The Spirit Journal Editor Rates Products
Reviews and Ratings
The opinions, reviews, and ratings found in The Spirit Journal,
as well as my columns and other writings, are those of one individual.
I believe, without reservation, that in the field of alcoholic
beverage evaluation one voice is clearer and more precise over
the long haul than the collective voice of a panel. I don't advocate
group consensus because, having chaired tens of tasting panels
for wine and spirits in years past, I've discovered that rarely
is a true depiction of any product rendered within the framework
of that format. Composite reviews of a panel usually end up reflecting
the viewpoint of the person with the most chutzpah. However,
for those critics who do chose to act on their own, the responsibility
to sustain credibility is not to be cavalierly embraced.
But criticism, no matter how deeply steeped in expertise, is
still at the end of the day mere personal opinion. Whatever your
level of acumen, when it comes to taste you should never trust
any palate more than the one you own. Critics, as I see it, exist
to offer opinions which should be openly discussed. Their purpose
is to stir the air with the paddles of information and experience,
which together are meant to construct a platform only for further
examination, not for the creation of dogma. One of the most delightful
outcomes of my involvement with The Spirit Journal has been the
debate it has spawned between myself and the subscribers. Some
readers think my reviews are sound, others believe that I'm bordering
on admittance to a rest home. That's the beauty of it. Debate.
Talk. Connection. Exploration.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
taste lives in your nose and mouth. Ultimately, it's what you
think about these and other spirits and fortified wines that
counts to you.
My rating systems have changed once
over the years. In the first two years of publishing The Spirit
Journal I went with the crowd (read: The Wine Advocate, The Wine
Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits) and employed
the ubiquitous 100-point system. Regrettably, I was never quite
certain what the fine difference was between a port that was
scored an 88 with one that was rated an 89. Most consumers don't
care for such hair splitting. I finally decided that it was a
ridiculously picayune method of grading and opted to run with
the straightforward one to five star format, which was warmly
received by the subscribers.
The majority of items I've rated fall
within the two to four star range because most are at least average
and some are truly excellent. The amount of one star beverages
is comparatively small. In order to qualify for that dismal rating,
products must either be genuinely vile and disgusting or so far
removed from the established standards of the category that they
don't register in the world of reality. As the one star stratum
is thinly populated, so is the five star level. And rightly so.
These upper echelon libations represent what I feel to be the
prototypical products for their category. Just like movies and
literature, the classics are few, ageless, and treasured. But
when they come along, it's heaven.
The star ratings mean:
The quality of this distilled spirit or fortified wine is either
far below the established category average standards or is too
far outside the category's longstanding quality criteria. Therefore,
it is NOT RECOMMENDED.
distilled spirit or fortified wine of mediocre quality whose
characteristics meet but do not exceed or enhance the established
standards of quality for its category. Though this ordinary product
may be perfectly acceptable to some consumers, it is NOT RECOMMENDED
by the author.
This well-made distilled
spirit or fortified wine carries the RECOMMENDATION of the author.
It's a product which displays better than average quality within
the established standards of its category and, as such, has a
very good chance of satisfying the tastes of most consumers.
A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED distilled
spirit or fortified wine whose attributes, in the opinion of
the author, are of exemplary quality and character within the
established standards of its category. An outstanding product
which is worthy of a search.
RECOMMENDATION. That rare, highly distinguished, distinctive,
and classical distilled spirit or fortified wine which represents
a benchmark within its category. This product presents a standard
against which its peers can be judged. A product of extraordinary
quality, scope, and character which transcends price.
Half stars are not utilized in this scoring system.