes along with most of us. At least they are selected to be not worse than average. Are they dramatically better? Almost definitely not.

What really gets me is how asinine people are being about the topic. Clearly, Chuck (as a writer, public figure, and generally on-top-of-his-small-niche-world professional) cares a lot about his reputation and is pretty sensitive to insinuations and criticisms. Clearly, this thread has racked up so many responses so quickly in part because people want to see Chuck angry. This has all happened before (BarrelChar). I don't post on here as regularly as some, and even to me this whole routine is getting pretty tiring.

wadewood
02-25-2013, 19:02
My goal was to get a simple gauge if people think reviewers get sent honey barrels. From the results I think it is pretty clear that is the perception. I did not say there was anything wrong with this or this was limited to EWSB. Most not only seem to think it occurs, but give credit to the distillers for doing so. If I owned my own distillery, odds are I would make sure the bottles going to reviewers would be top notch.

Bottom line for me is that I will trust reviews/tasting notes from other SBers who purchased their own whiskey over the reviews of someone who is getting a free bottle.

SFS
02-25-2013, 19:04
This thread made me ask "what happened to SB.com since yesterday?"

CoMobourbon
02-25-2013, 19:09
This thread made me ask "what happened to SB.com since yesterday?"

Others could say more on this, but I can say that between Dec 2011 (my join date) and Dec 2012 this has happened multiple times.

wadewood
02-25-2013, 19:11
Clearly, Chuck (as a writer, public figure, and generally on-top-of-his-small-niche-world professional) cares a lot about his reputation and is pretty sensitive to insinuations and criticisms.

good post and points. This was not an attack on Chuck or any whiskey writers/bloggers; if anything it's attacking the distillers for a questionable practice. It's a topic that has not really been discussed here on SB (at least that I recall) so I think it's worthy of post count. Plus, unlike BarrelChar, I've known Chuck for a long time and I know he has my email. If I offended him, I'm sure we will work it out.

Vosgar
02-25-2013, 19:19
Congratulations Wade :grin:. You're the master at proving how easy it is to get SB'ers to rant and get pissed at each other. It's almost too easy, isn't it?

My hat's off to you sir!

ErichPryde
02-25-2013, 19:26
SERIOUSLY Erik? I can't be serious and drink whisky at the same time. That sort of thing will get you to propose marriage or something.

If I split a bottle of VOVR Barton with you, will you accept?


For the record, I said current Lot B is as good as ever and remains one of my favorites. I never said it's better than it used to be. I also haven't said anything about John Hansell and see no reason to. John and I don't agree about everything but we've known each other for 20 years and I've never known him to be insincere about anything.

I'm not being dismissive of this idea. I'm taking it seriously and saying that in my opinion, based on my knowledge and experience, it has no merit.

But what do I know? I'm just a lying shill who talks out his ass and who's too drunk on free whiskey to know it.

Firstly, your last sentence there is going to be my new quote. love it. secondly, you're right:


While I haven't had any Bernheim-distilled Pappy 15, the Bernheim-distilled Lot B is terrific. But by all means, people, continue to be crazy for the Pappy Vans. More Lot B for me.

This was in the S-W all gone thread, and I think perhaps I was projecting, considering that the last of the truly S-W/S-W/s-w lot b was, in my head, not as good as the newer stuff. Please forgive me; I stopped drinking bourbon regularly for a year and that made me a bit forgetful and crazy.


I'm just trying to figure out if this thread tallied more posts in 6 hours or the "shut down Ebay liquor sales" thread? Good work as always Wade...;)



Everyone knows the "super duper money honey" batches are kept in Kentucky (and sent to reviewers) to keep the natives from becoming restless. ;)


super duper money, honey? I like it. I'm thirsty. hook me up.



What really gets me is how asinine people are being about the topic. Clearly, Chuck (as a writer, public figure, and generally on-top-of-his-small-niche-world professional) cares a lot about his reputation and is pretty sensitive to insinuations and criticisms. Clearly, this thread has racked up so many responses so quickly in part because people want to see Chuck angry. This has all happened before (BarrelChar). I don't post on here as regularly as some, and even to me this whole routine is getting pretty tiring.

I don't think he's as sensitive as you think. just, crotchety.

michaelturtle1
02-25-2013, 19:29
I am not sure how someone would think a distiller wouldn't send a "honey" barrel out for review, would Burger King put a picture of an average sandwich served in their restaurant on a national commercial? In my eyes professional reviews are nothing more than advertising for a brand, even if the reviewer is "independent" of the brand. Given that, I generally pay zero attention to reviews or tasting notes as my palette is most certainly different than anyone else's and I know my palate changes day to day so a review can be skewed simply by an off day or the reviewers general attitude/excitement towards a product or release.

HighInTheMtns
02-25-2013, 19:36
When it comes to EW1B, I doubt a huge number of barrels have been vetted when the 1st barrel is released. Perhaps 100 out of the 1000+ for the vintage. So, a good barrel may have been selected, but it's very unlikely to be the best.
Truth here, I think. And even if all barrels had been selected, some have several more (summer) months of aging left before they're bottled - both EWSBs I have in my possession right now were bottled in August. Barrel #1 was bottled much earlier in the year. No way of knowing exactly what it will all taste like at that time.

LostBottle
02-25-2013, 19:40
I am sure that distilleries take steps to ensure that the reviewers don't get the worst barrels - believing anything else would be naive.

However, there may be an even bigger factor at play. It seems the livelihood of many professional reviewers depends on distillery relationships and free samples from the very people they are reviewing - this sure seems like it could present conflict of interest concerns. If some of these reviewers were to start giving more realistic ratings (Ever see anything rated below 80 on a 100 point scale? How about a bottle rated C+ on a A-F scale?), they just might see their ability to review rare and unreleased products dry up along with their review career. This is one of the reasons I tend to trust SB members over reviewers - they will tell me when something sucks.

Barclay Beach
02-25-2013, 19:58
I am not sure how someone would think a distiller wouldn't send a "honey" barrel out for review, would Burger King put a picture of an average sandwich served in their restaurant on a national commercial?

My thoughts exactly. I am nearly certain that every distillery would be very deliberate in their selection process to ensure sending their best stuff to reviewers. Why wouldn't they? It's not a "conspiracy theory", it's business 101!

It's a good thing that the variation between EW1B sample bottles and random bottles wasn't detectable on Chuck's palate. That might speak to that particular product's consistency. But business is business, and *trying* to influence key opinion leaders is standard fare. I can't believe that's even an argument.

ChainWhip
02-25-2013, 20:02
http://www.smileyvault.com/albums/forum/smileyvault-popcorn.gif

CoMobourbon
02-25-2013, 20:23
good post and points. This was not an attack on Chuck or any whiskey writers/bloggers; if anything it's attacking the distillers for a questionable practice. It's a topic that has not really been discussed here on SB (at least that I recall) so I think it's worthy of post count. Plus, unlike BarrelChar, I've known Chuck for a long time and I know he has my email. If I offended him, I'm sure we will work it out.

Oh no, I really am willing to believe that you did not intend an attack on Chuck or other whiskey writers. I am not conflating you with BarrelChar in any case. It just happens that you ask provocative, sometimes edgy to the point of cynical questions leveled at the industry, and inevitably those questions draw out both criticisms of Chuck and Chuck's responses. THAT is the cycle which I think is getting a little old. The questions are interesting and often thought-inducing; the responses are becoming predictable.

bingstein
02-25-2013, 20:38
Wait, this thread has me confused. Do I HAVE to read Chuck's reviews or am I free to arrive at my own conclusions? If it is the former, then I am going to do my due diligence and make sure that he isn't biased/conflicted/only getting bottles from "honey" barrels. If it is the latter, I think I am just going to take a deep breath and move on with my life.

Sorry if this is a newbie question. I have only been on the site for a few months, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing something wrong.

callmeox
02-25-2013, 21:04
My opinion is that the poll is, to paraphrase Marisa Tomei, a bullshit question. If you think this has happened even once in the entire history of single barrel samples and published reviews, then you must answer yes. I'm not polyanna (and I've not voted) but I would be inclined to say yes for the reason above.

At this time it is 42-3 for the affirmative but the illusion is that there's some overwhelming fraud being played by distillers and that's not what the poll number says at all.

There's an easy way to get this answer and the network here is broad enough to make that happen.

jcg9779
02-25-2013, 21:29
My opinion is that the poll is, to paraphrase Marisa Tomei, a bullshit question. If you think this has happened even once in the entire history of single barrel samples and published reviews, then you must answer yes. I'm not polyanna (and I've not voted) but I would be inclined to say yes for the reason above.

At this time it is 42-3 for the affirmative but the illusion is that there's some overwhelming fraud being played by distillers and that's not what the poll number says at all.

There's an easy way to get this answer and the network here is broad enough to make that happen.

He has not voted because he's in on it. It's a conspiracy, I tell you!

Barclay Beach
02-25-2013, 21:30
At this time it is 42-3 for the affirmative but the illusion is that there's some overwhelming fraud being played by distillers and that's not what the poll number says at all.

There's an easy way to get this answer and the network here is broad enough to make that happen.

Speaking for myself, it would be accurate to replace "fraud" with "putting their best foot forward." Again, I don't think this concept requires confirmation, it's fairly intuitive.

fishnbowljoe
02-25-2013, 21:56
"Life is like a barrel of bourbon. You never know what pour you're gonna get." :22:

dustyj
02-25-2013, 22:03
Just too much to go through to see if somebody already made this point but.........Would it not make more sense for a bottle to be taken right off the shelf and then reviewed. Just as the common man does it.????? By the way I voted YES.

The Boozer
02-25-2013, 22:10
"Life is like a barrel of bourbon. You never know what pour you're gonna get." :22:


You are wise beyond your years sir and I nod accordingly.

Pieface
02-26-2013, 00:11
"Life is like a barrel of bourbon. You never know what pour you're gonna get." :22:

Old Forrestgump. One of my favourite pours.

I think the answer is yes but do not concur with the extrapolation of this to unethical behaviour.

fussychicken
02-26-2013, 01:11
I don't have a dog in this hunt either way. However, I work in an industry that has a similar product to press relationship, and can guarantee without a doubt that the press gets "honey" products. Sometimes just at the higher end of the tolerance band, sometimes manipulated to a point beyond what a customer could ever hope to get.

Likewise, you can't really trust the reviewers either. They want to stay on the good side of the PR folks. Its rare to find a truly critical one anymore.

Special Reserve
02-26-2013, 02:33
Think a barrels of bourbon on a bell curve. If I was a distiller, I'd be sending samples that are at the +1SD point on the curve. Not the absolute best but better than 2/3 of the lot.

BourbonJoe
02-26-2013, 03:56
I think, for the most part, they roll out consecutive barrels from a certain whse. or a good part of the whse. Picking individual barrels from back in the rick is a hell of a lot of work and I do not think they do it all that often. If you roll out 10 consecutive barrels the chance to find a good one is fairly high.
Joe :usflag:

soad
02-26-2013, 04:06
This thread made me ask "what happened to SB.com since yesterday?"


The townsfolk get their pitchforks and torches and go after a perceived threat a few times a year. After they get it out of their system, straightbourbon goes back to tranquil "what did you purchase today" threads.

tmckenzie
02-26-2013, 04:40
Here is my 2 cents worth. Do the big distilleries send out what I call cherry picked bottles? No, I do not.
Do micro distilleries send out cherry picked bottles? I would not say all of time, but a lot of them have.
I just had this discussion with a reviewer in the last couple of weeks. I saw a review for a micro product I had bought some of to try. I could not drink the stuff. I think it was a bottle of feints. I saw the same whiskey got a high rating and I respect the reviewer, so I asked him if he though he had gotten a cherry picked bottle. I told him what the bottle I had tasted like and he was pissed, as it was for sure not the same whiskey a customer would have bought of the shelf. It puts the reviewer in a bad position, how can he review it for the consumer honestly when he does not what it will taste like a few weeks down the road.
This is another dishonest practice among micros, as I have bought several microdistilled products, because the tasting notes said it was good. Then when I got my bottle, it was crap. Never had that problem with the big distillers stuff. We do not send a lot of samples out to be reviewed. But if we do, the bottle comes off of the shelf any customer would have been able to buy.

CoMobourbon
02-26-2013, 05:43
Think a barrels of bourbon on a bell curve. If I was a distiller, I'd be sending samples that are at the +1SD point on the curve. Not the absolute best but better than 2/3 of the lot.

Yes. This.

filler filler filler

weller_tex
02-26-2013, 07:32
I have no idea why folks are upset. I have a lot of respect for Chuck Cowdery, and certainly am not criticizing him or John Hansell or any reviewer. Also providing reviewers a honey barrel is not unethical. Magazine shots of food never looks like it does in the restaurant. The majority of folks dress better and act better in job interviews than they ever do in real life. First impressions are everything.

If I did offend Chuck or anyone else, I apologize.

squire
02-26-2013, 08:29
Oh, I'm not upset, that would require effort and I'm retired.

G-Rat
02-26-2013, 08:36
I think, for the most part, they roll out consecutive barrels from a certain whse. or a good part of the whse. Picking individual barrels from back in the rick is a hell of a lot of work and I do not think they do it all that often. If you roll out 10 consecutive barrels the chance to find a good one is fairly high.
Joe :usflag:

This is the way to think about this issue. Sure they send the best whiskey to reviewers but the likelihood that many other barrels taste very similar to that one is higher than many seem to think. I would think that quality from one Barrel, even one on the other side of the whse would be pretty consistent. For instance, heaven hill has a pretty serious house character (minty, dry corn doughy, and a dry estery finish to my palate) you can taste it all the way from vsof down to the 6yr BIB and they are really different styles of bourbon. If that can be the same across the board why wouldn't the quality of a single barrel. They don't pick bad whiskey for single barrels. I would think that a good review would mean you are going to get something close to what a reviewer had depending on your preferences and not that you are bring hoodwinked by the distillery. I mean would it really be possible to rank 700 barrels of whiskey and say that one barrel is clearly better than the rest? No. I would think they gauge it in sets and that there might be a slight variance for sure but not a drastic one. Just my 2cents.

callmeox
02-26-2013, 08:56
I think there is a better question to ask on this. Since there are known variations in single barrel bottlings, are the samples sent to reviewers representative of the label as a whole or are they outliers?

LostBottle
02-26-2013, 09:42
I don't have a dog in this hunt either way. However, I work in an industry that has a similar product to press relationship, and can guarantee without a doubt that the press gets "honey" products. Sometimes just at the higher end of the tolerance band, sometimes manipulated to a point beyond what a customer could ever hope to get.

Likewise, you can't really trust the reviewers either. They want to stay on the good side of the PR folks. Its rare to find a truly critical one anymore.

This post should be stickied so that all can see it and read it multiple times.

Brisko
02-26-2013, 09:47
I think there is a better question to ask on this. Since there are known variations in single barrel bottlings, are the samples sent to reviewers representative of the label as a whole or are they outliers?

I think this is the implied question and probably the one we ought to be more interested in. Chuck already answered this question. I'd be curious about Hansell's take on it, especially the idea of comparing an off-the-shelf bottle to the other one he reviewed. I don't really care much about scores, but I appreciate Hansell's descriptions as they typically line up with my own experience.

Another, semi-related question: do producers pick "honey" stock for their minis? I suspect yes, because in many cases, I've had minis that were head-and-shoulders better than their 750 mL brethren (Beam Black and Devil's cut, for example).

StraightBoston
02-26-2013, 10:42
I think there is a better question to ask on this. Since there are known variations in single barrel bottlings, are the samples sent to reviewers representative of the label as a whole or are they outliers?

This.

I think there is a difference between the general conspiracy theory (all the reviewers are on the take and shilling for the distilleries) and the case of ratings of single barrels.

EWSB is the lightning rod IMHO because it routinely gets top scores from the reviewers, and routinely gets this-is-better-than-the-black-label-and-a-pretty-good-value-but-not-as-good-as-<your-favorite-here> scores from me and retail tasters that I know.

It is exactly because I respect the reviews and the palates of Chuck, John, Lew, Paul, etc. that I have a hard time reconciling an over-the-top score with my taste experience -- most of the time, they're in sync. When they are not, I've found in almost every case the whiskey in question was a single barrel or a pre-release sample (e.g. Makers 46, some of the craft distillers.)

To clarify: it wouldn't be wise to send something out of profile -- both distiller and reviewer could get caught out fairly quickly -- but it makes perfect sense to take something within an acceptable number of standard deviations towards the "honey" end of the bell curve.

sailor22
02-26-2013, 11:11
This.

I think there is a difference between the general conspiracy theory (all the reviewers are on the take and shilling for the distilleries) and the case of ratings of single barrels.

EWSB is the lightning rod IMHO because it routinely gets top scores from the reviewers, and routinely gets this-is-better-than-the-black-label-and-a-pretty-good-value-but-not-as-good-as-<your-favorite-here> scores from me and retail tasters that I know.

It is exactly because I respect the reviews and the palates of Chuck, John, Lew, Paul, etc. that I have a hard time reconciling an over-the-top score with my taste experience -- most of the time, they're in sync. When they are not, I've found in almost every case the whiskey in question was a single barrel or a pre-release sample (e.g. Makers 46, some of the craft distillers.)

To clarify: it wouldn't be wise to send something out of profile -- both distiller and reviewer could get caught out fairly quickly -- but it makes perfect sense to take something within an acceptable number of standard deviations towards the "honey" end of the bell curve.

You make some good points. It's precisely because we value the reviews that EWSB stands out. Plus I have it on good authority that since the sample would be of the same profile it wouldn't be objectively better in any way, although it might be oomphier.

sob0728
02-26-2013, 11:21
But what do I know? I'm just a lying shill who talks out his ass and who's too drunk on free whiskey to know it.

I nominate Mr. Cowdery for 2013 Bourbonian of the Year after that comment.

doubleblank
02-26-2013, 11:31
I'm still waiting for someone to suggest that......"I know what John/Chuck/???? likes and I'm going to select a sample that is right down their alley!" in order to get a good review. Now that would be the ultimate sample conspiracy theory!

As said by many here, you know the distilleries are going to send a good sample to any reviewer. But send an outlier.....I don't think so.

I have participated in at least 20 single barrel selections. The number of people participating in the selection process has been as few as one (myself) to as many as 15 tasters. On only one occasion was there much concensus among the tasters as to which barrel is the best one. IIRC, I'd say at least 80% of the samples get at least one person's vote as to which one is the best on the lot. Roughly 1/3rd of the barrels seem to get enough votes to say they stand out from the others and could be called "honey barrels". What is my point? Experienced tasters have their likes and dislikes. IMHO, it would be damn near impossible to select a single barrel that every reviewer/blogger/retailer/????? thinks is the cat's meow.

As to why there has been a large rating disparity of EWSB between the reviewers and the general SB.com student body .... I don't know.

White Dog
02-26-2013, 11:42
In regards to some of the later backlash on this thread, I'm left wondering if people really read the entire thread.

No one called anyone a shill.

No one called into question the integrity of reviewers.

Most said(Including myself) that if they were a producer, they would put their best foot forward by making sure the samples sent were damn good, if not better than other barrels.

I guess I don't understand why some are complaining about attacks on producers and reviewers, when they're not really there.

MauiSon
02-26-2013, 12:56
Yeah, if John and Chuck had so much influence, I think they'd be wagging the dog.

ErichPryde
02-26-2013, 16:39
I'm still waiting for someone to suggest that......"I know what John/Chuck/???? likes and I'm going to select a sample that is right down their alley!" in order to get a good review. Now that would be the ultimate sample conspiracy theory!


Why not? It's pretty easy to tell who likes what and why. It wouldn't be hard. Maybe I should make my own whiskey and do it.


In regards to some of the later backlash on this thread, I'm left wondering if people really read the entire thread.

No one called anyone a shill.

No one called into question the integrity of reviewers.

Most said(Including myself) that if they were a producer, they would put their best foot forward by making sure the samples sent were damn good, if not better than other barrels.

I guess I don't understand why some are complaining about attacks on producers and reviewers, when they're not really there.

Are you sure you didn't? Two of your posts kinda come across this way. Not that it really matters all that much, I think we're really on the same page, here.




The point is that thinking that EW1B barrel #1 vs. EW1B barrel #123 are completely the same is quite naive, regardless of what some writers would have us believe.


It was only a matter of time before a certain writer told us we were all full of shit.

Josh
02-26-2013, 17:56
It's reasonable to assume that they are giving "honey barrels" to reviewers, but actual evidence trumps assumptions. There is an easy way to test the hypothesis, compare a barrel #1 bottle to other bottles from other barrels off the shelf. Nobody in this thread has tested the hypothesis except Chuck. If people don't want to take Chuck's word for it, that's fine, but unless a person has tested the hypothesis herself or himself, that person is still just operating from assumptions.

Lazer
02-26-2013, 18:04
Here is my 2 cents worth. Do the big distilleries send out what I call cherry picked bottles? No, I do not.
Do micro distilleries send out cherry picked bottles? I would not say all of time, but a lot of them have.
I just had this discussion with a reviewer in the last couple of weeks. I saw a review for a micro product I had bought some of to try. I could not drink the stuff. I think it was a bottle of feints. I saw the same whiskey got a high rating and I respect the reviewer, so I asked him if he though he had gotten a cherry picked bottle. I told him what the bottle I had tasted like and he was pissed, as it was for sure not the same whiskey a customer would have bought of the shelf. It puts the reviewer in a bad position, how can he review it for the consumer honestly when he does not what it will taste like a few weeks down the road.
This is another dishonest practice among micros, as I have bought several microdistilled products, because the tasting notes said it was good. Then when I got my bottle, it was crap. Never had that problem with the big distillers stuff. We do not send a lot of samples out to be reviewed. But if we do, the bottle comes off of the shelf any customer would have been able to buy.
Great post! next time I see your whiskey on the shelf, I'm buying it.

You made the point I wanted to make, the reviewer has to worry about the integrity of his reviews, so he won't want to have a reputation for saying everything is great, when it isn't. Yes... some guys are like that, so don't read them.

qman22
02-26-2013, 21:11
Threads like this are why I love this site. Great topic and conversation.

I don't have experience reviewing whiskey for any blogs; however, I have reviewed cigars for a blog and have received many free samples of those for review. While I don't have any proof that I received "cherry picked cigars," there is certainly evidence that I was always sent good representatives of the particular brand I was reviewing. For example, I never received any cigars with obvious flaws, such as being plugged/underfilled or with wrapper discoloration/green spots/huge veins. Sending me a sample cigar to review with a flaw like this would be negligent.

I see a lot of similarities between whiskey and cigars in that they are both handmade products that can have variation from one sample to the next. To me it certainly stands to reason that whiskey producers would approach reviews the same way. I'm sure whiskey reviewers are at least getting ideal samples of whiskey that represent the flavor profile that the rectifiers/distillers have in mind. I agree with a prior post that the chosen barrels fall on a bell curve, and reviewers likely gets samples from the upper percentile of the curve. Why not? Sending out a sample from the low end of the bell curve could result in a less than favorable review for no reason other than laziness/neglect. When there is money on the line, people don't mess around.

White Dog
02-26-2013, 23:12
Why not? It's pretty easy to tell who likes what and why. It wouldn't be hard. Maybe I should make my own whiskey and do it.



Are you sure you didn't? Two of your posts kinda come across this way. Not that it really matters all that much, I think we're really on the same page, here.

I see where you're going. But again, I don't blame Hansell for reviewing what he's sent by the producers, I'm just saying that the review does not hold up for me when it comes to various barrels. If he purchased, and reviewed, a bottle off the shelf, and it was barrel #23, I'd give it more credence. He's not a shill, nor does he lack integrity, but it is in his best interest to not question, or have anyone question, the merit of his review of "barrel #1", which I'll never see in the wilderness. I mean, where does the rest of barrel #1 go? Anyone ever seen it?

Critical examinations need not be viewed as attacks, although they often are.

As for the second quote, well, Cowdery isn't a "reviewer" for the advocate. My second quote that you used was simply about certain posting practices on SB.

Balcones Winston
02-27-2013, 11:56
At Balcones, we actually send bloggers and reviewers our dog barrels. I mean, we gotta do something with that juice, you know?

ER07
02-27-2013, 12:04
I can't speak for barrel #1 but I poured myself a glass from barrel #7 and it's a delicious bourbon IMO. I tend to like the EWSB, although I thought the 2001 was a drop in quality.

As for the 'honey barrels' or 'cherry picked' I believe like any business Heaven Hill wants to present its best products. So the whiskey they send out to reviewers might be what they deem 'best' but again that's subjective to the reviewers. The variation however between barrel #1 and the rest isn't so much so that people expecting a '93 rated whiskey' go buy a bottle only to open it up and it taste like paint thinner. That type of deception would serve nobody, especially the producers. The varying reviews and ratings to EWSB I would chalk up to varying preferences of the tasters.

As an ad guy it's strange that this is even a topic of discussion. It seems like common knowledge that companies would want to 'put it's best foot forward' and present its best products. Good companies take pride in their work and want it advertised and talked about as such. Not to deceive people into buying their product/services but to show them off.

weller_tex
02-27-2013, 13:26
...

As an ad guy it's strange that this is even a topic of discussion. It seems like common knowledge that companies would want to 'put it's best foot forward' and present its best products. Good companies take pride in their work and want it advertised and talked about as such. Not to deceive people into buying their product/services but to show them off.

Well that seemed obvious to me also, instead we are all a bunch of conspiracy theorists for even suggesting it..

BTW for what it's worth John Hansell in comments on the review he wrote for EWSB 2000 (he gave it a 95)..

"..thatís right. I believe that all press is getting a sample from this barrel. Thatís why I made that distinction in my review. We usually get our review samples before the product is released to the public. I might, however, go and review a different barrel as time goes by and the whiskey becomes more redily available"

and
"..you can be sure that, if Barrel #1 is the review sample being sent to the whiskey press, itís going to be a good one!I hope the other barrels are in the same ballpark."

timd
02-27-2013, 16:48
If they send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, they can be easily found out and will be found out, unless in addition to all of my other flaws I'm an incompetent taster. And if they don't send a sample that is markedly uncharacteristic, then what are we talking about?

But thank you for saying that, because that's the nub of this thing right there.

Exactly - it is the point. They essentially have been found out - which is the gist of this topic.

Of course they send out honey barrels - I know several folks in various consumable industries who have told me as much. As phrased repeatedly throughout this thread: they put their best foot forward.

In terms of EWSB, they pick these barrels for a profile - as such, since they are professionals, there won't be any "significant profile outliers" - but there is likely to be "quality variations" - they would be stupid to not send the better, more impactful samples to reviewers... doesn't mean ALL OTHER EWSB sucks - just means some is a bit better than others. 10% difference (in terms of an 85 score vs a 95 score) isn't that much in the grand scheme of things.

Just like in advertising for most perishable/consumables: they put the best looking stuff in the ads, on the reviewers plate/glass, etc.

In other critically driven industries (art, books, music, movies) all consumers get the same thing. period. A review of "See Spot Run" shown two days early is still the same movie as consumers get to see on Friday. The copy of "How To Pick Up Bourbon Loving Chicks" the critic read a week before I bought it is the exact same scintillating tome on my nightstand.

But with Single-Barrel themed releases (or consumable/perishables), there's only so much of a given product, and variation is intrinsic to the product as each barrel is a "one of a kind."

This whole conversation is silly - when a producer has variance in her product from batch-to-batch, release-to-release, the majority have an obligation to their income to attempt to provide the best of what they created to those with a public voice (reviewers, writers, bloggers, tv anchormen, priests, local sheriff, etc.). You want to INFLUENCE - and to deny that fact is the only bald-face lie in this equation. You don't send samples to reviewers to "educate." You want them to say nice things about your stuff and INFLUENCE others to spend their money on it.

I'm sure there are exceptions to attempting to "overtly" influence - but I'd ask Tmckenzie if he would send a bottle that has a crooked label or chipped glass out for review? Do you make sure the bottles aren't funky with spillage and are properly sealed, etc.? If so - then you HAVE taken a step to ensure a higher quality product to the review than what a consumer might possibly find on the shelf. You've gone out of your way to ensure you represent your product as positively as you can (even if you don't cherry pick barrels/bottlings per se).

This isn't illegal, disingenuous or even a sketchy practice - it simply is good business. It's only an issue when the variations are extreme enough to raise eyebrows (as EWSB apparently has done - albeit, again, with only a 10% margin of difference between most "consumers" perceived rating vs. the "professional" reviewers' scores...)

#end of rant#

squire
02-27-2013, 17:28
All EWSB are equal but some are more equal than others.

ChainWhip
02-27-2013, 18:01
All EWSB are equal but some are more equal than others.

Those d@mned pig barrels!

MacinJosh
02-27-2013, 19:53
I would say yes. From a pure business standpoint it makes the most sense for them to send the best they have to offer in an effort to illicit a positive/glowing review that will (hopefully) promote sales.

I have come to the conclusion that almost every whiskey related "conspiracy" question can be answered by keeping just one thing in mind......money. Pappy/SW hysteria, Maker's Mark proof drop, this super sample theory, etc. etc. It all comes down to business and money. Take all emotions out of it and it's like Roger Waters said.....

Can't you see
It all makes perfect sense
Expressed in dollars and cents,
Pounds, shillings and pence
Can't you see
It all makes perfect sense

jcg9779
02-27-2013, 20:32
At Balcones, we actually send bloggers and reviewers our dog barrels. I mean, we gotta do something with that juice, you know?

Balcones Winston? Who is this guy??? He looks suspicious!

darylld911
03-01-2013, 18:03
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

I voted yes but not intending to mean that I think there is any intentional misrepresentation going on. I think if they churn out 900 barrels, there will be some normal distribution curve going on with 850 being very similar, 25 being perhaps a bit of a disappointment, and 25 being perhaps a bit better. Now someone has to be tasting these barrels to see if they fit the profile, and if it were me, I might flag those that are especially nice to send out for reviews. I don't think they pick the absolute BEST (by their standards) barrel, but I also would be surprised if they picked bottles at random later.

jcg9779
03-02-2013, 23:25
900 barrels. One is a honey barrel, and tastes very good. 899 are mediocre? That's what I'm hearing y'all say?

You know that's what happened with Bourbon Supreme. The one honey barrel went to the reviewers. You bunkered the rest and bring it out to haze GBS newbies!

darylld911
03-03-2013, 05:33
You know that's what happened with Bourbon Supreme. The one honey barrel went to the reviewers. You bunkered the rest and bring it out to haze GBS newbies!

Wait a minute . . . THAT wasn't one of the honey barrels???

silverfish
03-04-2013, 08:24
Over in the Cleveland Black Bourbon thread, Chuck wrote:


What has never happened is one of these guys sending samples to the top whiskey reviewers. It's never happened. Wonder why?

Rather than hijack that thread, I thought I'd ask here - how do reviewers
obtain their samples? Are you contacted via your blog or website asking
for a mailing address? That seems most likely and I'm sure you would want
to confirm a distillery connection before offering up personal information
but is it possible that some of the smaller/micro distillers aren't aware of
who the "top whiskey reviewers" are?

Not trying to stir any pots - am just genuinely curious.

squire
03-04-2013, 09:01
If I'm going to produce a brand of whisky you can bet I'll darn sure find out who the best reviewers are, if only to learn who to avoid.

cowdery
03-04-2013, 12:31
Actually, as John Q speculated, the first contact I have with someone is usually an email asking if they can send me something and asking for the best address. I always reply with a 'no promises' disclaimer. I do sometimes get things out of the blue. Call me crazy, but I'm not going to put something in my body until I know a little bit about who sent it.

Sometimes it's a PR agency, sometimes it's PR staff at the producer, sometimes (with micros) it's the proprietor or distiller who contacts me. As for how they decide who they cultivate and who they don't, you'll have to ask them.

Some of it is prety obvious. I have two books out, have written dozens of articles for WHISKY and Whisky Advocate (and others), have published a newsletter for almost 20 years, and have operated a blog for more than 6 years. I've been here on SB.com since the beginning. It's pretty easy to distinguish me from somebody who opened their Blogger account last week. All the producers care about is whether or not you are an influencer. They may pick one person over another because of a demographic they're trying to reach, so I imagine a female whiskey blogger will get more attention from producers than a male with similar credentials. A lot of it's hit or miss and sometimes when I'm on some of these press junkets, I'm surprised by some of the other people who are there, in terms of them seemingly having a very small reach. Heck, I think I have a very small reach but, realistically, I have more than most.

silverfish
03-05-2013, 09:03
If I'm going to produce a brand of whisky you can bet I'll darn sure find out who the best reviewers are, if only to learn who to avoid.

Yeah, that'd make sense but I didn't know if accessibility was an issue.


Actually, as John Q speculated, the first contact I have with someone is usually an email asking if they can send me something and asking for the best address. I always reply with a 'no promises' disclaimer. I do sometimes get things out of the blue. Call me crazy, but I'm not going to put something in my body until I know a little bit about who sent it.


That's what I was wondering about. I was assuming that the samples sent
were/are small sample bottles and not full, sealed bottles (which would be
less suspect but not entirely without risk in some cases.)

Regarding your "no promises" disclaimer - does that refer to your honest
opinion (pro or con) after tasting the sample or that you may or may not
actually review the sample (or a combination of both?)

cowdery
03-05-2013, 16:13
The 'no promises' disclaimer means I accept no obligation of any kind for accepting the sample.