Stop for a moment and before you read on, consider the subject of today’s review: a 10 year old single cask Benrinnes, around 50% ABV, out of a refill hogshead.
Those specs look pretty good on paper, right? Maybe not a “knock your socks off, trample over the elderly to secure a bottle” proposition. But, if push comes to shove, you’d happily settle down for a pour or two.
Now consider for a moment if you skipped to the end of the review and saw I’d rated it 10/10. Your next instinct might well be to immediately call into question my taste, integrity or if I retained 100% of my marbles. Alternatively, if I rated this bottle 1/10, you’d also think I was either severely misguided, or perhaps received a tainted sample or bottle.
For the sake of argument – and I write this before I have opened the bottle – we could probably knock out 2/10 and 9/10 as well as being credible scores, leaving six remaining scores on Malt’s 10-point scale where this bottle would likely land.
Today, I intend to give some thoughts on scoring. The 100-point scale has been discussed here before and is a subject for another day. One of Malt Review’s founders, Mark Newton, stopped giving scores a little while before he ceased regularly contributing here. Increasingly, I can see the reasoning. Assigning a number out of 10 sometimes seems reductive to me, to strip away nuance and discussion. What I really want to say is whether or not I liked a dram, and how much. It’s hard to argue with that.
There was arguing on a couple of my earliest Malt articles where I gave score of 8/10. The feedback was that these scores were too generous and possibly I needed to educate myself. That may be true. But what I’ve found by reading Malt (and other outlets that use 10-point scores) is that most reviewers are by and large spending their own money and so the reviews are self-selective to being positive.
Perhaps the reviewer really enjoys a dram but thinks, “I can’t give this an 8 or 9 out of 10, it’s a 12-year-old dram at 40% ABV! I’ll look foolish.” But they did purchase it knowing they like the style and the distillery. Therefore, you can rule out 1-4 and 8, 9 or 10. Leaving 5,6 and 7 out of 10 as the remaining available scores. The reviewer is positive on the dram, so think it’s clearly above average; strike out 5/10. Perhaps they are concerned 7 will look too generous, which leaves trusty 6/10, a handy whisky reviewer default fallback.
Call me strange, but I always get a thrill seeing a score of 4 or lower here on Malt or elsewhere. “Good for you,” I think, “for having a critical opinion.”
I give few scores below 5, maybe because 90% of my reviews come from bottles that I’ve paid for out of my own pocket and don’t want to admit to myself I’ve bought a dud. But, I strive for integrity, and trust the Malt editors to call me out if they feel otherwise.
OK, rant over. Kudos, if you made it through that. Clearly, I am being somewhat facetious; 6/10 is far from the only score I see on whisky review sites (it does tend to bob up though). Malt writers are also (hopefully) guided by our scoring guide.
As promised, today’s bottle is a 10-year-old single cask Benrinnes. It comes from Simply Whisky, a whisky tasting events company based out of Scotland who appear to have done a handful of bottlings to help promote their business. I recommend you check out the video interviews on their website with various prominent whisky personalities.
Benrinnes is one of those cult distilleries, almost exclusively going towards Diageo blends, that pops up often on the indie circuit and has a strong reputation for its single casks in this format.
This was the review promised in our Thanksgiving round-up last year. Took me six months, but better late than never. Once again, I write this before having opened the bottle. I severely hope I don’t end up assigning a 6, but I go where the whisky takes me!
Simply Whisky 10 Year Old Single Cask Benrinnes – Review
Refill hogshead. 50.5% ABV. 364 bottles. Available for £55 through Simply Whisky’s website.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: This isn’t shy at all, and it is very lovely indeed. Lime ice cream, piña colada and coconut are the order of the day here. Cut apples. Butter chicken and then passionfruit flavoured yoghurt. Mint flavoured chocolate; an Aero bar (maybe that’s a note for Australians; I am not sure of the worldwide availability of Aero bars). Fresh mango juice, even pineapple. At least on the nose, this would be up there with the most inviting whiskies I have tried in recent memory.
In the mouth: I don’t know if this is translating onto the palate, where it is somewhat more muted and doesn’t immediately reveal its charms. Working it around the palate I get the limes, sponge cake and cinnamon. Rice pudding and vanilla essence now coming on strong. Very soft in the mouth, this feels smoother than its not insubstantial ABV. The finish is short but pleasant.
Now to turn my attention to a score. Having devoted several hundred words above to the subject of scoring, allow me to be objective and evidence based.
A 5 on the Malt scoring system would call this a good whisky I am happy to own, but not excited about.
A 6 is a great whisky worth tracking down and that I’d be sad to finish, but not completely balanced.
A 7 would be a superb whisky at a level that we would wish all whisky could reach.
An 8 is an exceptional whisky I would grieve upon finishing.
I will rule out 8 – it’s not at that level. A 5 seems just a wee tad conservative; I am excited to own this whisky. It’s very fine!
A 7 then? Is it superb? The nose was. The palate, not quite.
Oh no. That can only leave one score. Guilty as charged. I’ll see myself out.