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Malt Medal Mania

by Oliver Klimek on December 1, 2010

The First of December is an important date in the whisky calendar. This is the day when the Malt Maniacs publish their annual awards by giving medals to the best whiskies sent to them by the producers. For the results, please refer directly to the 2010 Malt Maniac Awards page.

If you are a regular reader, you will know that I only write about whisky news if it shomehow prompts me to comment on it. Even though I consider the Malt Maniacs Awards to be one of the very few trustworthy whisky awards and competitions out there, the results should be consumed with some care.

Don’t Overestimate the Medals!

262 different whisky expressions were tasted blind by the panel, which is quite an accomplishment for the tasters, by the way. The Maniacs awarded 12 gold, 86 silver and 120 bronze medals. This means that more than 80 percent of the whiskies received a medal.

This may look like a rather incredible display of quality on first sight, but you have to take into account the way the medals are awared. Medals are given strictly according the average score of the tasters using the well-known 100 point scale. A score of 90 or more will result in a gold medal, 85 to 89 will give silver and 80 to 84 is good for bronze.

According to the Malt Maniacs’ interpretation of the 100 point scale (also adopted by me, for what it’s worth) a bronze score of 80 to 84 points means that it’s a solid whisky of above average quality. Nothing more and nothing less, and certainly a buying recommendation for those who like the particular style of the dram, but you should not expect sensational crackers in this range. Silver medals are awarded to very good whiskies that are thoroughly enjoyable, while gold medals are reserved for those memorable drams that are worth to be celebrated rather than just drunk.

When you look at the scores that I have attached to my tasting notes you will notice that – not much different from the Malt Maniacs – most are 80 or above. I take this as a confirmation that on statistical average my palate seems to be more or less in line with the Malt Maniacs.

As much I agree with the Maniacs about scoring in general, I think the concept of gold, silver and bronze medals is a bit misleading. It obviously creates a psychological association with the medals awarded at the Olympic Games. But yet there is a big difference.

Olympic medals are only given to the very best of the disicplines. Even bronze medalists can feel proud to be better than thousands of their competitors worldwide. But a bronze medal for a whisky only means that it is better than average.

I think both producers and cosumers are well-advised to put all this into the right perspective. Gold or silver medals are indeed honours to be proud of and have all the right to be prominently featured. But I dearly hope that whisky makers won’t feel tempted to brag about the fact that their bottling has won a bronze medal at the Malt Maniacs Award because, honestly, it does not take very much to achieve this feat.

 

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