Whiskey Reviews: Back To My Three Times Method


February 1, 2023

I am bringing back scores on this blog and in my YouTube reviews. I am also getting back to my once ardent whiskey tastings of three times on three different days. I did this for the 2022 Top 100, and I really missed the thorough review style. 

Why Did I Go Away From This? When the Pandemic hit, I shifted focus to video and podcasting, gradually using this blog as a news outlet and less about reviews. I also decreased my scoring elsewhere, and my reviews were just all over the place—form Forbes to YouTube to Instagram. And let’s face it: I was fighting to survive in the beginning, my Blind Bourbon and private events took off, and I just never could get back into regular reviewing schedule. I believe this system will help.

In addition, this format creates a hybrid of written and video reviews that will all live on this centralized spot—FredMinnick.com. My membership community will see most of the “three tasting in three days” sessions, while the public will only see the final reviews on the blog and the only the best in tasting videos. 

The ASCOT Awards are separate from my individual tastings and reviews. In the ASCOTs, nearly 40 judges decide the outcome of the awards. My tastings and reviews are just my opinion and nobody else’s.

Now this system is different than my ASCOT Awards, which are decided by panels of elite tasters. My scores are me and only me. Well, there is somebody else: I’ve hired somebody to pour my blind samples and keep track of my tastings. This little touch helps me when I travel; I can bring my samples with me and taste on the road. 

One last thought here: I miss writing. And this may just help me get back into my regular writing groove.

How It Works

Every year, I receive more than 1,000 samples from distilleries, PR reps, importers and other trade members. It sounds like chaos and it is. My office is a floating pile of cardboard boxes and fresh bottles off the line. (By the way, it’s legal for companies to ship me alcohol under the Kentucky shipping law, which allows working media to receive alcohol shipments.)

My guy breaks down the bottles received into 50 ml samples, slaps on new unidentifiable nomenclature, inputs information into a shared spreadsheet, and I taste. I may or may not be giving a behind-the-scenes look to my membership community, but all scores go into a spreadsheet. After three times, a score is tallied.

I taste all samples three times on three different days to make sure my palate is not off or in shock from something I ate or drank. In the event of an off palate day, where all scores seem drastically skewed from who knows what, I will add a fourth day to the samples and delete the off day. 

Whiskey Grading Scale

All grades are based on my assessment of color, aroma, taste and finish. After scoring three unique times on three different days, the final score is averaged on a 100-point scale.

When I started this method, I likened my scores to school. After all, most understood report cards and grades. Then, I had a kid enter elementary and learned that not everybody uses As or Bs, let alone give an F. So, I have to kick out that comparison, as the A & B model just wouldn’t be “satisfactory” for modern times. Therefore, I pulled from another avenue of grading—sports. Anybody who watches sports, at some point, has learned about scout grades, Hall of Fame voting and of course GOAT comparisons. If these comparisons don’t do it for you, well, just follow the numbers. I grade them higher the more I like them. But I am sure I will add additional comparisons, such as music, down the road. … I can get creative! 

In addition, products are scored within their category. For example, a corn whiskey or single malt will be graded differently than bourbon or rye, which has different rules and regulations. At the end of the year, I will take the highest grades and pit them against one another to form my Top 100.

Whiskey Review Example

Southern Cross

“High Proof Bourbon Whiskey”
100 Proof, $110 (Source on price: North Carolina ABC)

The Skinny: Veteran Owned. 45% Wheated Bourbon, 51% Corn and 4% Malted Barley. 5 Years Old. Distilled in Indiana. Federal Label Approved October 21, 2021.

Notes: On the nose there’s a bright anise note that is slightly there on the palate. It’s chewy and grain forward, eventually developing into a lovely granola bar note. It reminds me of one of those Nature’s Granola bars we get from Costco. I definitely liked more the second and third tastings. In all three tastings, the finish was medium.

Score: 83

PointsGrade Equivalent Meaning / Sport Comparisons 
100Perfect.This spirit cannot be improved. If a sport, this would be the GOAT.
97-99A+Greatness in a bottle. Sport = Hall of Fame.
93-96ATop tier. Sport = Pro Bowl / All Star.
90-92A-Cut above the rest. Sport = Everyday starter with flashes of brilliance.
87-89B+Very good. Sport = Starter.
83-86BGood. Sport = Can become dependable starter.
80-82B-Solid. Sport = Consistent contributor.
77-79C+Works in a pinch. Sport = talented, but coach wants more. 
73-76CGreat for cocktails. Sport = Rotating player for starters to rest.
70-72C-Drinkable. Sport = Special teams / 4th middle reliever / pinch hitter called up from minors.
67-69D+Somebody will like it. Sport = Had a cup of coffee in the bigs, but doesn’t fit your system. 
63-66DStruggling to say something positive. Sport = Got an opportunity for tryouts, but didn’t make the team.
60-62D-Hope this isn’t the best they got. Sport = Met with a scout, but didn’t get invited to tryouts. 
40-59FNot drinkable. Sport = Mustard-stained T-shirt guy who never played, but annoyingly thinks they knows everything. 
Below 40F-Possibly poison. Sport = The drunk person at a game who won’t shut up and later picks a fight, but falls over the seat and pees himself.