New Whiskies

Tasting notes explained

01 July 2015 by Dave Broom

Tasting notes and scores help us tell you what we really think of a whisky, whether it's a new release, an old favourite or a rare bottling. Read this guide to understand how we arrive at our conclusions. 

whisky tasting notes
Scoring a whisky is more complicated than you might think.

Tasting is different to drinking. Tasting involves the painstaking analysis of the aromas, flavours and texture of a whisky. It takes time. For the drams under consideration are tasted in flights – usually with six whiskies per flight. Only by comparing with others will a whisky reveal its full complexity.


  1. Nose and taste neat. Take notes.
  2. Add water and repeat the process. Give an initial grading. Take a break.
  3. Re-taste. Experience shows that there will always be one or two whiskies, overlooked in the first pass, that come steaming up on the rails.
  4. Nose and taste once more, then give conclusions. Yes, it’s a long process, but it seems to work.


POSITIVES: balance, complexity and character. If it’s a single malt, is the distillery character still in evidence? All whiskies should have these elements.

NEGATIVES: everything which actively removes balance, complexity and character. For example, immaturity (aka Knackered Cask Syndrome), over-cooking (too much oak), butyric (the smell of baby sick), soapiness.


We thought long and hard about this. We could have used a conventional 100-point scale, but in reality that only starts at 70 with ‘faulty’, meaning all scores sit in a band between 80 and 100. In other words, it’s a 20-point scale.

To cut a long story short, we’ve gone for a 10-point scale, including decimal points, but with a difference. It starts at 0 and ends at 10. Yes, a whisky can get 0/10. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.

Within those 10 points there are various bands of excellence (or otherwise):

0-3+ Appalling/Faulty
4+ Poor
5+ Average
6+ Good
7+ Really good
8+ Great
9+ Superlative

All the tasters we use will abide by this system.


Read the words. They are what really matter. Only our thoughts, comments and conclusions will tell you what we think of the whisky. The number is merely a guide. Use it by all means, but don’t altogether rely on it. The words will reveal so much more.


Based on their UK RRP (recommended retail price), unless otherwise stated.

£                      Up to £60
££                    £60-120
£££                  £120-350
££££                £350-1,000
£££££              £1,000+

When tasting, we will be aware of the price band. In certain circumstances, this could have an influence on the score: is this whisky really worth £3,000? Is that whisky at £30 amazing value? If the price has affected the score, we will say so.