Head-to-head whisky reviews

I’ve reviewed 13 whiskies this week, from 10 bottlers and always in a direct comparison between similar vintages / ages. It was more or less an experiment. Most bloggers (like me) do one whisky at a time, but others (most notably Serge) totally rely on direct comparisons. I’m not saying one method is better than the other, but I’d like to share some thoughts. Feel free to comment.



Comparisons highlight the differences

True enough: whenever you try similar whiskies head-to-head, the differences stand out more. However I’m not sure this is an advantage. Of course it makes the reviews more interesting: casks from the same batch can really be close together and reviews can be boring if you publish them separately.

It is also a nice way to present multiple profiles from the same distillery: unpeated, lightly peated and heavily sherried Bunnahabhain. But then the differences are obvious.

On the other hand, I think direct comparisons make you exaggerate things. Take yesterday’s Bunnahabhain from Whisky-Doris for instance. When sipped on its own, the rubbery sherry notes didn’t really bother me, but once they are highlighted next to a fresh bourbon cask, it’s hard not to focus on it. I’m convinced it even prevents you from picking up other aromas.

After all, I mostly drink only one whisky per evening, so I’d like to know how it is like that. A specific tasting line-up certainly shapes the appreciation, and what are the odds that you’ll end up trying the same line-up as me?



Forced tendency to differentiate

I think there’s also a tendency to differentiate in scores. When you have four Glen Keith, some better than the others, then you’re trying to express a little ranking in the score. It may separate the different expressions more than they actually deserve. More often than not, they evolve in the glass, they take the lead for a while, each has its own qualities and in the end you’re left with a feeling they’re all good and it’s nearly impossible to choose. Nonetheless you want the score to express your final preference, and it might end up a little distorted.


Glen Keith comparison


Less attention?

Visitor statistics of the past few days weren’t spectacular. It may have been a coincidence (after all there were no stunners or big surprises) but I’ve also noticed the average time spent on the website was the same as before. People spend two minutes to read one review, and it turns out they also spend two minutes if you review four whiskies in a row. I’d prefer to give one whisky all the attention (and hope they read it entirely in two minutes).



Back to normal

I might do direct comparisons in the future, especially between bottlings of the same whisky (e.g. Springbank 10yo bottled in different years). For regular reviews though, even of whiskies from the same batch, I prefer singular reviews.

What style of reviewing do you prefer? What do you like to read on a blog?

ps/ Kudos to Serge. Reviewing one whisky a day is hard enough already. I couldn’t possibly review 10 or 15 every week.