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doubleblank
03-22-2006, 11:40
I, like many here, read Jim Murray's, Chuck Cowdery's, and other writers opinions and stories of our favorite beverage with much interest. But I have noticed that my opinion of a bourbon and Jim Murray's opinion to be opposite of one another more often than similar. The first time I noticed this was when WT RR was reducing the proof to 90 and Jim Murray gave it a good review. I personally think RR 90 is an OK bourbon. So the other night while enjoying one of my (many) favorite bourbons.....Pappy 20, I thought I'd go through his 2005 Bible and compare tasting notes. He places Pappy 20 into the acceptable category while stating Thedford Colonial is top notch. I know different batches and bottlings can be the cause of some discrepancies.....but not like this. These are just two examples.....that were repeated often during this unscientific comparison. In many cases I agreed with his tasting notes and odservations, but his assignment of a numerical "quality" rating didn't jive with where I would place the bourbon. I recall Chuck is generally against such numerical rankings when discussing whiskey, and after studying this for a while, I think I agree.

Conversely, I also read Robert Parkers The Wine Advocate, and have generally found I am in agreement with his notes AND numerical quality ranking.

Has anyone else correlated their opinions with Jim Murry's?

Randy

bobbyc
03-22-2006, 12:02
I think Cowdery is spot on, and I like the Regans. I find that Pacults finding are similiar to my own but I do not have the flowery descriptors that he uses. Just looking at the tasting notes in American Still Life I wonder if he is a better writer than taster. It is more disconcerting to me personally if my own findings don't parallel those of some of the esteemed tasters here than of any that have authored a book.

At the end of the day the best thing some of those guys have done is they figured out a way to be paid to do what the rest of us pay to do.

Gillman
03-22-2006, 12:15
Not to be a contrarian (my chances of sampling that 1919 may be ... um.. evaporating :)) but I think Murray is actually generally very accurate. I think though (like all tasters, not least Parker) his scoring reflects a specific set of likes and dislikes. E.g. (I have his 2005 Bible here) he finds the 20 year old Pappy simply too dry. I find even the 15 year old ORVW, although I recognise its importance to many, also dry and I rarely drank it straight, it will be a component of the blends I bring for those Manhattans! Also, Murray likes blends, e.g. he gives a very high rating to VO and some other Canadian whiskies because of the skill with which they deliver a light but tasty palate. He also likes a very punchy flavourful type of bourbon, he admires e.g. most Heaven Hills (of that name, which tend to be in the opinion of some here not amongst the best they make). Murray really does know his whiskey, he makes comments (e.g. about how some malt whisky is aged in top quality sherry casks) that no other taster makes. He knows the fine points and merits of blending. He admires regional and very assertive tastes that others might find a little rough or uncouth. So it is all a question of one's basic framework. Parker has been knocked for tasting wines out of (a food) context and therefore favouring the sweeter more approachable ones, even to the point of changing wine making methods especially amongt the French.

Gary

doubleblank
03-22-2006, 13:01
Actually Robert Parker is mostly criticized for favoring bigger, bolder flavors than more nuanced wines that might work better with certain foods. This would make him like Jim Murray in that way. I find Jim Murray's notes and observations to often be fairly consistent with mine....its that his likes and dislikes differ from mine. As you stated, he has given certain whiskies high scores that I (and many on this board) don't particularly care for. And he has a dislike for drier whiskeys....a trait of many older bourbons. I enjoy reading his articles and don't question his knowledge of the spirits business, but his likes and dislikes are often opposed to mine. IOW, I find his notes helpful and his scoring useless to me. In contrast, I find Robert Parker's notes and scoreing helpful. But I could use either Parker's or Murray's notes without the scoring for help in determining whether I might try something they review.

As a resource for opinions, etc on available bourbons, this board is tops.

Randy

Gillman
03-22-2006, 13:42
I agree Randy. In my view the level of knowledge here is above most consumer writers, foreign ones anyway, because that knowledge is constantly updated and also benefits from the group input.

But books have their place and in general I find my likes consistent with Murray's. E.g. I always thought the Schenley whiskies were very good and here I meet someone who agrees and gives them scores in the 90's! I agree too scores have limited use and the purpose of these systems is not always clear, as Chuck Cowdery has also pointed out. But everyone wants to know how something "rates", it is a human inclination and these writers know that.

Gary

TNbourbon
03-22-2006, 13:49
I enjoy Murray's notes a lot, and find tidbits of information -- and, not infrequently, flavor descriptions for tastes I couldn't match up -- in those notes. But, like Randy, I shake my head often at his ratings and general appreciations.
And, as Bobby says, there are a number of folks here I consider much more informed about bourbon specifically than any of the 'gurus' (aside from Chuck, of course!).

chasking
03-22-2006, 14:58
I've seen Murray give low scores to some whiskeys I thought were pretty good, but I don't recall trying something he rated highly and thinking it was bad. So, if he rates something highly I'm inclined to believe it's good stuff, but just because he doesn't rate something highly doesn't (in my view) mean it's NOT good.

cowdery
03-22-2006, 17:36
I have a lot of issues about tasting notes in general and especially ratings, as most of you know. Tasting is just so subjective. The comments made about Parker illustrate the problem. What is he supposed to do? Not like what he likes? Create a 'persona' that tries to anticipate what the average drinker will like, even though that isn't necessarily what he likes?

This is why (for all the good it does) I caution new bourbon drinkers about products like Pappy. I'm not sure I like the term "acquired taste," but a 20-year-old bourbon isn't objectively 'better' than a four-year-old, it's just different.

As for Murray, I call him the hardest working man in the whiskey-writing business. I don't know how he is able to taste as much as he does, but I think he's like Parker, who I'm told can taste and write his notes about a particular bottle in less than a minute. I do it differently, but I'm not saying I'm right and they're wrong. Again, just different.

When I started to write about this stuff, my interest was mostly in the history and culture and business. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into writing and publishing tasting notes. I think they have some value, especially if you can put something into a context for someone, so they can perhaps compare something they have tasted to something they have not. To talk about a lot of wood versus not much wood, or sweet versus dry, spicy versus not so much. Those things are pretty objective, but some of the stuff is so fanciful ("emphatic mint toffee" is my favorite) I wonder how anyone is supposed to make use of it.

As for Randy's original comments, isn't it the same with film reviewers, music reviewers or anything else. Sometimes you find someone whose tastes are so perfectly opposite your own that anything they like, you know you will hate, and vice versa. That's as useful, in its way, as finding a reviewer with whom you always agree.

Hedmans Brorsa
03-23-2006, 01:47
My interest in tasting notes is on the wane and has been so for many years.

The trouble with these is that they are so fickle. Occasionally they are spot on but many times you struggle to understand that the whiskey being described is the same one as the one you have tasted yourself. This reaches an especially ridiculous level when you agree that the whiskey in question is good and yet you cannot find one single description that fits your own tasting experience!

Like Chuck, I also have problems with stuff like "emphatic mint toffee". If excesses like these become too dominant, I simply stop reading. I can´t take a writer like that seriously.

I´d much rather read about the history and culture that surrounds the whiskey industry.

True, I buy Murray´s whiskey bible but this is mostly to get a grip on what is available, especially in the Scotch world.

Gillman
03-23-2006, 03:20
We all have our own view of this. Personally I find a detailed description based on simile or metaphor referring to the tastes or odors of other drinks, or of foods or other objects, informative to learn what a drink might taste like. This approach is better than formulas such as "rich and full" or "dark-tasting" which do not tell anything about the actual flavor of a product. Once I recall a certain wine writer discursing on Irish whiskey. The whiskey was said to be true and clear (or words to that effect) as tasted in the pristine air of Ireland. The writer implied that tasting it in the air of other places, especially that of dirty cities, would not give the same result. This is a poetic description but told me little about how the product actually tasted. I know how Chuck feels about "emphatic mint toffee" but I don't see why that is over-the-top or inappropriate as a simile. We all have had hard or soft toffee (or the variant, butterscotch, or the U.S. salt water taffees). Even if I had not tried a mint-flavoured version, I think I could imagine it. The flavor of some bourbon can be toffee-like (e.g. Elmer T. Lee) and the mint is a reference to the taste of rye. In fact for me this description works well for some bottlings of EC 12 year old or the older Heaven Hill-branded bourbons.

This type of vocabulary was borrowed from that of wine writers. I realise not everyone goes in for this way of understanding drinks but to me it is natural to describe whisky by analogy to the tastes or odours of certain foods, flowers or other objects. Chuck himself gives an excellent summary of the main analogues in his book, Bourbon, Straight, based e.g., on the smell of flowers, taste of nuts, taste of fruits and so forth. I know he says too it is bootless to explore WHAT types of flowers or fruits and while I agree with that for some purposes, it remains true that some whiskies remind me of old roses, or peaches.... I am always curious how people who do not like to view whisky or other drinks in this way explain (even to themselves) why they prefer one drink over another.

In the current Whisky magazine, Jim Murray has an article in which he says that some people say a whisky reminds them of the warmed oil used for miniature railway sets. While I have never owned such a thing, somehow I know what that means.

Gary

Hedmans Brorsa
03-23-2006, 08:38
Personally I find a detailed description based on simile or metaphor referring to the tastes or odors of other drinks, or of foods or other objects, informative to learn what a drink might taste like.Gary

I can agree to a certain degree. The odd metaphor can certainly enrich a tasting note, if used in a sparing manner, but when the writer starts to pile them upon each other in an orgy-like fashion then he or she loses me.

It is also relevant to ask yourself whether your personal notes are to any help or not. I seem, for instance, to be the only one who finds the scent of fulminating powder in the Baker´s nose. :grin:

Gillman
03-23-2006, 09:34
Here I agree with you. I too have read my share of descriptions which jumble a bunch of impressions and use different metaphors, to wit, "the whisky evoked the smell of coiled rope on the fantail of a diesel teak vessel loitering the coasts of Old India, with a touch of gristy tea biscuit as cooked on an iron griddle in the damp Essex of my youth, yet the final and decisive impression being one of permeating and ever-dominant flowery notes recalling the scent of first girlfriend, and...". Well you get the picture, and so do I. :)

The main whisky writers actually avoid this, though. And each develops a vocabulary of his own. E.g., Murray speaks of the "rigid" character of Irish pot still and I know exactly what he means but it took me a while to figure out his lingo, his frame of reference.

Gary

bluesbassdad
03-23-2006, 13:02
Click here (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthread.php?p=57565#post57565).

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

fogfrog
03-23-2006, 17:14
Chuck, re: tasting notes: I have been learning about bourbon and whiskey and you know one day I like one thing and one day the next. Its like it changes day by day what I like. One day I think Evan Williams Black is the Gold Standard and then the next day I think its Very Old Bartons. And the next day I think what I used to like bites! too much....... its not a thing you can really grade. Thank God I can be a bourbon afficionado and nearly trailer trash in income.

ratcheer
03-23-2006, 17:45
As for Randy's original comments, isn't it the same with film reviewers, music reviewers or anything else. Sometimes you find someone whose tastes are so perfectly opposite your own that anything they like, you know you will hate, and vice versa. That's as useful, in its way, as finding a reviewer with whom you always agree.
Yes, Chuck, yes! I remember when there were certain reviewers that I read over a period of years and when they said something was great, I knew that I should avoid it. And vice versa.

It actually grew to where I looked forward to reading their reviews, even though I knew they had opposing views to mine, because I knew I could depend on them to let me know whether I'd enjoy something. Just in the opposite direction!

Tim

ThomasH
03-23-2006, 22:13
I also like to read Jim Murray's books. However, I totally agree with Chuck Cowdery that whiskey tasting is a very personalized experience. I can think of 2 whiskey brands that Jim Murray totally blasted as the worst he had tasted in their respective categories, one being a bourbon and the other a Canadian. I found both to be quite acceptable brands. I don't generally write off a whiskey until I have tried it in every way I like to drink it, including with my favorite mixers. Whiskey is to be consumed in whichever way the consumer likes it most, regardless of its price or book review!

Bamber
03-24-2006, 09:15
I generally agree with his tasting notes for American whisky, and often (but a little less) with his rankings. I tasted MM black for the first time recently, wrote notes and they very similar to his.

Personally I think he rates young cheap whiskies too highly - JB white label and Pikesville spring to mind.

However, I think JM is honest when he writes his rankings and notes. Whether you agree or not is a matter of personal taste.

As an aside, I agree with him that the VW 20 is the worst of their bourbons, but I still think it is a good whisky. Just some way behind the great ones they have produced. I recently bought the new Old Rip 10yo 107 and it is the bourbon I reach for most, even with WLW and GTS eyballing me.

pepcycle
03-24-2006, 11:31
I find that if I read a review beforehand, I have an expectation and its almost never met, good or bad. I can't be objective.
If I read it afterward, I either get "Ahas" when something nails what I experience or "What the heck is he thinking" when my experience is different.
The disturbing part is inconsistency. If the critic always finds something sweeter or spicier or peppery, I can handle that. Its when I'm at odds with the critic on multiple whiskeys in opposite directions on the same characteristics.
That's the way it is with Murray. Some its right on, others far apart but without linkage.
All part of the fun.
Self Doubt!!!!
(Not that I could ever be wrong, it must be Murray)
:slappin: :slappin:

Ken Weber
03-24-2006, 12:00
Gary,
I am enamored with the evocative prose used to describe the sensory perception experienced by the imbiber of said spirit(s). Actually, I appreciate when Jim describes a taste akin to "burned rubber." Whatever this means, it can not be good!

I have read some tasting notes on Buffalo Trace and they include dark candied fruit, teaberry, and orange citrus. The fruit (candied and orange)evokes a perception in my mind, however, I have no idea what teaberry is nor can I appreciate the thought being conveyed.

My basic take on any descriptive taste notes and scores is that they are more pertinate to the person who is more of a novice. Just walk through the wine section of a store and you will see that the bins merchandised with glowing tasting notes and a high score will nearly always be better shopped (more bottles sold) than those without scores. I know very little about wine, therefore, I am more inclined to be influenced by Mr. Parker. Conversely, I am less inclined to be swayed by Jim when he rates bourbons.

Ken

Gillman
03-24-2006, 13:28
Hi Ken. When I started learning about whisky I found writers' taste notes very helpful. Eg when I read Michael Jackson's 1987 World Guide To Whisky, he said a keynote of the Seagram's whiskies is a faint oak taste - he is right. Another company's house flavor (Meagher's) was fruity, he said; and again he was right! This was not self-fulfilling, Jackson is really very good. But sure, once you are familiar with the whiskies in a given range his or any expert's opinion becomes less important. Other writers are good too, e.g. Murray. Dave Broome of Whisky Magazine tends to use a lot of different associations when describing whisky but I learn from him, too. And I like still to read what others think of the things I buy, so I will certainly buy Murray's 2006 Whisky Bible.

Gary

N.B. About teaberry: I have never had it as far as I know but to me it connotes a tannic flavor. Tea is tannic. Teaberry may be a berry which if infused in water produces a tannic, tea-like drink. And in fact, Trace does have a light tannic edge. So there you go. :) Another example: A cooking author once said judging by the number of recipe books which vaunt their offerings as ideal for a picnic you would think the hills and vales of the land are covered 24 hours per day, 7 days a week with picnicers. :) But if someone says this dish will go well at a picnic you get a certain impression, even though you may never go to picnics.

cowdery
03-24-2006, 15:16
One thing I can tell you about Jim Murray from personal experience is that he genuinely likes American whiskey. Some UK whiskey writers write about American whiskey because they have to, but underlying every comment they make is the unspoken, "but it's not scotch." Jim genuinely likes American whiskey and everything about it, and he likes the young ones because they tend to be the most un-scotch-like, if that makes sense. He hasn't said that to me explicitly, but I have drawn that conclusion from things he has said.

Gillman
03-24-2006, 15:29
I agree but the same is true of Jackson - and he came first.

Gary

bobbyc
03-24-2006, 17:29
I have no idea what teaberry is nor can I appreciate the thought being conveyed.
http://home.swipnet.se/roland/teaberry.html

Head down to the drugstore or Wal-Mart and you can clear this up quickly, Ken.

I would have a hard time describing Teaberry, but it is distinct and a fairly unique flavor.

Hedmans Brorsa
03-25-2006, 03:46
One thing I can tell you about Jim Murray from personal experience is that he genuinely likes American whiskey. Some UK whiskey writers write about American whiskey because they have to, but underlying every comment they make is the unspoken, "but it's not scotch."

I agree 100 % with this. With all due respect to Gary´s opinion, I cannot say that Jackson is able to match up Murray in this particular department.

There is, after all, no coincedence that it was Murray, not anyone else, who was appointed a Honorary Colonel of Kentucky.

In my view, Murray shines the most when he writes about the whisky world as a whole (as opposed to pure tasting notes) and I would really look forward to another book along the lines of his "Complete book of whiskey".

JeffRenner
03-25-2006, 15:22
http://home.swipnet.se/roland/teaberry.html

Head down to the drugstore or Wal-Mart and you can clear this up quickly, Ken.

I would have a hard time describing Teaberry, but it is distinct and a fairly unique flavor.

You might be more familiar with the name "wintergreen." Teaberry and wintergreen are synonymous for Gaultheria procumbens (http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/shrubs/gaultheriapro.html). It's found on forest floors and stands out in the winter against the rest of the brown foliage. If you break up a leaf in the palm of your hand (they are brittle), you will get that distinctive wintergreen aroma.

Jeff

Gillman
03-25-2006, 15:33
Thank you, Jeff. And this makes perfect sense, since Trace has a definite, minty edge, no doubt from the rye. But it still has a faint tannic side, too. :)

Gary

cowdery
03-25-2006, 15:45
There is, after all, no coincedence that it was Murray, not anyone else, who was appointed a Honorary Colonel of Kentucky.

I can't speak for Jackson, but Murray is not the only whiskey writer to have received the commission of Kentucky Colonel. I am a Colonel, as are several other participants in this forum.

As for Jackson v. Murray, I would say Jackson is even-handed as between the two styles, but Murray I sometimes think actually prefers bourbon.

Hedmans Brorsa
03-26-2006, 01:28
I can't speak for Jackson, but Murray is not the only whiskey writer to have received the commission of Kentucky Colonel. I am a Colonel, as are several other participants in this forum.

I was referring to UK writers.

bobbyc
03-26-2006, 15:47
Head down to the drugstore or Wal-Mart and you can clear this up quickly, Ken.

It isn't that easy it appears. I looked for some today with no luck. I did a google search and it is still available thru some Retro and Nostalgic candy warehouses. The product is cheap enough but shipping is a little rough these days.

Sijan
04-01-2006, 13:21
Is the 2006 Whiskey Bible out yet in the U.S. or does anyone know when it's coming out?

DrinkyBanjo
04-01-2006, 13:29
You can get it at www.maltadvocate.com. I have not found it anywhere else domestically.