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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    8,979

    Underwhelmed...?

    Picked up the current Whisky Magazine which focuses on Bourbon (so far so good). Nice to see this British mag giving an in-depth look at American whiskey, and our Chuck makes an excellent contribution in the round table. But, I can't help but notice how modestly (relatively) the bourbons tasted scored. And they tasted the best of what is: a passel of Van Winkles including the Pappy 20 and 23 year olds, the much-lauded (on these boards) Stagg, Old Charter Proprietor's Reserve and other very notable whiskeys (including the domestically unavailable HH 23 year old). No whiskey got more than 8.5. The average was about 8 and a few scored in the 7's (e.g. Eagle Rare 17 year old). And this a selection of America's best! The equivalent (in reputation) malt whiskies would have scored much higher, e.g. 9, 9.25, even 9.5. The tasters were Briton Michael Jackson (who wrote extensively about Bourbon in the 1980's and whose judgement I greatly respect) and Dave Broom, a Scot who mainly writes about Scotch but certainly knows distilled drinks.

    What gives? Is the best Bourbon a good notch under the best malt whisky? Or is Kentucky's best not getting a fair shake? There is nothing wrong about scoring an average of 8 or so but in a magazine of this nature, this is, IMO, a left-handed compliment.

    Gary


  2. #2
    Enthusiast
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    May 2004
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    Sherburne County, Minnesota
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    389

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    It sounds like they could have used Jim Murray on the tasting panel. He's a bit more favorable to bourbons (or at least he isn't biased toward Scotch -- a significant fact, considering that he is a Brit). He picked Stagg as his whiskey of the year in the 2004 Whiskey Bible, and rates Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey as two of the three best distilleries in the world.

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
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    12,375

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    I think anyone--and this certainly includes Jackson and Broom--who comes at bourbon from a baseline of scottish whiskies is always going to find American whiskey problematic, a little overwelming. WHISKY has adopted the approach of using those two tasters exclusively, an approach I find more legitimate ultimately than having anonymous tasting panels, but I think those two will always score American whiskey a little lower because their baseline for how whiskey should taste is scotch.

    What WHISKY needs to do, of course, is add a distinguished American taster to its panel, not that I have anyone in mind.

  4. #4
    Guru
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    Sep 2001
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    Pelham, AL
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    3,882

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    I could think of someone, Chuck. I would bet you could probably do it, very well.

    Tim

  5. #5
    Enthusiast
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    May 2004
    Location
    Bristol UK.
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    272

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    I find the scores on thewhiskymag.com annoying in general.So many obvious biases - MJ loves Macallan, JM is negative about practically all aged Bourbon, they all favour Scotch.

    Is one form of spirit better than another ? I think so. To me, Bourbon and Scotch are far more complex and enjoyable than Vodka, Rum, Gin and even Brandy but I don't feel at all confident I could argue my case against an expert.

    This last week an old school friend of mine has been staying over decorating my new house. Every evening we've been sampling plenty of Scotch and Bourbon. Its obvious to me he prefers the Bourbon but whilst the he admits it may taste better he still considers Scotch a superior drink !!

    I think this perception is very common. Scotch has this traditional ye olde image - despite the fact its constantly messed around with - funny finishing casks (Claret !) - adding caramel.

    I guess the bottom line is that if you like Bourbon, your better off listening to the opinions of other people that like it and aren't embarassed to say it.

    Cheers,

    B.

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    Oct 1999
    Location
    Sweden
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    867

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    Jim Murray has been part of the Whisky Magazine staff but left due to some controversy with the current editor. In his Whiskey bible 2004 you can spot the odd reference to this afair. He concludes the tasting notes to AAA 10 yo with the words : "Show me a scotch of the same age and price which displays this level of complexity and I show you a UK whisky magazine editor not in it only for the money".

    Personally I find Whisky Magazine to be dull and lifeless. A slack middleclass product devoid of soul.

  7. #7
    Taster
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Annapolis, MD
    Posts
    60

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    I find the tasting notes of Jackson, Broom, et al. on the whiskymag site to be much more helpful and informative than their ratings, which I think definately suffer due to the reasons Mr. Cowdery states. Murray's bible is an absolute pleasure, both for the tasting notes and the ratings (and the general commentary - see his comments on The Whisky Shop Port Ellen), though his ratings produce what I consider some anamolies. For example, he rates Jim Beam rye as 93 and VW 13 and 12 ryes as 91 and 90, respectively. He rates Saz rye as 96, which in and of itself is certainly defendable, but if so, wouldn't most here rate the VWs as higher than 91 and 90, and in any event higher than Jim Beam rye?

  8. #8
    Connoisseur
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    May 2003
    Location
    Virginia
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    621

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    I find the scores on thewhiskymag.com annoying in general.
    The more I delve into the so-called "expert's" reviews the less I believe in them. Those guys are pretty much 'one-trick-ponies'...if it isn't Scotch you won't find a whole lot of depth or accuracy in their assessments. In my mind, the great disparities among the "expert" scores tells me people's palates are different. And as such, it's best to judge for yourself.

  9. #9
    Enthusiast
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    May 2004
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    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    (snip) though his ratings produce what I consider some anamolies. For example, he rates Jim Beam rye as 93 and VW 13 and 12 ryes as 91 and 90, respectively. He rates Saz rye as 96, which in and of itself is certainly defendable, but if so, wouldn't most here rate the VWs as higher than 91 and 90, and in any event higher than Jim Beam rye?
    I definitely agree that the VW rye is far superior to the JB, but at least it gets a proper score. JM certainly gives some wacky scores - the blended Scotch section is mind boggling in places (Teachers 95 !!). That being said I believe that is what he believes.

    Cheers,

    B.

  10. #10
    Enthusiast
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    May 2004
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    Bristol UK.
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    272

    Re: Underwhelmed...?

    MJ's Bourbon tasting notes are a bit sketchy:

    http://www.whiskymag.com/whisky/bran...whisky332.html

    I read this review after my first bottle of BT and it really frustrated me - I think JM's comments are relatively new.

 

 

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