I was reading a whiskey review posted by a good friend of mine not long ago, and I saw happen what seems to happen now and again on whiskey reviews. Someone posted after the review that reviews are worthless and that the whiskey in question was very popular where he was (and was not liked well by my friend), and that he loved it. The guy seemed genuinely upset that my friend didn’t give the whiskey a glowing review. It was almost as if because my friend didn’t like the whiskey as much as this fellow did, it was some sort of affront to him personally.
I am sure we have all seen these reactions to reviews though. They pop up now and again, and always make me scratch my head. I have to ask, why are you reading reviews in the first place?
This may seem like a simple question, but it is very important. The reason is, that validation reviews are in point of fact, worthless to anyone but yourself. If you go to reviews to see if everyone else liked what you liked, and thus it validates what you like, you are missing the reason a review should be made, or read. And that is to get accurate information about the whiskey, and then also the authors opinion on it. The two are not the same things though. And to think they are is folly.
An author’s opinion is just that, and while we may agree or disagree with that opinion, it is not what makes a review valid or not. What does is any factual information contained in the review as well as accurate tasting notes. But tasting notes are often subjective as well, though some reviewers are more accurate and comprehensive than others.
There are also different styles of reviews. Some have copious amounts of “whiskey facts” or information about the whiskey being reviewed, and others have little to none. Some have stories about the tasting itself and what was going on, while others don’t. Some have extensive tasting notes, while some have vague notes. And some express strong opinions on the whiskey and others just give a general score.
What each of us go to whiskey reviews for will help dictate what source best fits our needs. For instance, my reviews contain a brief product information section (some more extensive than others), but don’t focus too much on educating the reader about the whiskey more than the basics. There are many other sources for more than that, and I am not setting out to impress with information that can be found elsewhere if the reader truly wants to know about it. Then I have my tasting notes which I try to be as accurate and comprehensive as I can. And then I give my opinion on the whiskey. It is all pretty quick, straight forward, and gives my readers what I think they truly need to help decide on their next pour. Nothing more, nothing less.
I also make note that while I may feel one way or another about a particular whiskey, others may not. If you find over time that your tastes run similar to mine, my opinion may matter more to you than not. But one thing that I pride myself in though is that my tasting notes are true. I can not like a whiskey and still give ACCURATE notes. And that, for me, is the most important part of a review because it lets the reader determine for themselves what they may think about the whiskey.
That said, you should find several sources that offer what you feel to be honest and accurate reviews, in spite of the opinion of the author. THAT is what makes reviews worth reading. Then make your OWN opinion of the whiskey if you decide to give it a try.
A good example of this is the friend I mentioned (I will link to his FaceBook page at the bottom of the article). I value his reviews. Not because we have the same opinions on this or that whiskey (because we don’t always agree), but because he is accurate and honest. I can trust his review, in spite of his opinion of the whiskey. Knowing his likes and dislikes though, I can generally tell what his opinion will be based on his tasting notes. He can also suggest whiskeys for me based on him knowing what I like and dislike. Likewise he can warn me about whiskeys that I may NOT like. This is based on honest and accurate overall reviews, not on personal opinions. And this is what I consider invaluable in a review and reviewers.
So again, don’t go to reviews to validate your own opinions. Go to reviews to see if you may have missed something, might want to try that whiskey, or to learn more about whiskey in general. Opinions are great, and they can help, but they are not the be all and end all for the review. Glowing accolades about a whiskey but with less than ideal tasting notes, is not really a review that tells you anything more than what the AUTHOR thought about the whiskey. But you have no way of even beginning to guess if YOU will like the whiskey. However, if the tasting notes are accurate, you may like a whiskey that the author didn’t like, or not like one they did. And that is what a review is for.
The important part is accuracy and honesty, and then you drinking what YOU like. If you worry about others liking it, I would suggest that you are missing the whole point of enjoying this wonderful liquid in the first place. Drink what you like, and how you like to drink it. And read reviews for what they can truly offer you, not as a validation for your own choices.
So how do you know which reviews will be worth your time? That is not always so easy. But over time you will weed out sources that don’t stack up to your standards or desires. They will become your go-to sources for more information and directions of travel down whiskey road. And yes, even those of us who review whiskey visit other sources. It helps us grow, and expands our knowledge and enjoyment.
Here is the link to my friend’s FaceBook page.
He also writes for Bourbon and Banter, and has an Instagram account.