On Scoring: a Taster’s Excuse

Firstly, let’s get the boring, straight-forward stuff out of the way.

At Oz Whisky Review, we taste and score whisky on a 100 point scale and follow the method now practised by the vast majority of Australia’s professional whisky and wine competitions:

  • 20 points for nose
  • 40 points for palate
  • 20 points for finish
  • 20 points for balance

We recognise this method, and scoring generally, is flawed. But this is the method most professional tasters in Australia have been reared on and it’s what most Australian whisky producers are now familiar with. Our main point of departure is that we’ve dropped the 10 ‘appearance’ points you find in professional comps – we don’t think they’re relevant – and added those points to balance. Because zen, right?

The truth is, we don’t enjoy scoring whisky, and we don’t know many people that do. We firmly believe whisky is for enjoying and sharing and we’ve dedicated ourselves professionally to those ideals. Technical tasting is something different.

As Waterford Distillery’s Mark Reynier has pointed out, technical tasting is a skill – it’s a dry, sterile process that you need to constantly work on. We’ve had some success in learning to taste, score and judge professionally, but there’s always so much more to learn, and, thankfully, more whisky to try.

Between us, we’ve tasted thousands of whiskies over the years. Sure, scoring and reviewing is not our preferred way of going about it, but we recognise that it’s a system people relate to and we want to get people talking and thinking about what they love about Australian whisky and what they don’t.

Of course, we’re not deluded enough to believe our scores are definitive representations of a whisky. Far from it. With our tasting notes – read them, that’s where the gold is, we hope – and our scores, we want to start conversations. We want to ask questions. And above all, we want good people drinking good whisky and having a good time while doing so.

The price of a whisky is something we factor in when scoring, but it’s not our primary concern. We’re more interested in judging each whisky on its tasting merits. But if the price of a whisky is out of whack, we’ll let you know. Equally, you’ll know if we think something is great value.

Price band (accurate to the date whiskies are reviewed):

  • $ = $0-99
  • $$ =  $100-219
  • $$$ = $220-449
  • $$$$ = $450-1200
  • $$$$$ = $1200+

Scoring breakdown:

  • 50 – 72 = Uh-oh
  • 73 – 79 =  Solid whisky, but might be lacking in character, complexity and balance. Some flaws apparent at the lower end of this range.
  • 80 – 84 = Good. Put this in my glass and I’m happy. Tasty and ticks the boxes.
  • 85 – 89 = Very good. You’d highly recommend this to friends and buy them a round if it’s not too pricey.
  • 90 – 94 = Outstanding whisky. Displays the very best characters of its style. So good you don’t want to share.
  • 95 – 100 = Elixir from the gods.