Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Poll Results: Reviewing the Reviewers
I didn't have too much feedback on the reviewing the reviewers poll which asked which one whiskey reviewer people would pick if they could read only one set of reviews. I guess people are more passionate about the actual whiskey they drink than those who review it for a living. To the extent there were responses, they mostly favored John Hansell.
For my part, I think there is a lot of talent in the professional whiskey reviewing world, particularly given its small size, and each of the reviewers in this poll has a certain niche.
Mark Gillespie tends toward higher scores but shows a deep appreciation of the whiskey he samples and samples a wide variety. His status as his program's sole reporter as well as its sole reviewer gives him a deep personal knowledge of each whiskey he tries. Often, he samples whiskey at the actual distillery or with the master distiller, which gives him additional information about the production of the whiskey compared to those who taste mostly from samples.
Jim Murray may be the most controversial whiskey reviewer, but if you want quantity, he's your man. No single professional reviewer reviews as many whiskeys, and he is the only one on the list that has the power to single-handedly raise prices and create shortages, particularly if he names something as his top whiskey of the year.
Paul Pacult is the lone spirits generalist on the list. The fact that he reveiews all sorts of spirits brings a unique perspective to his reviews, though he is probably less read than any of the other writers I listed.
That leaves my two favorites: John Hansell and Dave Broom, two great reviewers with nearly opposite writing styles. Hansell's reviews are straightforward, and his writing style is crisp and clean. When I read a Hansell review, I have a good idea of what the whiskey will taste like (though I may not agree with him on how good it is). Dave Broom is anything but straightforward. A flowery wordsmyth, Broom's reviews are more fun to read than anyone's, but they give me little idea of how a whiskey will actually taste. (What does "Montgomery Clift seducing Elizabeth Taylor" taste like exactly? Never mind, I'm not sure I want to know). So for informativeness I give the point to Hansell, while for entertainment I give it to Broom.
All of that being said, I don't actually spend much time reading professional reviews. In fact, I probably spend less time on the reviews than anything else in Whisky Magazine or Whisky Advocate. And for my own purposes, I'm much more likely to purchase something that's been given high ratings by Serge on WhiskyFun or by my pals in the LA Whiskey Society. Luckily, though, we don't have to pick just one reviewer and we can benefit from a wide variety of palates, both amateur and professional.