This is the standard by which all whiskey rating endeavors are measured. With over 4,500 whiskies rated, Mr. Murray wonders how long his taste buds can hold out. I wonder how long his liver can hold out!
Most of these rating are holdovers from previous years, however, with “only” 1,100 new entries for this year.
His rating are a totaling of four sections, each given a 25 point rating. Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance/complexity are added together for a final rating on a 100 point scale.
It works well as a reference, with the sections divided into styles (Bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc). Each section starts off with a concise summary of that region/style and what to expect. It’s actually a good primer in that regard in its own right.
I highly recommend this if for nothing other than the sheer volume of whiskies rated. I certainly do not agree with many of his ratings, but then that’s not the point. The reader can at least get some feel for that never-before-heard-of whisky before it is tried. Or, if you’re like me, to see how my ratings compare. As I stated earlier, many times I don’t agree with Mr. Murray’s ratings, and it’s important for readers/drinkers to be OK with that. Mr. Murray makes it clear that drinkers should form their own opinions.
I think it’s a rite of passage for a whiskey aficionado to look at a rating given by an “expert” and feel confident in disagreeing. It’s all about personal taste, after all.
The entries can range from a simple one-line numerical rating to a very personal description of the tasting experience. On occasion Mr. Murray relates anecdotes surrounding a particular whiskey, whether during the process of tasting or just relating to the whiskey in question.
In a small insight into his process, he reveals it took four hours to compile the notes for George T. Stagg bourbon.
His personal touch can add a human element to what some try to make a sterile exercise, but it can also lead to descriptions that don’t really aid the reader much. Mr. Murray’s only description for Royal Household blended scotch is, “We are amused.” I’m not sure if that’s all that helpful. (But it is intriguing! Especially with a 90.5 rating.)
It can be a little frustrating if you hear about a whisky and are unsure of its classification as the whiskies are only listed by category without an overall alphabetical listing.
I haven’t found anything close to this for breadth of content. Highly recommended, though you may not need to repurchase it every year.