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cowdery
03-28-2008, 10:32
Some comments in another thread about Jack Daniel's got me thinking about this.

I recently attended a presentation about Herradura Tequila. We tasted their Blanco, Reposado and Anjeo expressions. For those who don't know, Blanco (white) or Silver tequila is un-aged, Reposado is aged for less than one year and Anjeo is aged for a year or more. What was interesting was the presenter's point that the difference is one of style, not of quality. It's all the same tequila, after all, therefore the same quality. The aging doesn't make it better, it just makes it different. But it's a difference in style, not quality. The validity of his position is easy to prove. Just taste a Herradura or other premium blanco next to a cheap mixto blanco.

Whiskey is a little different because as aging became more common, virtually no one chose to continue drinking common whiskey (i.e., white dog) and age became a quality measure--six years was better than four, eight was better than six, etc.

But when you get past about ten years, I think the same theory holds. It's not really better quality, it's a different style.

But I'm not sure I've fully wrapped my head around the whole concept. What is the difference between quality and style? It matters because, presumably, quality evaluations should be objective while style preferences are by nature subjective. What do you think?

CorvallisCracker
03-28-2008, 11:01
But I'm not sure I've fully wrapped my head around the whole concept. What is the difference between quality and style? It matters because, presumably, quality evaluations should be objective while style preferences are by nature subjective. What do you think?

I think quality is a more objective thing, while style is more subjective.

For me, Scotch is a good example of this. Because I dislike the taste and smell of peat, I don't drink it. My nose and palate are acute enough to pick it up in whiskies where it's not that strong (say a Speyside). But I like to have a bottle of good single malt around for guests. Last fall, when a bottle of Macallan 18 bit the dust, I started researching a replacement (wasn't going to spend $150 for another Mac 18). One that seemed to be on everybody's Top Ten list was Aberlour a'bunadh. At $64 it seemed a reasonable buy so I got a bottle.

Had to try it of course. All kinds of wonderful aromas and flavors, very smooth, long finish. Obviously a very well-crafted whiskey. If it wasn't for the peat...

In Bourbon, most would agree that WT RB and VW Lot B are quality products. But one is rye'd and the other a wheater. Some people (my wife) don't like wheaters. It's subjective.

The BMW Z4 is a well-engineered, well-made sports car, but some people hate the way it looks.

ACDetroit
03-28-2008, 11:15
Very interesting post Chuck! I had never thought about style and quality with tequila but that really made sense. My first thought on the Bourbon side would be, to get a different style of tequila, it ages a year or more. With Whiskey the adding of extra years would equates to more evaporation! The more years the less in the barrel, I agree that would change the style after every year but in MHO the years and KY weather add quality and we see that in the price (not to say you do not see the price go up in tequila)!

I think the price on a bottle of Bourbon goes up with supply and demand as well. For example the FR 40th bottles sold out in a very short period of time. I believe you posted a new barrel strength release from FR's for 2008 and it will be at an increased price (expected not confirmed). Does that mean the quality of this bottling will be superior to the previous? I would guess not, but the FR folks know what is selling and they know they are making a quality product that will sell.

In final, I think the Style and Quality works for Tequila but I think the adding of years to bourbon also adds quality up to a peak point ( what that is I have no idea)!

Tony

barturtle
03-28-2008, 11:41
Wouldn't age also be more of a style than an indicator of quality? A youthful, zesty bourbon is more of a stylistic change from an older, barrel influenced bottling.

Let's say all bourbons at a distillery go through the same quality controls, grain selection, fermentation, distillation, dilution for barreling. Then they would all be of the same quality.

If you continue this through to the fact that dumping larger batches reduces the chance for variation and therefor increases the chance that one bottle bought one year in one country will be nearly identical to another bottle bought some other year in some other country, then Beam White is without a doubt the highest quality bourbon on the planet.

This would also mean that many of us are parting with serious chunks of money in exchange for LOWER quality products known as single barrels. his would be a case of paying for style over quality (much like buying an Apple instead of a Gateway).

There used to be (or still is) a body shop in L.A. that specialized in Ferraris, the average paint job cost $64,000.00. It seems that while the Ferraris were stylish, their quality wasn't all that hot, leading to variations of up to 1/4" from side to side. The cost included fixing these issues and bringing the quality up to a level to match the style of the car.

More auto analogies: Buying Single Barrel bourbons is like geting a Mustang convertible, you can get the hardtop with the same quality for less, or you can part with some extra money and get some style. Maybe more appropriate would be buying a Harley or getting a custom bike from a custom chopper shop-same basic building blocks, vastly different end products.

TNbourbon
03-28-2008, 11:45
I think, too, that "quality" is a technological term, while "style" is artistic.
The distillers and distilleries provide quality whiskey in virtually every instance today. It contains no harmful impurities, it adheres to proof/content/aging standards, and it's recognizable upon tasting as a member of its family.
Style is what the distiller uses to paint the canvas, if you will, with his whiskey(s). Parker and Craig Beam, for example, are artful stylists in order to turn the same, basic rye-recipe bourbon into all those different, but yet consistently related, bottlings Heaven Hill issues. The more varied the stable of labels, the more stylistic the distiller's role. Style, then, is the difference between Old Heaven Hill BIB and JTS Brown BIB.
Jack Daniel's and George Dickel, on the other hand, come pretty to unifying quality and style, as they present pretty much the same whiskey over and over again, with little variation. If they've made it right, they've made it, period. At those two distilleries, the tasters are as much the stylists as the distillers, because they determine when the singular profile is met.

CorvallisCracker
03-28-2008, 12:36
On the more narrow point of whether the age of a bourbon is a quality or style attribute, I'd say at the end points of the age spectrum it's quality, but in between, it's style.

In other words, too young it will likely be considered low quality. I've tried uanaged corn whiskey (Georgia Moon I think) and found it too raw to enjoy. This is also why JB WL is probably viewed as low quality (at least here), because it's fairly young. The selection of four years as the minimum for a BIB was likely not an arbitrary choice.

At the other end, you can over-age a bourbon. My first experience with this was back in the 1980s, when 15yo Ezra Brooks was introduced. It was so woody it almost seemed grainy to me, and since then I always approach a bourbon of this (or older) age with a small amount of concern. I consider it a testament to the skill of the blender when I find one that doesn't have this flaw.

Even so, from some people's perspective too much is too much. John Hansell (The Malt Advocate) gives PVW15 a 93 and a similar score to the 20, but only 84 to the 23, which he describes as having, "dry, spicy, leathery, sooty-charcoal, tobacco notes".

Now, I'm not saying he's right about the PVW 23 (not tried it myself), but my point is that if you do over-age a bourbon, then you've lost ground, qualitywise.

But within that very broad "sweet zone" (4-20 years?) variations in age should be considered stylistic differences.

"Oh my," exclaimed Goldilocks, "this bourbon is too young!" She made a face. "And this one is too old!". Another face. "But this Weller Antique is just right...but so is this Van Winkle 12 year old...and so is this 15.5 year old George Stagg! Oh my, I need to lay down. Hmm..this bed is too hard..."

barturtle
03-28-2008, 12:56
On the more narrow point of whether the age of a bourbon is a quality or style attribute, I'd say at the end points of the age spectrum it's quality, but in between, it's style.



I believe that even at these extremes it's still style rather than quality.

Compare to, say, hot sauces. You could buy the mildest Jalapeņo Tabasco or you could get one of the Capsaicin extracts. Both may be of the same quality, but they are different styles.

CorvallisCracker
03-28-2008, 13:08
I believe that even at these extremes it's still style rather than quality.

Compare to, say, hot sauces. You could buy the mildest Jalapeņo Tabasco or you could get one of the Capsaicin extracts. Both may be of the same quality, but they are different styles.

I dunno. If a sauce is so mild that you perceive no heat, then it fails to even qualify as a "hot sauce". If it's so strong that a single drop renders a bowl of chili inedible, then what good is it?

barturtle
03-28-2008, 13:18
I dunno. If a sauce is so mild that you perceive no heat, then it fails to even qualify as a "hot sauce". If it's so strong that a single drop renders a bowl of chili inedible, then what good is it?

It's a difference of personal taste. I know someone who considers even mild salsa very spicy, but I use Dave's Insanity like it's going out of style.

I prefer Georgia Moon to Woodford Reserve Four Grain. I've also been outspoken about my dislike of Pappy 23. Yet I know people who love Pappy 23 and at least one who likes WR4G.

felthove
03-28-2008, 13:43
I cannot help but think that the quality/style distinction is different among various alcoholic beverages and that there is more room for quality differentiation for beverages in which the variation in production costs is greater.

In particular, I believe that quality increases as the very best raw materials and practices are employed with greater frequency. Examples might include sourcing grapes from the very best vineyards or top-notch malt or hops, procuring barrells from the very best cooperages, or recruiting a well-trained winemaker, brewmaster or distiller. The line does blur, however, because often the "best" raw materials are the best for a certain style of wine, beer, tequila, etc. But still, to the extent that the choices in production process are discretionary and selected in such a way that material costs are well above the median for that beverage by competent and skilled professionals, one surely has an indicator of quality. Please do not confuse this notion with that which says higher price signals quality -- I'm just talking about production costs. But does idea this hold for bourbon?

I know more about beer, wine and tequila production than bourbon but intuition tells me that my argument breaks down a bit. There may be "select grains" that make better bourbon but how much does the grain really affect quality?

Megawatt
03-28-2008, 17:55
Great thread. The common perception is that older is better, but anyone who has read Jim Murray's Whisky Bible knows that not all experts agree. Murray often rates younger whiskies far higher than their older and more expensive bretheren. He seems to believe that there is an ideal age for some whiskies, and to surpass that is a mistake.

For my part, I have not tried too many whiskies beyond 12 years of age. The ones I have (Wiser's, Gibson's, Alberta Premium) are certainly better-tasting than their younger counterparts, so based on that I would conclude that older whiskies are often of better quality, in terms of flavour.

Then you have the question of diminishing returns. Is a 30-year-old Scotch really worth eight times as much as a 12-year-old? How is one to judge such things anyway? You are paying more for the relative scarcity of the drink than for the increase in quality.

cowdery
03-28-2008, 23:21
Some of the factors that haven't been mentioned, which I think speak to quality and not style, are such factors as off-flavors (or the absence thereof), lack of flavor altogether (blandness), and deviation from type (a bourbon that's not even recognizable as a bourbon). Cost doesn't really enter into it because cost can be a function of scarcity without reference to either quality or style. And, as already mentioned, immature is a quality issue, as is being over-aged, i.e., too woody.

Too often, I think, we say "that's terrible" when what we really mean is "I don't like that" or "that's crap" (i.e., low quality) when it's just not what we want in our mouth, maybe just then, maybe ever, but somebody else might love it. Now if somebody likes something that is actually (by the standards everybody has mentioned) bad, then that's just wrong, or somebody can like something you don't like, and you can acknowledge the distinction is stylistic.

There is overlap, however, the most obvious place to me being in woodiness. There are some whiskeys that some people like that I think are just wrong, and though my gut tells me they're bad and there's something wrong with someone who likes them; courtesy, at least, compels me to regard it as a stylistic difference of opinion.

Virus_Of_Life
03-29-2008, 03:01
I recently attended a presentation about Herradura Tequila. We tasted their Blanco, Reposado and Anjeo expressions. For those who don't know, Blanco (white) or Silver tequila is un-aged, Reposado is aged for less than one year and Anjeo is aged for a year or more.

Chuck I know I am being nitpicky here, it's my OCD, but I just think it is important to point out you are speaking of their Blano not Silver, they make each. And they are one of the few who do in fact age their Silver tequila, in Herradura's case, 45 days; Gran Centenario being another. The Blanco is not aged, comes in a different style bottle and actually a higher proof - 92 I believe. Both are great.

cowdery
03-29-2008, 13:49
You are correct about the light aging on the silver, which is actually 40 days, according to their official literature. Nothing I've seen indicates the existence of a completely unaged blanco under the Herradura brand. They do have an el Jimador Blanco, but that's 80 proof, as is the entire Herradura line.

Virus_Of_Life
03-29-2008, 14:28
Don't want to stray off topic in the General Bourbon forum, so here is a link Chuck http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?p=116801#post116801

jburlowski
03-29-2008, 15:13
Seems to me (at this moment, to my whiskey-addled brain) that this is more semantics than specifics.

To me. quality embodies a number of attributes, including style (whatever the hell that means).

So... what's the point: either one perceives that it is good (or better) quality or not. Style, I think, is a secondary characteristic.

OscarV
03-29-2008, 15:38
. Style, I think, is a secondary characteristic.

Style as a secondary characteristic?,.... let me think about that, I will get back to you.










Ok, I am back, I think I agree, but there are times when style is my first choice, so therefore at those times it is not secondary,...

ILLfarmboy
03-29-2008, 15:54
I'm not sure how this fits in into this discussion but if we are comparing white dog and aged bourbon and asking the question if it all starts out the same isn't it just a matter of style, I might ask, when common whiskey was the norm and aged product was a luxury, were the stills manipulated in such a way, perhaps as to take a narrower cut since the end product was meant to be consumed un-aged. In other words are some cogenors best left out if we intend to drink it right off the still whereas these same cogenors when modified by aging contribute in a positive way to the taste of the aged whiskey? Or am I just over thinking this?

barturtle
03-29-2008, 16:18
S

Ok, I am back, I think I agree, but there are times when style is my first choice, so therefore at those times it is not secondary,...

Ah but if we agree that all of your bourbons are of high quality, then you don't have to consider quality and are left to chose by style.

Let's take corn whiskies as an example. not a lot of choice here so lets say you can get:

Georgia Moon
Mellow Corn

This gives you a choice of style between an almost unaged and a 4yo BIB. If it can be agreed that they both start with the same quality ingredients and go through the same quality control processes, then you are left with style as the only way to chose between them.

Those different styles may have flavors and odors that, while considered flaws in another style, are indigenous to that style.

Another example:

In beer judging, it is considered a flaw for most lagers to have a vinous (wine-like) quality, but in ales it is usually considered an advantage. So even if you happen to like vinous beers, in your lager it would be a flaw.

OscarV
03-29-2008, 16:25
you know what? we actually agree on this.

So therefore I think that the the thread's title is a ridiculaous question.

barturtle
03-29-2008, 16:59
So therefore I think that the the thread's title is a ridiculaous question.

No, I think that the title is about what we just agreed upon. People tend to say that something is of low quality, when what they mean is it is of a style they don't care for. I may not care for the style that Pappy 23 represents, but for me to call it low quality would be wrong. It is very high quality, hand chosen by someone with a very well respected palate.

OscarV
03-29-2008, 17:18
Ok, ok, ok,...I love Bar-B-Que, but I am not wild about Texas smoke, I do however respect and admire the art that goes into it.

OK?

gblick
03-31-2008, 12:55
You are correct about the light aging on the silver, which is actually 40 days, according to their official literature. Nothing I've seen indicates the existence of a completely unaged blanco under the Herradura brand. They do have an el Jimador Blanco, but that's 80 proof, as is the entire Herradura line.

I'm pretty sure they still make it, but I think it's mostly just for the Mexican market. I still see it a lot, and have had it back when I was into tequila.

http://www.bevmo.com/productinfo.asp?area=home&seref=froogle&pf_id=00000014960

Here's another link:

http://pocotequila.com/bltour/herra2.html

Sijan
04-02-2008, 23:28
I know I am late to this conversation, but I don't really buy into the notion that quality is objective. I agree that quality and style are two different things, but I actually think quality is more subjective and style is more objective. I think John B got it right - style is a secondary characteristic.

While I disagree with the idea that quality is objective, I recognize there can be objective measures of certain characteristics that some might appoint as indicative of quality. The type of quality (http://www.answers.com/quality&r=67) we're talking about is this one:

Superiority of kind: an intellect of unquestioned quality.
Degree or grade of excellence: yard goods of low quality.Thus, because it is a judgment about superiority or excellence, quality is pretty much inherently subjective. Who can objectively say what is superior or what is excellent? You may prefer more pure, refined, high proof spirits, while I may prefer impure back-country 'shine. Purity is not quality, it is simply purity. You may prefer aged whiskey while I may prefer white dog. You may dislike the taste of whiskey and prefer flavorless spirits, while I may seek the tastiest spirits I can find. You may hate the idea of people consuming alcohol and thus want it to taste terrible, while I may seek to make alcohol as enjoyable as possible. The fact that these things can sometimes be quantified and measured does not change the fact that determining whether they are good or bad or neutral is subjective. Who is to judge what are the "best" raw materials or the "best" cooperages? That determination depends completely on one's subjective tastes and goals.

And one may even recognize that certain things indicate quality to others - or even to himself in another context - and thus be able to recognize a "high quality" tequila, even if he doesn't necessarily enjoy it. There may also be an objective-like component of quality, which is that consensus views on quality may validly indicate whether others are likely to enjoy a product, since we are all human and share many common characteristics and preferences and ways of experiencing the world. And as we narrow down to groups of humans that are more alike in relevant ways (such as the members of SB.com), the likelihood that recommendations of things found to be of high quality by some group members will also be found to be of high quality by other group members also increases. But consensus is not objectivity.

The style part, however, is a bit more objective. We can objectively define some styles and categorize whiskeys or other spirits based on them. For instance, the distinction between tequila and whiskey is an objective distinction in style. As is the distinction between bourbon made with rye and bourbon made with wheat. Or white dog and aged whiskey. Or 80 proof whiskey and barrel proof whiskey. But this is all, as John B notes, a secondary characteristic, because what's more important, generally, is whether we like a given style (or combinations of styles) or not.

So, for me personally, when I describe something as a high-quality whiskey or a low-quality whiskey, I'm not talking about the stringency of the industrial specifications used to produce it or the stringent selection of grain used or the type of wood used in the barrels (one could reasonably hold these things to be the key measures of quality in a whiskey, though I doubt many do.) I'm personally much less interested in inputs and more interested in outputs. When I say a whiskey is high quality, I'm talking about my subjective evaluation of the tastiness and hedonic value of the end product. And this is a subjective standard of quality which incorporates my preferences related to a number of different styles.

Tangentially, I think people respect PVW23 because of the quality of the end product, not because of all the inputs that went into producing that product. Let's say that a big industry secret was revealed tomorrow - that the Van Winkles also did all of the same tasting and quality control and the like as contractors for Jim Beam to produce the current version of Old Crow. Would you say that Old Crow must then also be high quality, of the same high quality as PVW23? I sure wouldn't. If that's just too far-fetched for you, imagine that you ordered a case of PVW23 and every single bottle tasted terrible. Would you still think those bottles were of high quality? I wouldn't, but we each have our own subjective measures of quality.

barturtle
04-03-2008, 01:36
Dan, I found your writing on this quite enjoyable. What I find most interesting, is that we are, I believe, basically agreeing on what attributes must be satisfied for a term, we are just switching the terms.

I find your choices of which definitions you prefer very interesting, I would have preferred:

Quality
n
An inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property

The accounting dictionary may be better:
Measure of conformance of a product or service to certain specifications or standards

The American Society for Quality even manages to satisfy both of us:
a subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings:
the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.
a product or service free of deficienciesMost interesting is that the Veterinary Dictionary for both quality and style are the closest for how I was interpreting the terms

quality: Purity of contents, care in presentation and finish of a product
style: A term used in subjective appraisal (of wool, blah, blah...)

So basically both of these terms can be either objective or subjective, however my argument is thus:

To say that something is of low quality because you don't like it, yes that is subjective, but you could also say that you don't like its style or type (too young, too much rye, too spicy.) I would have a hard time accepting the subjective statement of "too spicy" being related to low quality.

But to say that something is of low style, because its ingredients are not up to specification makes little sense. I'm not sure, this may have made sense in an older usage of the term, but it doesn't sound correct to the modern ear.

I would think that both terms need to be used objectively, with personal taste being the subjective part of the equation.

Mapping this out becomes an interesting exercise:

All Wild Turkey is made from the same ingredients, so it has the same inherent properties (quality)
WT is a rye recipe bourbon (style)

but what about:
WT80 vs. WT101? A reduction in proof could be seen as a reduction of a property(quality-objective) or it could be seen as a change in type to a milder, softer one(style)...this would depend upon you personal subjective taste, if you happen to prefer the lower proof, you may say you like the milder style or you may even say it's a higher quality(subjective).

Anyway, the important thing is being able to know when your statement is objective or subjective. Objective-based on some definable, agreed upon fact. Subjective-based upon personal preference.

Sijan
04-03-2008, 10:59
Yes, I think this may turn more on semantics than actual disagreement.

Suffice to say, based on my own subjective standards of quality (which incorporate taste, complexity, style preferences, etc.), I accept that EWSB is a high quality whiskey (even though I don't myself enjoy it as much as others), but I reject the idea that current Old Crow is a high quality whiskey (unless we're using the extremely narrow definition of industrial purity, etc.) Although some of the flavors I find in EWSB are not my favorites to experience in a bourbon, I recognize that it has complexity and depth, and also recognize that there is a consensus of its quality among other whiskey afficionados. Current Old Crow, on the other hand, is neither nor complex/deep nor appealing to my palate, and the consensus on it among other whiskey afficionados is rather negative.

If I have time, I'll post a bit more detailed reply later.

bromike666
04-03-2008, 15:33
I need a drink:lol:

jburlowski
04-03-2008, 15:56
I need a drink:lol:

Wrong thread... search under "quantity".