I’ve been a close follower of Malt since its inspired reincarnation with input from Jason and the wider team. I enjoy the non-fussy approach and their honesty. Malt has such a democratic feel that I thought I would attempt my own article!

This is rather a counterpoint to Adam’s recent cautionary article and spurred on by the observation that regular visitors to Malt are dismayed at the seemingly low score of six given to some prominent releases. Let’s not mention the 3 for a Springbank that resulted in fans of the Campbeltown distillery reaching for their pitch forks. Rather, the focus should be on the interesting observation in the recent Whiskybase interview that a 6 on Malt is the equivalent of 80 on their site. I’ve not prepared a bell curve for the Malt scores, but it would be interesting to lay that over a similar curve from other whisky writers.

Consequently, 6 or 60% may seem mediocre in the world of bombastic superlatives we read on the labels. A 6 is a respectable 2:1 at University, and a B at A Level. It’s congratulations cards and proud parents… right? It seems a shame that often, it’s not good enough for whisky fans.

For me, a 6 is most easy to accept in whisky under £100, and a delight in whisky under £50. Although budgets vary, it’s firmly in the drinking territory of most Malt readers, given the recent Instagram poll. A six suggests some compromise between elusive and expensive perfection and accessible and affordable whisky. Some excellent examples are the recent Kilkerran the Glendronach Forgue and the SMWS 7.196 Longmorn reviews.

A six should be a pleasure to drink, from any shape of glass. I recently shared round a 20-year-old Glenrothes in the bottom half of Coke cans at a rather arty party at 3 am. A six will not be so spectacularly complex that you can only truly appreciate it in a specially created flotation chamber after a four-hour ritual of preparation. You should be able to pour a large measure of a 6 for someone that is ‘not that into whisky’ and watch them enjoy it… or pour yourself one last large measure when you know the sensible thing to do is to go to bed.

Sixes should not find themselves hunted to extinction by auctioneers.

For this review, I chose to pick out something that has not been reviewed before, a Tomatin from their Whisky Meets Sherry series, where well-aged oloroso and PX casks from Bodegas Tradicion (30 and 20-year) are used to finish 10-year-old bourbon cask Tomatin for a further three years before bottling at cask strength in 2015. These whiskies were presented in half bottles along with another half bottle of the sherry from the specific cask. Bottled exclusively for Oddbins in 2017 and a sizeable outturn of over 700 ½ bottles. It has languished on the shop shelves, and I have witnessed it die at auction. Oddbins are now splitting the sets, so you can buy single half bottles of the Oloroso or PX when you find it for just £25. This really is a gem of both price and quality.

Oddbins Tomatin Whisky Meets Sherry – review

Colour: light Oloroso Sherry.

On the nose: an initial puff of spirit quickly followed by deep rich sweetness; warm dates; ginger loaf, and then light citrus and distant peach.

In the mouth: sherry—distinctly good sherry—and an alcohol burn; some maltiness, and a nutty finish. The full-strength spirit cuts through the richness of the sherry nicely. There is a gentle bitterness on the finish. A decent slug of water greatly improves both the nose, mouthfeel, and finish. Tongue-suckingly delicious.

Conclusions

This dram is a lesson in good sherry and decent whisky being brought together for the right amount of time (though the PX is perhaps a little over-long). It’s not multi-dimensional; the spirit does not sing through the sherry and elevate it to another level. This is a respectful 50-50 marriage of flavours. It’s keenly priced tasty stuff, and a well sized bottle for an experiment too. I understand the last few bottles are still available.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
Graham
Graham

Graham is at the consumer end of the whisky world; constantly seeking out a bargains and generally very cautious with his limited budget. An occasional visitor to distilleries and a member of the odd whisky club. He does not collect whiskies but has a few nice ones put away for some future special occasion. He enjoys discussions with the wider whisky community and may resemble the ‘average’ Malt reader.

  1. Adam W.
    Adam W. says:

    Hi Graham

    Lovely piece – really captures what we were aiming for when we devised the Malt scoring scale. Personally I find it dramatically irritating when reviewers/websites don’t use the whole of their scoring spectrum and everything ends up 75-95. Glad our system struck a chord.

    One point has slightly confused me though. You’ve posited this piece as a ‘counterpoint’ to The Line in the Sand, and I’m afraid I can’t quite see the link. Your piece certainly doesn’t seem to advocate overindulgence or irresponsible drinking! So I’m curious despite myself – perhaps you could unpack what you mean a little further?

    Cheers

    Adam W.

    1. Graham
      Graham says:

      Adam,

      Thanks for the kind words. The counterpoint I was hoping to express (hit or miss?) was a ‘for the love of cake’ vs the ‘calorie counting’ of your own excellent article. And that a decent tasty well priced dram can encourage that ‘extra slice of cake’ that you know you should not have. I agree that is a long way off the irresponsibility you warn of.

      Cheers,

      Graham

  2. Jeremy Watt
    Jeremy Watt says:

    It’s interesting seeing the thoughts on scores. I almost commented previously about the whiskybase versus Malt scoring. I’d actually view (Jason’s) 5 as more like an 85-87 or so on whiskybase. A 3 would be around 78-maybe 82, 4 would be 83-85. Above 87 it seems to compress, so perhaps a 88-89 would be a 6 and 7, 8-10 would be 90 plus. But it’s just my take. And you see some people giving Glenfiddich Fire and Cane a 95, so clearly some people have a different scale, or different tastes. Or just want to sell their bottle for more, 😉

    But to add even more complexity I interpret Jason’s scores as including value – so a 5 for a good value daily drinker would not be the same taste experience as a good but expensive “special” whisky. Other malt readers are a bit more positive in general I’d also say in terms of rates. It’s about learning someone else’s system, and not complaining they scored a favourite less than you would. And of course the notes too! And even with the same person they can vary a lot. I remember trying a whisky after eating some sugary sweet – it was metallic, sour and generally poor. Yet coming back to it later it improved a lot – just based on what I had(n’t) eaten before.

  3. Graham
    Graham says:

    Jeremy,

    I would not dare to be audacious enough comment on the Malt scoring system and will leave that to the team here however I would love some statistician to do whisky scores as their Master project and give some definitive correlations.

    In the mean time I agree that any scores are best taken in the context of the person’s wider writing and often the article and conclusions themselves. Along with the usual large pinch of salt to account for differences in taste, sample sizes, oxidation of samples and all the other variables that may affect the score.

    Given that Malt scores generally have +/- 1 on my own, and have that all important integrity it is easy to support the team’s efforts. Thanks for your interesting comments today too.

  4. Avatar
    Mark says:

    I’ve become a little obsessed with the nonsensical 0-100 scoring used over at Whiskyfun.

    Angus MacRaild recently reviewed 12 single cask Highland Parks and rated each between 80 to 90 points, yet commented that some were a “tad tough” and “challenging” whilst others were “pretty excellent indeed”. Angus – you have a full 100 points to use. USE THEM.

    Meanwhile Serge reviews 7 Springbanks and rates them all between 90-93 points. Being able to differentiate a whisky between 90 and 91 points certainly is a skill!

    The site is useful when deciding to purchase a bottle as it is almost encyclopedic in it’s coverage, and I appreciate the tasting notes, I assume a whisky scored below 80 points to be complete trash, if, say 75 is as low as 95% of all scores granted go.

    1. Jeremy Watt
      Jeremy Watt says:

      I agree – it’s a bit silly to have a system that has 100 when in reality anything reasonable starts around 78-80. However since it’s the standard in some ratings then there’s not much else to do than go with it. Or you make a mess of a whisky’s score giving it a 50 (malt 5) when everyone else is using 80-95. I’d say Whiskybase is basically following the whiskyfun rating system too.

  5. Avatar
    Alex Kowalewski says:

    Great article. I think the comments are focusing too much on how who scores what, when the jist is that a 6/10 is just a worthy whisky. Sounds like we should be going out to oddbins to pick these up before they run out!

    1. Graham
      Graham says:

      Alex,

      Exactly. For the equivalent of £50 a bottle this is a good solid whisky in a price range that often offers up duds. And if you don’t enjoy it there is no major financial disaster.

      Let us know if you find some of the Oloroso in stock.

  6. Avatar
    Simon says:

    Personally, I’m more than happy with an affordable 6, and sensible reviews of this range are really what I’m after on the web. Thanks and looking forward to more

    1. Graham
      Graham says:

      Simon,

      Thanks for dropping past. Reviews of good value whisky are great when so few of us can try before we buy; there is nothing worse than spending our hard earned on duffers.

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