Published by root on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tasting Notes Through the Years
Credit: SKU … s-through-years.html

As a whiskey drinker gains experience, the nature of their tasting notes changes. Here’s a general example of how whiskey tasting notes tend to change through the years.

Novice - One Year Experience
This is good whiskey.

Intermediate - Four Years Experience
Nose: Caramel and butterscotch.
Palate: Soft caramel notes, molasses, maple syrup.
Finish: A nice caramel note with some mint and spices.

Advanced - Eight Years Experience
The nose opens with Gaviota strawberries, green figs and a light alfalfa note in the background, after which it picks up soft tobacco, leather and Meyer lemon rind with the heft of a midnight fog that lifts gently off the ocean surface in a coastal town in Northern Maine. The palate shows seaweed, sponge cake, candied oranges and preserved lemons, with water bringing out allspice, Malaysian vanilla and spearmint. The mouthfeel is velvety with an oily residue akin to that of Ardbeg circa 1972-78. The finish is medium-long with traces of gooseberry, Blenheim apricot pit and anise.

Veteran - Over Ten Years Experience
This is good whiskey.


The scores are primarily based on drinkability straight; if that’s something I’d like to have more of in the glass it gets a higher score
Everyone’s tastes are different and if our opinions diverge about any particular bottling, it is okay.
Almost anything that is well rated will have either availability or price (or both) as one of its downsides
Expect to see some +/- marks with the grades given, as a lot of bottles fit somewhere in-between the grades
The grading will be mostly on a bell curve, very few things will get a F or an A
Anything graded C+ to B is worth trying at bar, with B+ or above suggests getting a bottle, assuming your palate aligns with mine
Pricing/value is assumed to be around MSRP and is not factored into scores


    A: Incredible, Extraordinary, Must Try or Buy, Special occasions drinks
    B: Good, Above average, Recommended, Daily drinkers.
    C: Mediocre, Ordinary, Drinkable if nothing else is available, Fancy Mixers
    D: Bad, Flawed, Not recommended, Basic Mixers
    F: Disgusting, Drain Pour, Avoid

Similar grading that overlaps with mine, shamelessly copied from Give them a read they’re good at the whole review thing.

Same Grades as above

    A+: A masterpiece and one of the ten best whiskeys of its type. Above five stars.
    A: An outstanding bottle of whiskey, but lacking that special something which makes for a true masterpiece. Five stars.
    A-: A fine bottle of whiskey, representing the top end of the conventional, premium range.
    B+: Very good stuff. Four stars.
    B and B-: Good and above average. The best of the mass market whiskeys fit in this category, as do the bulk of the premium brands. A B- is three stars.
    C+ to C-: Average whiskey. A C- is two stars.
    D+ to D-: Below average whiskey. A D is one star and a D- one-half of a star.
    F: Zero stars. Rotgut.

Value vs Enjoyment

Bottle value isn’t always factored into the grade but for bourbon there’s a fairly strong inflection point of diminishing returns past about $125 and for single malt somewhere past about $250 price point. Exceptions exist of course, such as BTAC bottles, but for the most cases these marks are reasonably true. A $15 dollar bottle will be radically different in ‘quality’ vs $150 one… but there will be little ‘quality’ difference in between $150 and $500.

Top Lists

Top Malt:

Top Bourbon/Rye Whiskey:

  • Booker’s 2018-01 Kathleen’s Batch and 2021-02 Tagalong
  • Old Rip Van Winkle (Pappy 10)
  • Old Potrero “Barrel #13” Rye K&L SP
  • George T. Stagg 2019
  • Parker’s Heritage Collection 2020
  • Remus Gatsby Reserve 2022
  • Stagg Jr Batch 13 (but I hear Batches 10+ are all good)
  • Shenks 2020
  • Untitled 14 yr MGP 72.5% Private Cask #13 Prav Saraff Pick