SMWS Outturn 265 - Festival Fever

SMWS 64.101 - Freshly squeezed sugar cane and kumquat juiceMay has a solid list - plenty to be excited about here!

The theme is Islay versus Speyside, and both regions put in solid appearances.

Speyside won for me - I preferred the cracking Mannochmore, which gets a deserved 5 out of 5. Sadly it's one bottle per member, so I can't have the number of bottles I'd like! Scoring 4.5 there's the cracking Glenburgie, which I very much enjoyed.

There's also the excellent Miltonduff, the Benrinnes, the Linkwood, the very drinkable Glen Grant and the Glenrothes all scoring 4.

Islay makes an appearance with a solid Bowmore, scoring a 4.5. The other good Islay is one of the Bunnahabhains, which scored a 4. I did, however, think I'd like another dram...

Outside the region fight, you should also definitely try the Croftengea, which was the other dram to score 5 on the list. With velvety smoothness and a wonderful set of flavours, this whisky is superb. It also gave me an excuse to write about Lomond stills, which I'd been intending to do for ages... There's also a superb Auchentoshan that really should be tried.

That brings me to a quick note about scoring. I've grown concerned that people are getting obsessed with numbers. The score has always been a complex thing, but is intended to be more of a guideline. And it's based on (mostly) technical aspects of the whisky. But I do wonder if people aren't skipping some of the very drinkable 3's and 3.5's that I find. So from this month onwards, I'm adding a new second score - "Personal Preference". It's designed to say how much I preferred it, rather than what I thought about it.

We've all had drams that were technical masterpieces - perhaps heavily influenced by cask or cereal - but that we could happily live the rest of our lives without ever drinking again. Just because something gets a full score, it doesn't mean I want a bottle.

I struggled with how to express this, before falling back on the scoring system a friend uses, which goes like this: "Do I like it? Do I want a dram? Do I want another dram? Do I want a bottle? Do I want more than one bottle?"

Based on that, I'm now adding whether I'm happy with just a dram, or whether I'd want another dram, a bottle, or... you get the picture.

I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect scoring system - ultimately they all show some kind of bias - but the technical score tries hard to avoid it, whereas the personal preference is all about my taste. So witness the difference between the Benrinnes and the Linkwood this month - both scored 4, but I only want a bottle of one of them. The other, I'm happy to have another dram of but no more. I don't think you'd get that from the tasting notes - I wrote a lot more about the Benrinnes than the Linkwood.

Here's hoping that helps people look beyond the numbers, and get a better idea of the spirit...