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Blind Tasting Anyone?

by Oliver Klimek on February 27, 2012

On various occasions I had to taste drams blind, like for the Malt Maniacs Awards or a few blind tasting competitions I have participated in. I found blind tasting to be an extremely insightful experience but also a humbling one at times. Tasting drams without conscious or subconscious prejudices can result in some very interesting observations.

I have toyed with the idea of holding an online blind tasting competition for a while but couldn’t really find the right approach to organize it. But now I have found a solution that guarantees a maximum of blindness in combination with an incentive to join without the need of an external sponsor. I hope you like the idea and feel compelled to join.

There will be consecutive tastings in two categories: Scotch Single Malt and Freestyle, both consisting of five 3 cl samples. Participants will have to pay for their samples based on bottle price as well as for shipment.

My intention is to give you as little information as possible. I want you to trust your palate and not to ponder about direct or indirect hints. Don’t expect that all bottles have or have not been reviewed on the blog. And here is a dillema: Samples are supposed to be paid for, but knowing the total price for the set is already a little hint. To solve this problem it needs a bit of mutual trust.

Participants will only have to pay an initial down payment. I will then buy the bottles and send you the drams. I will charge you for the rest afterwards, when the results are in and I disclose the identity and price of the bottles. I will trust you that you are going to pay for the whisky I sent you, and you can trust me that I don’t charge more than I paid for the whisky. I will only tell you that the total for each 5 bottle set will be less than 500 Euro. This is the only hint you will get in addition to the category description, and I basically do this only to assure you that you don’t have to expect to pay monstrous amounts for samples of luxury bottlings.

The winner(s) of the competition will not have to pay anything and will get the down payment refunded !

The Rules

Categories:

1. Scotch Single Malt – Current bottlings of single malt whisky with age statement or vintage/bottling information from different Scottish distilleries that are not closed (mothballed, inactive, demolished) as of today.

2. Freestyle – Anything that qualifies as whisky under the labelling laws of the producing country may be included. A blind tasting can’t get blinder than this. You may get a worldwide whisky selection or you may get 5 bottlings from a single distillery. Or something else. Only recent bottlings will be included, that’s all I can tell you.

Scoring:

You will get points for determining the intrinsics of the whiskies.

1. Scotch Single Malt

  • Naming the expression correctly: 25 points
  • Distillery: 5 points
  • Age: 5 points minus 0.5 points per year of difference but not into negative territory. If only years of bottling and distillation are given on a bottle, age is assumed to be the difference regardless of legal age.
  • Alcohol content (ABV) in percent: 5 points minus 0.5 points per percent of difference but not into negative territory

2. Freestyle

  • Naming the expression correctly: 30 points
  • Country: 2 points (Scotland is treated as a single country, Ireland includes Northen Irleand, Rest of UK is treated as a single country)
  • Distillery or brand: 5 points
  • Age: 5 points minus 0.5 points per year of difference but not into negative territory. Correctly identifying a non-age-statement whisky as such gives 5 points as well. If only years of bottling and distillation are given on the bottle, age is assumed to be the difference regardless of legal age.
  • Alcohol content (ABV) in percent: 5 points minus 0.5 points per percent but not into negative territory

If you manage to correctly name an expression, you will only get the points for this and not for the other informations!

Participation:

There will be 21 sets of 3 cl for each category. The rest of the bottles is my ‘salary’ for organizing and logistics. You are free to enter one or both categories. Contact is done by the blog contact form, email or private messages on Twitter or Facebook. First come, first serve. Please include your email address as all further communication is supposed to be done by email.

The initial down payment will be 25 Euro worldwide, 20 Euro within Germany. This includes postage for registered mail and packaging of 15 Euro flat worldwide or 10 Euro within Germany, fresh sample bottles and boxes or jiffy bags. I may partly use boxes or envelopes I already have in stock.

Preferred method of payment is by Paypal, Euro zone residents may also pay by bank transfer on request. I will ask for payment after all slots for participants are full.

I will buy the whisky and sample bottles only after all participants have paid their down payment. I may re-open the list in case of non-payment.

The winner will not have to pay for the samples. The entire down payment will be refunded. I will pay for the postage, the collective of participants will pay for the drams. So the price for the sample sets the rest have to pay is the actual price for the bottles divided by 20. Based on this, the whisky price you’d have to pay per set would be less than 25 Euro (500/20). Should there be more than one person with the same winning score, I will cover the cost.

Non-paying participants will be reminded and may face further consequences, if they don’t comply.

In case of mail loss, I will refund your full payment, this is what the registered mail is needed for.

Shipments to non-EU countries will be correctly identified as “whisky samples” on the customs declaration. Please only join the tasting, if you are confident about local customs and postal shipment of alcohol in your country!

To allow for slow mail delivery, tasting results are expected until four weeks after shipment of the samples.

The Freestyle tasting will start after the Single Malt tasting has been completed.

Results:

Please return your results as quickly as possible. You are encouraged to include tasting notes, scores or other comments.

The top three participants in each category will be announced with their names and countries of residence on dramming.com. For each tasting there will be a blog article disclosing all bottles and their prices. I intend to include a selection of anonymized tasting notes and comments.

Blind tasting anyone?

Update:

Results of the Scotch single malt blind tasting

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Gal Granov גל גרנוב (@galg) February 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

I am in oliver, only if you are willing to indicate “collector’s malt” on the packages and send it over as u used to do before . is it ok?

Reply

Pieter February 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I am definately a noob on this, but I want to join for self education and to see where I’m at. I’ll have a hard time for sure but I’ll do my best with the little experience I have…

Reply

Keith February 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Sounds like fun. Shall I shan’t I .. ??? Oh go on then, count me in for both.
I also think you should let scores go negative as I can see this being won by the person with the least wrong as opposed to the most right :-)

Reply

Oliver Klimek February 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Happy to see you join the party, Keith! For scoring I didn’t want to be too devious. It ain’t gonna be easy anyway ;)

Reply

Keith February 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

So with 21 particiapnts I predict a 21-way tie.
All with “Null Points” :-)

Reply

Alex Smith February 29, 2012 at 12:17 am

Hey Oliver I’m in. Please email me so we can set it up, I don;t want another 21 to do it before me and i can’t join thank you!

Reply

Niels March 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I just found your blog, but if you’re still up to doing this, and in need of participants, I can join. Just send me an email.

Reply

Josh Feldman April 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I’m in, Oliver! Very excited, but acknowledge little chance of victory against this field! How do register and pay?

Reply

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