Judging scotch whisky is a subjective thing but most agree that the more complex malts are higher quality malts. As an example, an excellent malt from the Lowlands would not be over-powering but still complex with an emphasis on grassy, heathery and salty notes. On the other hand, malts from Islay are usually more robust with varying degrees of peat and smoke. Both can be complex and excellent but very different in style.
Consistency from expression to expression and over time is another hallmark of quality. The 10, 12, 15, and 21 year old Balvenies are all excellent. Similarly, the taster knows that every dram of the 12 year old, no matter when it is purchased and poured will be a joyous experience.
This table shows the range of scores given to scotches produced from a single distillery. A wider range between the minimum and maximum score may indicate one of several things. A larger range may be indicative of a larger product line. Younger malts are usually not often rated excellent. Macallan and Glenmorangie, for example, have extremely large product lines. Talisker and Lagavulin, on the other hand do not. It could also indicate a wiliness to innovate. Neither of these reasons are negatives.
The average score is meant to signal the overall quality of the product distilled. Our view is that any malt from a distillery with an average score above 70 is very much worth trying. After all trial and error is an essential part of the quest.
Distilleries with average whisky scores of 90 – 95%
Distilleries with average whisky scores of 85 – 89%
Distilleries with average whisky scores of 80 – 85%
Distilleries with average whisky scores of 75 – 80%