Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate expands whisky review team

March 2nd, 2011

Due to the increasing amount of new whisky releases worldwide, Malt Advocate magazine has expanded its number of Buyer’s Guide reviewers to five people: Dave Broom, Dominic Roskrow, Lew Bryson, Gavin Smith, and me.  Everyone on this list is an authority in the whisky world, experienced whisky reviewer, published author, and veteran Malt Advocate writer.

Beginning with our upcoming Summer issue (out June 1st), each writer will have his own assigned review region similar to the way the reviews are done, for example, in Wine Spectator. This past week, we looked at each writers’ expertise and then carved up the world of whisky.

Here’s the breakdown of the reviewers and the regions they will be covering. (Scotland has so many distilleries, we split it up into three review regions!)

Islay & all the other Islands: John Hansell
Speyside: Dave Broom
Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown : Gavin Smith

Scottish blends and grain whiskies: Dominic Roskrow

Dominic Roskrow

United States
Traditional bourbon & Tennessee whiskey (KY, TN): John Hansell
Craft distillers: Lew Bryson

Lew Bryson

Dave Broom

Rest of world
Dominic Roskrow

Select USA-exclusive bottlings
John Hansell

Lew Bryson, John Hansell

This could possibly triple the number of whiskies reviewed in Malt Advocate (and posted up here on WDJK). It is a bold move that will benefit both the whisky producer and you, the whisky enthusiast.

61 Responses to “Malt Advocate expands whisky review team”

  1. Rick H says:

    Congrats to the new team. I think you should include a taster who is a layman – consumer’s selections of 3 or 4 whiskies per issue. I volunteer for Scotch malts, Irish malts/pure pot, and world… (only half kidding. I actually would do it).

  2. Scott says:

    That should teach Lew not to skip meetings.

    • John Hansell says:

      Lew’s area of expertise is North America. He helped me divvy up the regions by writer. I think he’s very fortunate to be getting in on the ground floor of something that’s going to be amazing over the next decade: craft distilling. He does too!

      Plus he gets to review all the fun beers. I’m jealous!

    • Lew Bryson says:

      You should SEE the three BOXES of craft whiskey I’ve got to taste, Scott. Some good stuff in there, for sure!

  3. mark davis says:


    I’m really looking forward to more reviews.

    • John Hansell says:

      I’ve asked each writer to provide approximately 15-20 reviews each issue. So we could have 100 reviews each issue and 400 new reviews every year. That’s quite a bit!

      • mark davis says:

        Now that there are more mouths working together I would like to make a request. Can MA review standard, easy to find Whiskeys? I am particularly common American whiskeys with a lean towards rye.

        You have no reviews of any Jack Daniels products and few Jim Beam products, standard maker’s mark, old overholt, and so on.

        When someone goes to a bar and sees the whiskeys available I think 80% should have been reviewed. right now it’s probably more like 20%.

        whatever you choose I am looking forward to seeing more reviews on the site and in the magazine.

        • John Hansell says:

          You are correct, Mark. That’s why we’re doing this. One year ago, it was just little ole me–and thousands of whiskies out there. I could only focus on a very few select whiskies. Now, with more reviewers, we can cover a much wider selection.

  4. B.J. Reed says:

    Oh, sure John take Islay, sure, go ahead! 🙂

    Of course, if you ever need a backup I am hear for you 🙂 🙂

  5. Joe Hyman says:

    I’ll be sure to send in some bottles when they become available…
    Until then, I’d be happy to help out wading through all that excess whisk(e)y you guys are having trouble with…

  6. Mike says:

    All kidding aside, how does one become a reviewer? What sort of background do each of you have that led to this line of work?

    • John Hansell says:

      We chose them as our reviewers because they are among the best in the busines when it comes to knowing whisky, tasting whisky, and writing about whisky. How we all got to where we are is a different story, with different story lines which are best saved for its own blog post some day. (I don’t want to go off on a tangent.)

  7. Red_Arremer says:

    A big move, John and one which brings MA much closer to that other whisky publication. I’m familiar with all of these reviewers. Some are terrific, but honestly some are not on your level. I’m sure some of the other folks here on WDJK must feel the same.

    I understand why you have to do this and it will be nice to see more reviews, but this is one change that, unfortunately, isn’t “all good.”

    • John Hansell says:

      I am flattered Red (and you’re always tough on me…), but I am also confident that my fellow reviewers will not let you down. You just wait and see.

  8. Eric says:

    Congratulations, gentlemen. More reviews of all types are more than welcome!

  9. Rick Duff says:

    Sounds good. A little concerned about Broom (nothing personal) taking Speyside. I’ve always discounted his reviews in other magazines because I got the impression he preferred smokey whiskies. Would be nice if you could find someone that really loves the Speyside style (primarily) to review those.

    Oh.. and I know you’re owned by the people who own Wine Spectator (and I’m a subscriber to that as well).. but I really discount a TON of their reviews… in fact hardly read them at all any more.
    They got high-end and snooty and I sure hope MA doesn’t go that way..

    It’s important to keep a focus on items that are readily available and affordable.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect, admiration, and fondness for you John, so please don’t take my comments wrong.

    • John Hansell says:

      Rick, I would pick Dave Broom over me anytime for whisky reviews. That’s how much I respect him.

      And don’t worry, we won’t get snooty. I promise.

      • Chap says:

        I gotta admit, I’m a bit scared of trying that Karuizawa I picked up after Broom decided he picked up notes of “pigeon blood” tasting that whisky for his new book. I mean, how the hell does he know? Has he got vials of seventeen other birds’ blood just sitting there for tastings? Do people actually articulate the difference between pigeon blood and, say, parakeet bile or something in a drink people PAY for? Or is he just pulling our leg?

    • Louis says:


      I was fortunate to be able to meet Dave in person at Park Ave. Liquors for his book signing. And when I asked him for some ‘insider information’, he mentioned Balmenach and Glencadam. No need to worry 🙂


  10. David D says:

    As one of a two-man whisky operation, I am very sympathetic to this move and I applaud your ability to ask for help when you need it. I am always hesitant to let the other staff members do the jobs the I once did alone, but at this point I’m not doing all all these tasks to the level I want to do them at. I could do a few tasks very well if I delegated more.

    • John Hansell says:

      David, your business can’t grow if you don’t go in this direction. It’s never easly letting go of something that you take pride in doing, but at least this case, it’s for the best in the long-term. I trust my fellow reviewers.

      • David D says:

        That’s the truth. Growth requires help. We want to grow our spirits dept as you do your magazine, so there’s only one way…

      • Chap says:

        Good point. I used to work with a venture capitalist type. He said that they would due diligence the snot out of a good company, and then usually fire the CEO “because the skills needed in a $2m company are different than those needed for a $20m company and most people can’t make the jump”. One of the key indicators was unwillingness to keep a loose hand on the reins, so to speak.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Nice spooky anecdote, Chap– Though we all know that’s supposed to be the way of the world.

  11. Louis says:


    it’s great to see the Malt Advocate expanding, I can’t see anybody complaining about too many reviews. But having said that, I think that I will miss the single perspective in the reviews.



    • John Hansell says:

      The irony is that for years people kept commenting that they wish there was more than one perspective…

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Your remark about irony is so true John…

        Something I was always interested in, which another does a little is multiple reviewers taking on a single whisky– going for depth rather than breadth so to speak. Think you’d ever give that a shot?

        It would be great to see you and Dave joint review an Islay sometime.

      • mark davis says:

        thanks for letting us take turns complaining.

  12. Alex says:

    Exciting news and looking forward to the expanded base of perspective. I’d love to see each panel member review a few of the same samples each issue to see their different opinions on the same product.

    • John Hansell says:

      Anything is possible. We’ll see.

      • Rick H says:

        This is actually a very good idea. Each issue can have 1-3 whiskies that are panel reviewed – this is similar to what All About Beer does – they have a 3 person panel review 3 beers and publish the reviews side by side on a single page. It’s interesting to get the different perspectives especially when they disagree.

        • John Hansell says:

          Our first goal is to review more whiskies. (See Mark’s comment above, and my response to it.) If we have two people review one whisky, then we can only review half of the whiskies in the same amount of magazine space. Please keep this in mind. It’s nice how All About Beer has multiple reviewers for each beer, but it really limits the number of beers they can review. You can’t have it both ways!

          • Mike Dereszynski says:

            Very true John.
            But poor Lew,not only does he have to cover all of the Canadian spirits and the rapidly expanding craft distillers,he has to cover all the beers of the world! If he feels overwhelmed have him contact me or any of my fellow members of Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild.We would be glad to help. We all would love to see more of the Malt Advocated in all of its wonderful variations.

          • Rick H says:

            I think in the matrix review section they use different people than the standard reviewers in the reviews section…

  13. Jason Pyle says:

    This will be a lot to look forward to. Can’t wait for the craft stuff Lew!

  14. Scribe says:

    John, this is a great move — for WDJK, MA and for all of us! In my case, I’m quite confident each reviewer knows far more than me — maybe not as much as you (I don’t know them yet through reading as many reviews as I have the ones you’ve done)…but I know with their reviews I’ll continue learning more than I know today with each new review. And that’s what keeps me coming back here, to learn more about the drinks I have grown to love, with your help and the help of others on the retail side of the industry! I look forward to these additions!

  15. dave broom says:

    Chaps. Delighted to be on board. A quick couple of responses to the querulous ones. I don’t have a preference for smoky over non-smoky whiskies, so fear not.
    Pigeon blood? Aye – refers to the colour of the whisky not its taste. ‘Pigeon blood’ is the colour of a type of ruby. That said, on occasion, I sometimes pick up a note of blood/iron/molasses in Karuizawa (and some other heavy sherry whiskies) but it’s human blood, not avian. That’s normal.. isn’t it?

    • B.J. Reed says:

      Welcome David – This is a terrific team – Cannot remember another collection of whisky experts in one place before….

    • Chap says:

      For what it’s worth, it’s a beautifully written and photographed work, and I’m glad I took the advice at Nonjatta and bought a copy. I look forward to you and Lew Bryson battling it out over “pigeon blood” and sanguinary variants versus “arctic freshness tempered by the dry crease of good bond paper”.

  16. Red_Arremer says:

    Is this blog going to keep publishing your reviews, John? Will it publish those of the other reviewers?

  17. Vince says:


    I think this is great for your business. I always look foward to your Whisky reviews and you have a great team to provide some wonderful insight. On a selfish note, I am glad you kept Bourbon and good to see Lew has Craft. I’ll look forward to both!

  18. Gary says:

    Very exciting news! I LOVE reading whiskey reviews. It always gets me excited to try new products and expand my horizons. One thought, with the increased team of reviewers would it be possible to include distribution notes. With the explosion of interest in whiskey and all the limited and special releases, the challenge is always where and when is it available. Thanks John!

  19. Red_Arremer says:

    Does the review category “Traditional bourbon & Tennessee whiskey (KY, TN)” cover rye/ wheat/ etc. whiskey?

  20. two-bit cowboy says:

    Well, fellas, the kudos and concerns are aired out. Let the reviews begin. Can’t wait.

  21. lawschooldrunk says:

    Sounds great, John!

  22. I didn’t see my name listed 🙁

  23. PeteR says:

    I’m looking forward to all the additional American whiskeys and craft distillery reviews. I also hope that many restaurant and bar owners will take note and make them available for the rest of us to try.

  24. Louis says:

    John, it’s been two whole days already, where are all the reviews? 🙂

  25. Jewmalt says:

    Congrats too all in their expanded roles! I’m looking forward to more reviews. Great choices for each region!

  26. M Lange says:

    I’m very excited and hope that having Lew cover craft whiskey specifically means some more exposure for the great craft whiskeys being produced. They are often mentioned in the “new products” section at the beginning of the magazine, but so far have gotten very few reviews. Hopefully this move with help change that!

  27. […] For the rest of the month, I’ll be posting reviews by some of the other Malt Advocate whisky writers who each have their own defined review area, which I outlined here. […]

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