Operation BOTB

Operation BOTB

Marcin Miller explains the objective of the Best of the Best tasting and how the 47 whiskies were selected, categorised and scored.

Awards & Events | 16 Jun 2001 | Issue 16 | By Marcin Miller

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The objective of the Best of the Best Tasting was to come up with a consensus of opinion. The scoring scale is based on that used in the magazine: marks are awarded out of ten and a score of five out of 10 indicates that what has been sampled is, in fact, whisky. The whiskies were selected from the 293 tasted in the first 13 issues of Whisky Magazine. It is important to point out that this was a tasting of 8 different flights (that is to say that the whiskies were divided into categories by style and/or region) rather than a comparative tasting of 47 whiskies. What we were trying to identify were preferred whiskies in the categories rather than a top whisky overall. Why were the whiskies split into flights? Although a comparative tasting would have given an overall winner, the decision was taken that it would be of far greater interest to offer a winner for each ‘style’. For how can you compare the peat of Islay to the heather of Speyside? How can you compare the smooth whiskeys of Ireland to full flavoured cask strength bourbons? Certainly, there are stylistic differences within the flights: Glenfarclas 30-year-old is a very different proposition from The Macallan Gran Reserva. In broad terms, however, the flights were clearly
delineated.The top whisky in a flight is simply that – the top whisky in that flight. The fact that Hibiki 21 scored more highly than
Bushmills Millennium Malt does not mean that Japanese whisky is ‘better’ than Irish whiskey. Neither does it mean that Hibiki 21 is ‘better’ than Bushmills Millennium Malt. Perhaps it would have been of interest to take the eight whiskies that won their respective flights and cross-tasted them. But what would that have achieved? Merely an illustration of which style of whisky is preferred. In a blind tasting more heavily peated whiskies will generally perform better than more delicate ones as they assail the senses more aggressively.The results are presented in the order that they were tasted: Japanese, Irish, blended and vatted, Speyside malts, Highland malts, bottle strength bourbons, cask strength bourbons and Island malts. An attempt was made to taste from the most delicate to the heaviest.Even with the experience assembled at each tasting, many panellists suffered from a certain amount of palate fatigue. Unlike much of the professional nosing undertaken by the blenders and distillers attending the event, they were expected to write notes on the palate and finish of the whiskies. Thus they had to do more than merely nose the 47 whiskies.In something as subjective as whisky there can be no absolutes. However, by the end of the day there were some palates that were absolutely jaded. Jaded as newts, some of them.
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