Reprinted with permission, ©

Long-time reader and commenter Eric (aka selfbuilt) sent me a note recently that he published a project he’s been working on to use data and statistical analysis to approach, mathematically, the reviewing of whisky. Most specifically, Eric is interested in indexing, correlating, and ranking whiskies based on aggregate (“Meta Critic”) reviews from many different sources (including The Scotch Noob!). The results are astounding – a treasure trove of meticulously analyzed data on 356 (and growing) whiskies, plus insightful commentary on how to interpret his results. His stated goal is to “provide an extensive comparative assessment of whiskies, based on a proper scientific meta-analysis of descriptions and scores given by whisky reviewers with extensive experience” so that you can “make sense of whisky flavors and quality, as an aid in selecting ones you might like to try next – based on your own personal preferences.”

I highly recommend poking around his site and reading some of his analyses (don’t worry if your eyes glaze over at the math – mine certainly did). There’s a lot of fascinating (and actually useful) information to be gleaned from his results. As Eric says, “I think that is the value of the combined flavor and quality meta-analysis – it allows people to search however they want, to find the things most relevant to them.” Here are a few things I found:

  • The most consistently highly-rated whiskies in his database are (starting with the highest):
    1. Lagavulin 16
    2. Aberlour A’Bunadh (batch 49)
    3. Ardbeg Uigeadail (I’m way out in the outliers on that one!)
    4. Laphroaig 25
    5. Talisker 18
  • Six of the most seven consistently lowest-rated whiskies are all Canadian blends. (Although note that the most of the largest standard deviations (aka most disagreement) were also on those six.)
  • Of the 25 most consistently highest-rated whiskies, 17 are from Scotland, 4 are from Canada (all blends), 3 are from Japan, and only 1 is from the USA!
  • “Best” Peated whisky: Lagavulin 16
  • “Best” (mildly) Peated whisky: Talisker 18
  • “Best” Light-Bodied Malty/Ex-Bourbon whisky: Glen Garioch 1995
  • “Best” Medium-Bodied/Fruity whisky: Amrut Fusion
  • “Best” Heavily Sherried whisky: Aberlour A’Bunadh (batch 49)
  • “Best” Bourbon: Knob Creek Single Barrel
  • “Best” Rye: Gibson’s Finest Rare 18yo (Canada)
  • “Best” Blend/Grain: Nikka Coffey Grain (Japan)
  • Lastly, Price does NOT correlate strongly with rating! (At least not under $100)

Also of interest are Eric’s notes on classification of whisky by flavor. I’ve never been good at mentally separating medium- and light-bodied whiskies that aren’t heavily flavored by sherry or peat, so the breakdown presented there is helpful. Eric is also writing blog posts to highlight certain whiskies or to discuss rating and reviewing in general.

Check it out!

Share This!

  • Thanks Nathan, appreciate the shout-out to my site!

    It’s an interesting series of observations you’ve pulled out of the database. I should clarify that the database is skewed by the expressions most commonly available in Canada, and/or the most heavily reviewed by International experts. This likely helps explain some of the regional results, such as why you have so many Canadian blended whiskies at both extremes of scoring, yet relatively few American ones (i.e., more middle-of-the-road American whiskies are available in Canada, and to International reviewers). If only the best American whiskies weren’t so rare outside the US!