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Methodology for Rum and Whisky Reviews

Posted on October 14, 2009 by Arctic Wolf
(edited on February 23. 2011)

I use a rather unusual weighted system for my Whisky and Rum reviews. When I began to have my reviews published on a website called Rum Connection, the owner of that particular website dubbed my system:

The Dykstra Method

What my methodology does with each review is it tries to allow the reader to vicariously enjoy the spirit with me.  If I do a good review you will almost believe you have enjoyed the glass with me.

Of course the system is always in a state of evolution as I learn and grow.  Currently this is how I view my review methodology for Rum ans Whisky:

The Dykstra Method (expanded)

I have five categories that I judge based upon the amount of enjoyment I receive from of each segment of the  drinking experience and I score the entire experience out of 100 points.

These categories are:


I enjoy the ambiance created by unwrapping a nice bottle  from its packaging and then placing the bottle in front of my friends.  I like uniqueness in the bottle shape, or the sleeve or box the spirit comes in.  I like a little story on the side of the bottle or a little booklet with the bottle explaining where the spirit comes from and why I should buy it.  I like the spirit protected from the light, and the bottle corked with a quality high density cork.

I have a rule that the more I paid for a bottle the harsher I judge the category.  Inexpensive bottles  score points quite easily, but more expensive premium spirits must really impress to obtain a perfect score.

In the Glass (10 pts)

A lot begins to happen as we open and pour the bottle into our glass. Each spirit has its own characteristic of  scent and aroma which wonder into the air. I enjoy nosing a glass before I begin ti sip. I like to identify the enjoyable scents the glass brings forth. Even the colour of the spirit can bring about excitement and a certain longing for the drink that is to follow.

IN THE MOUTH (60 pts)

This is the most important category and it is all about taste. Basically this is a “How good does this spirit taste?” category.  If I am constantly drawn back to a particular rum I score this very high. I want the taste to show characteristics of spice and flavours consistent with the spirit I am consuming.  The flavours must compliment the spirit rather than dominate it, and we must have what I call balance. A balanced spirit will not have any off notes of excessive bitterness or sweetness. Prevalent spices must be in harmony with the spirit and not in combat with it. I also expect the flavour to be robust. I will sample the drink in a variety of settings and palate conditions before setting down my score. A drink that easily loses its appeal when conditions are not ideal will lose points.  I do not believe the average consumer drinks with a clean fresh palate every time so I want my score to reflect average drinking conditions as well as the ideal.

IN THE THROAT (15 pts)

This is all about that warm feeling you get as the liquid flows down. I place great importance to the aftertaste left at the back of the palate. Also that burn you feel as the liquid goes down. Bitterness left behind always knocks this score down a bit as does any flavour or lack thereof that leaves the experience wanting. A smooth finish with a light alcohol burn is preferable to a harsh biting finish, but we can have a little bite else we may as well drink soda.

The AFTERBURN (10 pts)

This is a catchall category meant to smooth out any inconsistencies. Sometimes a spirit is more than the sum of its parts and this is a good area to recognize that. Also this is an area where the remembrance of the flavour is more important that the actual flavour if that makes any sense. Do I want another glass? Was the experience diminished in any way that could not be quantified by the other categories?

The Final Score shall be out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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