By @RianC on 7th Sep 2019, show post
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@RianC The problem with Ralfy is that he can smell and taste so many things, and I can never pick out that much. Plus he gives much higher scores than I would to what seems to be lower shelf stuff, standard bottlings at 40 or 43%.
I agree these are useful but most of what he reviews I either would not, or, sadly, could not buy.
I found him more helpful in his first 100 reviews, when I was starting out. Ithink I've outgrown him now.
Also, who would score Glen Breton Rare an 87? Come on!
2 months ago 1Who liked this?
I am sorry but just call me the dead-horse-beater. I feel like that is all I do these days. Go around finding dead horses to keep beating.
I didn’t know that Diageo hired him as a consultant for the re-launch of Brora. I certainly hope they did! If there is anyone who knows what Brora did and should taste like it is Serge. I hope they follow all of his advice. We will all be the richer for it (while our wallets are the poorer) in about 10 to 20 years when the new Brora distillate is coming into its own. Given how peaty and robust it is like at 21, 25 and 30 years of age . . . I am super curious to see what a 10yo or 12yo will be like. And yes, I am prepared to pay through the nose for the experience.
But help me understand your statement,
“My problem (and it is uniquely my problem) with Serge is that 80% to 85% of what he reviews is either completely unfindable or unaffordable for me.”
And then you give a funny anecdote about an ultra-rare whisky in an ultra-rare shop. There is truth there.
But why does this matter?
Yes, Serge does put up notes for a lot of obscure whiskies. But help me understand how this is a criticism or strike against him?
If it is as simple as “I get jealous looking at all the notes for great whiskies I will never taste,” then I totally get that feeling. I know I will never taste most of what he readily has on hand. But why let jealously get in the way of a valuable resource?
And if it isn’t jealously (I’m not trying to attack you, or pin you down) then what is it?
He is still a valuable resource. Dare I say “invaluable” once you learn to “read” him. And you need those everyday dram standards (like Laphroaig 10yo, or Laphroaig Triple Cask) mixed with a few others to really dial his taste in. I would say I am on about a 60% agreement with him. However, after comparing my notes with him on several dozen single release bottles I now feel like I have really good insight to his writing.
There are several whiskies I consider a benchmark for “my reading” of Serge:
Brora 25yo 56.3% – he gave it a 90 (me 91 – but for VERY different reasons)
Ardbeg Supernova 58.9 (1st release) – he gave it an 89 (me . . . I am embarrassed to say)
Ardbeg Ardbog 52.1% - he gave it an 84 (me 92)
Ardbeg Galileo 49% - he gave it an 84 (me 82 . . . on a kind day)
Laphroaig 10yo CS 001 – he gave it an 89 (me 93)
Laphroaig 10yo CS 002 – he gave it a 90 (me 91)
Laphroaig 30yo 43% (c.2006) – he gave it 90 (me 88)
Lagavulin 12yo CS 56.5% (2010) – he gave it 91 (me 92)
Talikser 25yo 57.9% 2004 – he gave it an 88 (me 94)
On the surface those scores are very deceiving. It looks like where he goes high I go higher. Where he goes low I go lower. BUT it is all in the tasting notes themselves (which I won’t bore you with producing here).
These are all limited release that I was able to buy and taste along with him. Obviously, we are not in agreement. And don’t be fooled by the scores that are close. If we like a bottle we almost always like it for very different reasons. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with my Brora 25yo purchase of nearly $350 in 2009. It was the most I had ever spent on a bottle. It took me years to get over my disappointment. BUT it was a huge learning experience for deciphering his language of tasting notes. And I do appreciate the whisky, but for very different reasons. So now when I read his review of Brora 35yo 49.9% (2013) or Brora 37yo at 50.4% (2015) both at 95 I know that I won’t like either enough to hunt them down. I would probably rate both in the high 80s. Not worth the price for me.
The more I read his notes on Lagavulin the more I see that we like VERY different qualities about Lagavulin spirit. We might both end up at a similar score for a whisky, but it says more about the quality of Lagavulin that we can both find different things to like. And is the differences that are important.
I am now able to triangulate from his tasting notes. For example. He reviewed a bottle of BenRiach from 1994. He gave it an 82. But on “reading” his notes I could tell that this bottle was right up my alley. So, I pounced. I would easily rate this bottle a 92 or 93. His quote, “I do prefer the zesty, straight, whistle-clean official hogsheads.” And that is his style. NOT mine. He wrote, “old leather ware, saddles, bags, motorcycle jackets . . . cigars, smoked ham, chutney, gingerbread, marmalade . . . lots of smoky bitter oranges.” He gave this an 82, but it is totally up my alley. And now I know what flavor he associates with want note. And now that I can “read his notes” I can utilize his vast experience when I happen on a strange or obscure bottle.
And you never know when you will stumble across an obscure bottle. Trust me.
Last fall I would never have guessed I would find myself in Vienna looking at obscure whisky bottles. But there I was this summer in a fantastic whisky shop called Potstill in Vienna. They had a number of rare, old, and obscure whiskies. Sadly, I didn’t have internet access or I would have looked up every whisky I was considering. I told the whisky store owner what I was looking for, “Big, massive, peat, huge flavors, borderline offensive.” He recommended an Amrut from Blackadder to me. He told me it was big peat and big sherry and only good for “mature whisky drinkers; not beginners.” So, I bought it. Now if I had looked up Serge, LOW he reviewed this batch of only 370 bottles in 2015. He liked it and gave it an 87. Here are his words that speak to me, “sherrieness that’s extremely discreet . . . less tropical fruits . . . excellently fruity again . . . with a very perfect balance.” Dang. I can tell from reading his review that I will dislike it and will probably rate low 80’s.
Now that I am home I cracked the Amrut. Decent, but totally boring. Not at all what I was interested in. Absolutely zero peat. And the sherry is only a hint like he said. Amrut IS is far superior and costs less. And I would have known all that if I had simply read Serge’s take. Do I blame the store proprietor? No. He was trying to help. He was wrong. He thought it had peat. It didn’t. I could be mad. I’m not. I am disappointed in myself. The information was there if I had simply tried harder.
I am about to open Octomore 7.3 and 9.3. I can already tell from his notes that I will likely enjoy 9.3 more than 7.3. He scored both 90. I will likely score both much higher! But we will find out soon.
Dang, I need to get over this cold so I stop posting so much on connosr.
Sorry everyone who read this to the end.
2 months ago 6Who liked this?
@Nock I gave up on Serge when gave up on Pete McPeat.
Unless he's started that up again?...
2 months ago 0
@Nock When I say my problem with Serge, I mean the reason I don’t find him very useful for my personal whisky needs. It’s neither jealousy nor is it a criticism of Serge himself or his reviews. I’m not a traveler. I’ve never been to Europe. Heck, I almost never leave Ontario. And to be completely honest, I have little interest in “learning” to decipher yet another reviewer. For bourbon, I’m fairly confident in @Victor and Josh from The Whiskey Jug. If they like it, there’s a good chance I will too. As far as single malt goes, I’ve already learned how to “decipher” Ralphy and Horst Luening, as well as a few others on Facebook whisky groups.
@Nock that was certainly an epic-length post, but your posts are always worth reading. People don't mind length when there is quality in it.
In your post you reinforce the main point about whose reviews you choose to read: you read the reviewers whom you know can help you with useful accurate infomation. Those reviewers are the ones whose taste you have learned to read intimately. It is most helpful if their taste is very close to your own, but their reviews are still useful if you can ferret out the differences between their taste and your own.
It is a lot of work to read a sufficient number of reviews and compare one's own experiences to that of a a reviewer to learn his/her taste. I understand completely why OdysseusUnbound does not feel compelled to learn the taste of Serge or any other reviewer, just because that reviewer is relatively well-known to the public. For me, and I am guessing, for @OdysseusUnbound as well, learning the taste of other reviewers tends to be more of a gradual organic process of the give and take of whisky communication, on a place like Connosr.
2 months ago 4Who liked this?
@Victor fight, fight, fight!!!
Or, on a slightly less colloquial and more eloquent note - i read your comment about consistency with interest. I don't myself have long enough experience to tell and compare, but I often see how the chaps at malt-review.com complain about the opposite: Laphroaig decline in quality and inconsistency. How do I reconcile such opposing impressions by two whisky authorities?
@RikS easy. You acknowledge that the only whisky authority is your own taste. Now what will not appear to be easy is that this still requires for you get your own experience. And because whisk(e)y is a vast and ever-growing universe, the amount of experience required to become deeply knowledgeable in the field as a whole is so daunting that it becomes a career in itself. Trying to truly master whisky would be like a physician trying to master all medical specialties and subspecialties of the human body. It cannot be done in one lifetime. Jim Murray has proven beyond a doubt that you can be the most experienced whisky drinker in the world and have it be an impossibility to keep up with the new batches of common products on the market. There is not enough time or attention for one human being to do it.
So relax, and understand that you are the King of your own whisky experience. There are no authorities in matters of taste. De gustibus non disputandum est.
And the other thing is that these various reviewers to whom you allude are almost certainly not drinking from the same bottle at the same time. Even bottles from the same batch are most definitely NOT the same. We would all like to have the sense of security that we know what we are getting when we see the identified label of a given expression. We don't want to waste our money and we don't want to waste our time. The truth is that we take a chance every time we buy a bottle, because we do not know with any certainty what it will taste like. And that is true with respect to your own internal taste alone, with the uncertainty multiplied when trying to ferret out the taste of others.
I will say it again: you are your only whisky authority.
2 months ago 5Who liked this?
I will say it again: you are your only whisky authority.
I will say it again: you are your only whisky authority.
At the risk of sounding like a lascivious troglodyte, Mila Kunis uhm reawakened my interest in Jim Beam products back in 2016-2017.
2 months ago 2Who liked this?
@OdysseusUnbound yes I like Mila Kunis too, but you are the only one who can decide for you whether those Jim Beam products are any good.
There are billions of bits of information floating around us all the time, yet we, and we alone, decide which ones of them to which we pay attention.
@Victor @OdysseusUnbound - If Mila Kunis was handing me the glass whilst caressing my weathered brow I reckon I could learn to love any Beam product. OK, it would appear I am a shameless, lascivious troglodyte
Thanks for your response. I hope you know that I meant no attack or hostility. I apologize if you felt any sense of rebuke from me. I sincerely wanted to understand. And your words make a great deal of sense. Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to reason with me.
I obviously forget how long I have been reading Serge. When I began drinking scotch in the early 2000’s, I was a poor graduate student in Vancouver B.C. There were only two resources available at the time: Michael Jackson’s book (which I owned) which was almost out of date when it hit the book store shelves . . . and malt maniacs. He was literally about the only thing on the internet at the time. Serge’s site was linked with the malt maniacs when I started reading. I remember when he changed to his current site format in January of 2004. I guess my whisky drinking experience grew up around reading him. He seems so easy to read for me today well over 16 or 17 years later. I guess I hadn’t considered how dense and obfuscating he might be to read with a huge backlog of notes.
Please don’t hear me telling anyone to read him.
Obviously reading any writer is very personal and subjective. If you don’t take to some or something don’t let anyone twist your arm. One of my close friends hates smoky scotch. I am sad that it isn’t something we can share, but I wouldn’t want to change him.
Just hear this one person (me) give testimony that Serge has been (and continues to be) a very valuable resource for me over the years. That is all I really want to say.
Being a peat head myself I appreciate (more than almost everything else) his little “SGP: 568” number at the end of every review. The first number is the level of sweetness. The last number is the level of Phenolic Smoke (peat). I wish all reviewers would indicate a level of peat in a whisky. It is the single most helpful thing he has going in my opinion. This applies if you like peat, hate peat, or simply want a mild peaty moment. Often, I will simply go through his notes looking for scores with a really high final number, and mid to low first number because that is what I tend to enjoy.
And yes, @Victor is correct 100 times over – only you (the individual drinker) are the ultimate authority on a whisky. Let no one tell you otherwise. If you like your scotch over ice or in ginger ale . . . so be it. And shame on me if I get mad when you dump the Brora sample I just gave you into ginger ale. If I am not willing to let you enjoy the whisky the way you want to I have no business sharing. Because it really isn’t sharing: it’s controlling. Of course, there is also the old adage, “don’t pour out your Brora to swine.” . . . or something like that.
What I do hate is how the whiskies he loves and scores highly tends to command huge prices at auction. If he hasn’t reviewed some old Ardbeg or Brora . . . the prices go for much lower. So yes, some people do see his scores as definitive objective whisky scores. They are wrong.
@RikS – the only obvious answer is to find out for yourself! I am sure many have heard me sing the praises of Laphroaig’s consistency over the years. I say the Laphroaig 10yo is consistently . . . above average. I have keep track of 15 different bottles of the standard 10yo at 43% over the past 10 years. My average score is 86.7 with a high score of 90 and a low of 81 (depending on my mood and other factors). That is my personal experience. I have tasted some bottles that were overly medicinal. Others were not. But mostly I feel confident that after 15 bottles of Laphroaig 10yo . . . the next bottle will probably score between an 85 and 88 for me. And when I am ready to pay $50 for my next peaty “86 point” experience I will pick up a new bottle. If you or anyone else has had a different experience I would love to hear/read about.
I honestly have read a whole lot from the guys at malt-review.com. But maybe I need to give them a read. Any suggestions on where I could begin to read about their dissatisfaction with Laphroaig’s consistency?
Now that you got me talking Laphroaig again . . .
What say you @RianC? Have you had occasion to crack that Laphroaig 16yo? Inquiring minds are curious to know!
@Nock I've never had an issue either with Laphroaig. I consistently like the 10, appreciate the QC even more some days, struggled a bit with baby puke in triple wood, didn't fall in love with Lore, and would like the CS to be cheaper... But I don't have the long enough experience to compare, hence curious about malt's hammering for declining quality and inconsistency.
Generally though I think it's a great site worth checking out. I aso enjoy serge, even if much of his reviews are for expressions that would never ever surface in my whisky universe
@RikS - re the Laph 10 CS. There may still be bottles about on Amazon and at the Whisky Exchange going for rrp ...
@Nock - First - I agree 100% with views and opinions aired on this thread re. one's own taste being the thing that matters most. Finding a trusted reviewer(s) that one can successfully gauge and read into is the hard part - being the nerd I am, that's why I'll read/watch as many reviews as I possibly can before taking the plunge; although a mark of 89+ from Ralfy (in a style I generally like) would probably be enough.
Second - Sorry to disappoint but I cannot yet offer my own take on the Laffy 16. I opted to open the 10 CS instead. It will be xmas or my 40th in Feb when I shall crack it, so a few months wait yet, I'm afraid!
That said (and fittingly for the discussion), I can refer you to Whiskybase reviews, all of which are positive and some rather in-depth doing direct H-2-H comparisons with the old 16.
I also saw part of an AcquaVitae stream recently where he tried it and was impressed. I'm getting the impression it's quite 'new' or 'modern' tasting but with a nice balance of fruit and peat. Looking forward to it ...
@RianC Yes, the Laphroaigh people at the recent show told me that the CS will from now on be readily available also in the UK (from batch 11 onwards I believe). So the whining and groaning wasn't about the secondary market, but the fact that the jump from the standard to the CS is still almost three times up in price for those extra % (£28 > £80). :)
@RikS - I see. I paid £74 and have seen it for just under £70 and RRP for the standard 10 is about £35 - although that is splitting hairs somewhat.
Yeah, it's a hike but given today's market I think it's about right and it is damn good stuff! Consider the Laga 12 CS is over £100 ...
@Nock I wasn’t offended at all by your post. Perhaps my original “dismissal” of Serge was poorly worded. I didn’t know about his SGP numbers; that’s interesting. What’s the second number, the “G”? Is it “graininess” level? That may be more useful than his actual reviews or scores.
I have to say, Serge’s recent(ish) positive review of Dalmore 12 (84/100 points) has made me curious about revisiting this malt. I probably haven’t tasted it in over 3 years. I’m also a devoted peat head and high proof acolyte, but I’ve been enjoying some more subtle malts as well in the last few months. Bushmills 10, Aberlour 12 (a malt my mother really enjoys), and even Glenfiddich 15 Solera (my wife’s grandfather seems to alternate between this one and Glendronach 12) have me appreciating (dare I say it?) some lighter whiskies. I won’t be ditching my Stagg Jr or my Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength any time soon, but I am broadening my appreciation of the full range whisky has to offer. I’m not sure my liver will be happy about this.
"And shame on me if I get mad when you dump the Brora sample I just gave you into ginger ale. If I am not willing to let you enjoy the whisky the way you want to I have no business sharing."
That made me think of 2 things: We all know the first one. The gingerale with expensive whisky is a meme (did I use that term correctly?) on Connosr thanks to one member initiating and another perpetuating...
The other is my uncle, and now it seems, my brother. Both enjoy their whisky with ice. I can't understand it. For most people visiting I would most likely not even bring up the idea of whisky, and if it were to happen, while I don't have anything like JW Red, I would likely choose a replaceable bottle rather than a one-off to share. But for them, I will serve anything I have on offer. Yes, I cringe as the cube goes into my Laphroaig CS or Lag 12 or old Bladnoch, but love is stronger than whisky.
If you haven't seen this, it's good for a goof (as my dad used to say). You gotta appreciate long elaborate parody written for such a small audience who could possibly get the joke!
2 months ago 3Who liked this?
@MadSingleMalt - That had me tittering from the first paragraph.
' ... sacred waxy points ' and ' The free hunting of Gilet Jaunes using a mixture of house cats and velociraptors.'
@MadSingleMalt I adore the whisky sponge!!!
@MadSingleMalt Vive le Sponge.
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