Introduction to this Site

barrels3Whisky is not the most approachable subject.

Many people can be initially put off by the strong flavours and alcohol “burn” of this minimum 40% alcoholic drink (I know I was initally). Even if you develop an interest in exploring the world of whisky, there are an overwhelming number of brands and expressions – where to begin? It is very hard to know what you are getting ahead of time, and expensive to purchase “blind”. There is also an incredibly extensive marketing and PR machine designed to sell you on specific products, further muddying the waters for the everyday consumer.

The ultimate goal of this site is really one of arbitragetaking advantage of the price differential between two or more whiskies of varying quality. You do this by comparing whiskies prices to whisky quality, among whiskies of similar flavour. The goal of this site is to objectively define those two key characteristics for you. This is all so that you can make a better informed decision about what to try next – and benefit from the often significant differences in market prices.

Source of Information on Whisky Quality

At the end of the day, the best source of information on whisky comes from those who have the most experience in trying to compare the finished products – established reviewers. But which reviewers can you rely on for consistent, unbiased reviews? Given that taste is highly subjective, how helpful are those reviews in predicting your personal experience? Simply put, how can you possibly make sense of all this information in a meaningful way to drive your own tasting experience?

Most people (including most reviewers) simply assume that whiskies are too complex to be amenable to any sort of component analysis. It is normal to figure that taste preferences are just too idiosyncratic and variable, defying any attempt at classification. But that default assumption can be explicitly tested using scientific methods – and as I will show on this site, it can be demonstrated to be wrong. You can actually integrate all the available information on whiskies (flawed though each piece may be) and still draw very meaningful inferences and classifications.

Note that I am NOT saying that we all taste things the same way. Here is a good recent scholarly article that describes the way (and the why) we taste things differently – especially things that may be aversive: The genetics of taste and smell: poisons and pleasures. But surprisingly, we do seem to be able to agree on ranking relative quality better than you would expect.

Inferential Statistics are Your Friend

The secret lies in the field of inferential statistics, which can be used to extrapolate from limited sets of data to reach general conclusions. This differs from the more common “descriptive statistics” you come across in everyday life (which simply describe data sets without making conclusions). The tricky part is in knowing how to use the methods of inferential statistics to draw appropriate conclusions from limited data. For that, you need someone with familiarity with the subject matter and detailed quantitative methods training.

But the nice part is that you don’t need to be a statistics expert yourself to spot flawed analyses! Anyone can use very simple methods to check the validity of the analysis. On this site, I will explain in detail how I have performed my analyses, and what the results are (which may shock you – I know some did me). But I will also give you the tools you need to verify and validate the results in your own hands.

I learned a long time ago (in a stats class) that all data = pattern + noise. The goal of inferential statistics is to remove only the noise, and reveal the underlying pattern (which is often obscured by the noise). Once you have your eyes opened to the true underlying nature of whisky, you will not so easily fall prey to those marketing forces which seem so intent on misleading the consumer.

Integral to all this is the proper display of data. For those wanting more information on this aspect, I heartily recommend Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It’s a classic in the field, and a fabulous resource for those wanting to understand (and avoid) common pitfalls in presenting information visually. A fun modern site to check out in this regard is the popular blog run by Dr Randal Olson.

To learn more about how I have done the meta-analysis here, please see my Methodology pages.

Code of Conduct and Disclaimer

This website adheres to the general principles outlined in the Drink Blog Code. I am an independent whisky reviewer, and do not accept free samples for review.  All whiskies reviewed here were either directly purchased, or obtained through traded swaps with other whisky enthusiasts. I do not accept any form of advertising for this website, and maintain all of its operations at my own expense (although I will accept personal donations to its upkeep).

All the design elements of this site are taken from shared public resources. Whenever possible, the images reproduced have creative commons designations for reuse, or permissions from the authors. However, some of the individual bottle pictures may be reproduced from state-run websites. There is no commercial use intended for any of material reproduced on this website.

For the meta-analysis, I rely on publicly released reviews and scores, and provide de-identified aggregate analysis results. I present no uniquely identifying information as to individual reviewer scores, and instead provide direct links to their full reviews where relevant. To my knowledge, no unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted review content occurs on my site. I strive to contact all reviewers whose scores are referenced in the meta-analysis, and will happily remove any reviewer who does not want to be included.

All views and opinions expressed on this site are my own, provided in as free and unbiased a manner as possible. I make no guarantees or warranties as to the use of this website, and I am not liable in relation to your access or use of this website.

Important Note

The goal of this site is NOT to encourage greater alcohol consumption. By helping you choose higher quality products (hopefully at lower cost), the goal is to remove a lot of the guesswork involved in picking a specific whisky to try. I encourage moderation, and drinking responsibly. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, please seek guidance and help from a local resource or online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *