Whisky Advocate

Is there a Robert Parker of the whisky world?

August 8th, 2011

I don’t think so. (Although, there might someone out there who thinks he is.)

I feel that Michael Jackson was the person who came the closest. He was one of the the first to write prolifically about the subject, and he was very good at it. (Perhaps if he devoted more of his time to whisky rather than beer, and if only he stayed with us another decade or two?)

Right now, it seems like there are at least several individuals who are really doing great work covering whisky in their own way. There might be one or two people leading the field, but I don’t think anyone is so far ahead of the pack to have the power and influence of a Robert Parker.

What do you think? Do we have the equivalent of a Robert Parker in the whisky world? If so, who? And if not, why do you think there isn’t one?

80 Responses to “Is there a Robert Parker of the whisky world?”

  1. Tim F says:

    I think the only candidates at present are Serge and Jim Murray. Certainly, they are the only ones at present who have historically had a discernible effect on sales (although Jim’s influence is on the wane in that respect).

    However, if you look at how Parkerisation has ruined the top end of the wine market, the lack of a Parker for whisky is probably a good thing. I don’t think we need one, and I’m sure any whisky critic would say so themselves.

    • John Hansell says:

      I love Serge’s reviews. But, outside the industry and whisky geekdom, I think very few people know who he is. Robert Parker a name most wine enthusiasts know.

    • Lawrence says:

      Good points Tim, both Serge and Jim Murray have their followers.

      • lawschooldrunk says:

        No, I think John is right about Serge: the “average” whisk(e)y drinker does not know who is Serge. Jim, though, with his bible, has more influence on sales.

        • Tim F says:

          At least on this side of the pond Serge is definitely more influential than Jim in terms of sales. Anything that receives a high score from Serge will definitely sell very quickly; the same is no longer always true with Jim’s scores, although of course his book sells very well itself. Of course it helps that Serge is reviewing every day and Jim only once a year.

          • Patrick says:

            Don’t tell to Serge that he is the most influencial in terms of sales 🙂

          • David says:

            Serge will never be the ‘Robert Parker’ of the whisky world – for one simple reason. Arrogance! Serge is the most humble and respectful whisky drinker you could wish to meet. Always open to new ideas and always willing to listen to someone’s opinion. The same can not be said of Mr Parker who regards his own opinion as gospel on wine.

    • Mary says:

      With all due respect to Serge, no way is he on Parker’s level & he mostly writes/tastes whiskey that a VERY small portion of the drinking population will ever try so therefore, I/others can’t even really evaluate his opinions. I appreciate his reviews & glance through them frequently but I see them as more of a sideshow attraction because they are usually so out of reach. Some whisky geeks know about him but he’s not that well known & therefore not as influential as Parker. Jim Murray is the closest to a Parker & there is this guy, John Hansell (you may know him… 🙂 ) I respect his opinion & he is second in my book for whisky/whiskey advice.

      I don’t think we’ll ever have a “Parker” in the whisky world – too many ways to find info & talk (blogs, etc.); it has diluted the influence of 1 person being at the top – which is a good thing IMO. But I do think there will be several influential people like Murray & Hansell.

      • Tim F says:

        Mary, my point was not that Serge was on Parker’s level. No-one is; in my opinion that’s a good thing.

        • Mary says:

          Tim F: Yes, I understood that but IMO I don’t think he’s even in the running for the reasons I gave. I don’t want this to sound like a Serge bashing because I do think he adds to the discussion on whiskey. I guess my bigger point is that none of the bloggers are in the running for the throne but many have something important to add & advance the discussion.

    • Very well said Tim F! Glad to follow and read all the info from Serge and many other great, informative, interesting and fun bloggers/twitterers, but having a Whisky-Parker messing things up, NO THANKS!

  2. Vince says:

    Paul Pacult, although I do not think he has quite as much influence as Robert Parker. Another Beer turned whisky writer. But I do enjoy his reviews, (as I do yours John)!

  3. Joe Selby says:

    Parker’s success almost guarantees that there will never be another writer with as much influence over wine, beer, or spirits. He showed that a prolific writer and rater can achieve fame & fortune, and, accordingly, many will follow in any particular segment of the market. This ensures that no one person will ever again be so influential.

  4. Brian B (Brian47126) says:

    Well, If I am being honest, I would say it is John Hansell. I have seen instances of your effect on the whiskey industry and those taking note and bending to your suggestions. We could debate if that effect is as prolific as Robert Parker; however, I believe it is similar of not the outright the same.

    If you are a simple wine drinker you probably do not know who Robert Parker is and I think that is the same as same as the standard whiskey drinker. Until the average consumer becomes an enthusiast of said products he has no need to “seek out” information on the products in question. As wine enthusiast know of him, I believe most whiskey enthusiasts know of you.

    So In my humble opinion (in the whiskey enthusiast world) you are that guy. If you rate a product over 92 and it is available at less than 100.00 I automatically buy it. I am not a blind consumer, I simply trust your ratings and buy accordingly. So, like it or not, from my perspective, you are for many people the “Robert Parker” of the current day in the whiskey world.

    • I think that Hansell dude is more famous in the US than in Europe. On the danish website I see Serge and Murray mentioned only.


    • John Hansell says:

      Brian, that’s very kind of you to say this. But, what I do isn’t exactly the same as Robert Parker. His primary mission is to review and rate whiskies. That’s just one of the many hats I wear in my profession. Being Publisher & Editor of Malt Advocate, hosting WhiskyFest, hosting tastings, consulting to the industry, etc., have all been part of what I’ve done over the years.

      If you take a look at what I do collectively, I think I do have a certain degree of influence in the whisky world. But it’s not as focused specifically on reviews like it appears to be for Robert Parker.

      • Brian B (Brian47126) says:

        I agree it may not be as prolific; but, it is similar to me. When I reread my post I sort of missed one of my points in there. If a reviewer has sway with his readers and that effects their purchasing patterns, then it’s in the same ballpark. I don’t follow Parker’s reviews as I find your taste palette close to mine. As the internet has become a major force in information, I assume there will never be a single “the guy” in almost anything. There will most likely be a series of top people.

        • Brian B (Brian47126) says:

          I should add that I have read his wine reviews before; however, he is not my reviewer of choice when I am looking for a review.

  5. Scott says:

    Great points all, and it seems almost beyond question not only that there is no “Whisky Parker,” and will never be, but that this is a very good thing. I don’t think the vastly negative effects Parker had on the global wine market were his “fault” (and anyway would have to be balanced against the vastly positive effects Parker had on the consumer side of American wine culture). They were an artifact of one critical voice not only becoming prominent at the start of a consumer revolution, but actually leading that consumer revolution. And doing so in a particular set of market/communications contexts.

    For a number of reasons, no comparable consumer revolution is possible in spirits (and to be comparable to what happened to wine in the 1970s and 1980s, we’d have to be talking about spirits as a category, not merely whisky or even brown spirits – discussing a “Robert Parker of whisky” is akin to having a Robert Parker for Pinot Noir, or even just red wine, as opposed to wine as a category). And even if the spirits market were to double or treble or whatever in just a few years, and go from a niche to the mainstream, (which hasn’t it already done that?) it would not do so starting from the critical void Parker stepped into, nor within a context were a single critical voice could so dominate the seller/buyer exchange.

    Plus, any new Robert Parker would have to contend with the fact that we live in a world that’s already had a Robert Parker. Even the notion of a 100-point scale is tainted by association with Parker and the effects, good and ill, his work had on wine. So to be successful, any new Robert Parker would almost have to be unrecognizably different in approach from the original. As such, if a new Robert Parker came along, would we even recognize him? Or it, since isn’t in more likely that some kind of new-media collective would fill such a role, rather than an individual? (Parker himself was a “new media” entrepreneur in his day. It’s just that “new media” at the time involved photocopies and direct-mail, rather than WordPress and wikis.)

    • Tim F says:

      Great post, my thoughts exactly.

    • Jason Pyle says:

      Scott, these are great points. New Media makes it much easier for a collective of strong voices to come to the fore. It’s not likely that we’ll have a single individual the likes of Parker.

      That said, I think the most influential whiskey voices are Jim Murray, John Hansell, Dave Broom, and Dominic Roskrow. I would say the first 2 names being more so.

  6. Ryan says:

    Nope. Thanks to digital communications we no longer consume and utilize media as wine consumers did while Parker rose to prominence. ‘The field’ is no longer limited print/radio/TV, but also includes the whisky blogosphere/social networking. Good luck ‘leading’ that.

  7. Craig says:

    Parker is not known as much for his paramount objectivity, rather his command of enormous audience and subsequent affect on wine sales. He invented the ubiquitous 100 point system.

    I wish there was a Parker for whisky. While a single man’s influence can be detrimental if misused or abused (which however I do not think Parker has done to wine), the basic fact is that most consumers need some kind of information to relate to. Many blogs and smaller critics are just clutter where people do not know who they are, not to mention less than full time criticism parlays into fundamentally limited credibility. Fact is, Parker tastes all day every day, for decades, doesn’t accept advertising and pays his own way to every wine region visit. He has an enormous database of reference to compare against what he is tasting today.

    Every whisky proclaims itself to be wonderful tasting, great value and unequaled. The role of the critic is to cut through the spin and provide honest and sometimes brutal commentary that readers can trust. I think we would have more people trying more whiskys from more producers in more regions if there was a greater interest in experimenting. A critic offers the general public an opportunity to take that leap of faith,

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Craig, I think whisky consumers need to be more active. They are the ones who need to cut through the noise by talking to each other about their experiences. Marketing should be subverted by an overall advance in the culture of appreciation rather than by being juxtaposed to a single respected voice. In advocating for Parker the way you do, you are basically advocating for the idea of an enlightened despot.

  8. DavidG says:

    The bigger issue is what the extreme power of a whisk(e) critic could really do?
    If a winemaker wants to conform to changing tastes or a singular powerful palate like Parker – it does not take that long to change course.
    On the brown spirits side – how do you mold your existing aging stock to fit this tastemaker? it seems to be that definitionally whisk(e)y would be poorly suited for a Parker-like figure.
    At best you may have an influence on the edges – turning people on to peat etc. but nothing on a Parker scale.

  9. JW says:

    I prefer writers and reviewers who speak personally but without their work being overshadowed by the “Cult of Personality”. Why do we need a single “Whisky Deity” when a respectable collective of reviewers offer a broad spectrum of opinions and perspectives?

  10. The Bitter Fig says:

    I almost think the better question is why there is a Robert Parker of wine. There aren’t many critics (of anything) out there who are monolithic as Parker seems, thus it’s probably better to view his role in wine as the exception, rather than look for the Parkers of other fields.

  11. Bill says:

    I don’t think Parker has or had the power and influence others attribute to him. I think he was right with his denials that he was that influential; I think the current owners of your publication are as influential as he is; I think many other factors pushed folks into making and buying certain styles of wines at super-high prices. He became a convenient whipping boy.

    • David D says:

      This is absolutely untrue. As someone who makes his living from wine sales, Parker’s reviews will make or break a Bordeaux sale.

      • Jason Pyle says:

        David, what is the influence of wine sales in general that you see with Wine Spectator vs. Parker? I am just curious because I would think that any gap has diminished. I understand Bordeaux sales but what about across the board? Also, your store certainly focuses on a different consumer but I’d imagine, as a whole, the opinion of WS has surpassed Parker for the general consumer. Maybe I am wrong, but just my thought.

        Also, my apologies for possibly redirecting the original blog question(s), but Bill brought up a good point about WS. I think it does beg the question – is Parker’s influence even close to where it once was? If the consensus is “no” I think that validates any opinions that Whiskey likely won’t have such an influencer.

      • I think Whisky drinkers >> wine drinkers 🙂 is the reason for that 🙂


      • Bill says:

        Hi, David D — I understand that perception, but to truly prove that, you’d need examples of Parker saying the 19XX wine from Y winery in Bordeaux is a 95 when Wine Spectator and Jancis Robinson et al. say the same wine is bad, and it still selling out. Also that wine would have to be made in sufficient quantities — sure, maybe he could move 60 cases, but could he move 15,000 in those circumstances? I don’t think he nor anyone else could.

        I truly think disposable income and rarity/scarcity and wine being an easy way to signify wealth and taste fueled the boom of folks buying “nothing but 90+” wines. It still goes on even as Parker followed Wine Spectator’s model of having different folks review different countries/regions/etc.

        • David D says:

          Come to my store and stand behind the counter with me. I have more than 1000+ of those examples in my immediate memory.

          “What did Parker give this?”

          “Sir, I don’t have a score from Parker, but the Wine Spectator gave it a 92.”

          “Wine what? Nevermind. Do you have anything that Parker specifically rated 90+?”

  12. For what it’s worth, I have to say that I agree entirely with Tim’s sentiments, John – I think Serge wields a huge amount of power amongst even relatively novice consumers (more so now than even a year ago). There’s no doubt that we see a huge jump in sales of lines that Serge reviews positively – it’s known at MoM Towers at ‘The Serge Surge’. In fact, I’m feeling pretty smug about having ordered a shed-load of the Duncan Taylor Caperdonich he reviewed at a solid 92 just today.

    It’s worth remembering of course, when comparing Serge and Jim, that only one of those two makes their full-time living from reviewing whisky, and one does it (as the name of his site would suggest) for fun. This isn’t for a second to denigrate one or the other – it’s obvious that both have tremendously powerful and valuable opinions, and both are definitely listened to by consumers and industry bods alike.

    Who’d be up for fielding a bet on Unique Visits over a 12 month period for Serge vs annual Book Sales for Jim? Hazard a guess on either figure anyone? John? ;0)

    • Lawrence says:

      Ben, your last comment comparing unique visitors to book sales is spurious at best.

      As for Paul Pacault, where is he in the whisky world? I see press releases saying such and such whisky has been given an award by him but I never see an article in Malt Advocate or Wh*sky M*gaz*ne? He’s a bit of a ghost it would seem; to be credible these days you have to be seen.

  13. I am surprised no one has mentioned Martine Nouet yet. While I might not put her in the same influential circle as Robert Parker, I love reading her reviews and articles more so than some others mentioned. Her passion for food and whisky are second to none and I find myself agreeing with her whisky descriptors more so than some others. But she is not as recognizable on this side of the pond. Jim Murray definitely has an influence on whiskey sales, as does John, but Serge and Martine don’t carry that kind of weight here in the U.S.

  14. Gary Gillman says:

    No one today approaches Robert Parker in the whisky world in my opinion. I would also say Michael Jackson was his equal during his lifetime, and indeed the quality of Michael’s writing – its literary and evocative qualities – exceeded those of the wine writers I am familiar with.

    We have many excellent whisky writers, foremost you, John. Your measured but honest reviews are a big part of the current whisky scene.

    I also like Jim Murray for his enthusiasm and breadth, and Dave Broome for his savvy and depth particularly on Scotch whisky.


  15. mongo says:

    if by “robert parker of the whisky world” we mean only “a reviewer whose pronouncements influence sales and purchasing decisions” then tim f is uncontroversially right: jim murray for the wider whisky market, and serge (and the malt maniacs more generally) for the whisky geeks.

    i don’t know that it’s worth looking for any further definition as the wine and whisky markets are quite different. your average casual wine buyer is confronted by far greater selection at even a small store than is the geeky whisky buyer at any but the most specialized whisky stores. there are far more wine varietals and producers than whisky producers. for this reason alone wine reviewers will always have a far stronger voice/role/influence on their readers (even if the only thing being read is a small scorecard below the bottle display) than any whisky writer/reviewer.

    by the way, those who think john h’s influence is restricted to the u.s should remember that chieftain’s switched to 46% abv across their line largely/partly on account of his advocacy for 46% as a minimum abv for malts.

  16. Bill B. says:

    What about Dave Broom?

  17. Ethan K says:

    I do not think there is one such influencer, and I hope there never is. While Parker’s accomplishments are astounding, he started early, as did Mr. Jackson with beer, and subsequently whiskies. I really do not think it was the reviews that sold any of the bottles, but rather these men sheading light on the subject and tweaking consumer curiosity. Today his influence is dwindling, understand that Parker outsourced a number of wine regions for others to taste back in the late 1990’s, he is also well into his 60’s and may be looking at retiring at some point. So, it is my opinion that Parker did not just showcase his amazing palate, but also his ability to brand himself as the leader in the field.

    Today, there is still influence to be pushed and shared. I understand that. However, Parker, Serge, and all of us may be influencers, but sometimes we just cater to each other. Forgetting about the new consumer, just trying to find his palate or the financially challenged consumer searching for bang for the buck. Today some of the great influencers do not have time for such pedestrian bottlings, and Parker certainly falls into this category.

    For a better sense of who is selling the bottles, look to the enthusiasts who man the liquor store counter, the endless cadre of bloggers, and the man behind the bar. This is the new wave of influencers, and we all have Parker, Jackson, Serge, Dr. Silver, Martine, and Jim Murray to thank, and yes Mr. Hansell plus all the others who wrote, taught, tasted and encouraged all of us. Now lets go do the same for the younger guys.

  18. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    no there is not. And why should there be? To what end and why? You can discuss why Mr Parker has the standing he has and if it is a good thing and if it were any good if the same mechanisms were at work whiskywise for ages.

    The proof is in the glas and in the individual holding it and drinking from it. That is true for wine and Parker points as well.
    I gain nothing by buying a 100 PP wine for a price which is way too high for the fermented juice of grapes because said PPs elevate a bottle of wine into the olymp – just to find I do not like the taste of it.

    And the same is true for whisky. It is only a distillate from grains. It can be phantastic delicious and olympic but it is nothing more but distilled grains.

    I like it or I don`t – and that would not change if there would be someone telling me with ultimate authority that it is 100/100 so I have to like it.

    And finally, I consider rating of wines an spirits a waste of time so why would I need a mechanism like Parkerisation in whisky?


  19. JohnM says:

    Jim Murray gets a bit of a hard time, I think. Don’t agree with everything he has to say, but, like John Hansell, Paul Pacult, Dave Broom and others, he doesn’t discriminate just because a whisky is from a certain region. Some raters aren’t as fair.

  20. John Hansell says:

    One thing that I have noticed in this thread: people commenting from Europe/UK tend to mention European/UK writers, while those here in the U.S. mention U.S. writer’s names more. A writer’s influence appears to be–to a degree–regional.

    • David says:

      Very good point – and it is important to remember that Mr Parker is only really famous or considered in the US (which of course is a very big wine market). You won’t find too many customers in the UK, France, Germany etc – the big European drinking markets) walking into a shop with a Robert Parker guide.

  21. Gary Gillman says:

    Being from Canada, I mentioned both types, John: we always split it down the middle, like our national whisky style. 🙂

    I think this era, being very different from the one Jackson started in, say, will give rise to its own writing luminaries. There will be more of them since the whisky world is wider than in the 70’s and 80’s. Therefore, there is more specialization, both regional, topical, and vocational so to speak (e.g. with some being publishers like you said including self-published in some cases).

    Even Jackson changed over time. In the 1970’s, and until the later 80’s, his work had more of a literary ring. In his earliest work, there is an echo of Victorian writing styles (ornate, elegant, witty yet informed). In later years, perhaps due to deadlines and the requirements of pocket guides, his style was more compressed and ever more factual/informative. A good example is his masterful explanation of Irish (southern) distilling methods in his last narrative whisky book, the one where he collaborated with other writers.

    Thus, in many ways, a Parker of whisky is not needed today. No one figure can have so commanding an authority, simply because so much good information is easily to be accessed through the various print and online media. Both Robert Parker (still very active of course) and the late Michael Jackson were specific products of their time.


  22. robinrobinson says:

    When Parker started, there were only paper based publications, which allowed for linear thinking about his musings, scoring and reviews. It was a slower time and allowed him to garner a larger audience over a period of time, making more of an impact. With the ascendance of California wines in the 80s, it was a perfect pairing of time, place and resource.
    Whisky has come of age during the time of the internet (from the 90s onward). In that, Serge has been a pioneer, but the nature of the medium is its immediacy, 360 degree provisioning, and crowd sourcing; so the animal does not allow a single rider on its back. As a result, each venue has a limited reach, because quite honestly, how much of this knowledge can we really consume? We are now all masters of the same knowledge, but in all honesty, which of us does not owe the biggest debt to MJ himself?

  23. bj reed says:

    Not much I would add to this discussion. Will never happen with whisky – Too many talented voices out there to depend on a single opinion. You will notice, however, that the distilleries themselves will quote individuals they believe have cache with consumers and based on my trip last year and my visits to visitor centers John Hansell is one of those that they pay attention to. Broom, Murray, Maclean, Valentin and many others also hold sway. That’s a good thing.

  24. lawschooldrunk says:

    I’ll add Richard Patterson for his advocacy.

    By the way, I had never heard of Robert Parker until Gary Vaynerchuk mentioned him. To me, Gary Vaynerchuk is the advocate of today’s wine.

    • lawschooldrunk says:

      Oops. I forgot to mention Ralfy 😉

      • Aaron says:

        I’m glad you mentioned Ralfy in this thread. Although he’s not a Parker-like figure in terms of influence, I’m consistently impressed with Ralfy’s series of “vlogs,” as they both welcome the novice whisky drinker and provide articulate, engaging commentary for the more experienced enthusiast.

        Because of his respect for the scotch (and larger global whisk(e)y) industry, his willingness to seek out the unfamiliar, and his (at times) unorthodox suggestions, I’d certainly consider Ralfy’s reviews as a primer for a new whisky drinker.

  25. Gary Gillman says:

    That the commenter above hadn’t heard of Robert Parker is surely a generational thing. I regularly meet younger enthusiasts of beer and whisky who have never heard of Michael Jackson. And this is inevitable: times marches on and even the greats recede to the background. Still, their influence endures, in ways not always obvious. Jackson was a huge influence, the rage for rye whiskey for example, in my opinion, is largely attributable to how he wrote about it in his 1987 World Guide To Whisky. And the same is true for bourbon and malt whisky, basically.

    In the wine world, Hugh Johnson (whom Jackson acknowledged as an influence albeit from a different field), Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker are the greats of the 70’s until today, again in my estimation. But Gary Vaynerchuk is indeed very influential now and has made his mark.

    One can argue about relative importance, but that is a separate question.


    • Mary says:

      Speaking of G Vaynerchuk….have you seen the vlog when he “tasted” whiskey?! OMG it was BAD. He had this guy who looked about 12 years old with him explaining the fine points of scotch. Gary does a good job w/wine but should not ever do whiskey again – I was embarrassed for him! I have not been back to his site since – hopefully he’s sticking to wine these days or he educated himself about whiskey…

  26. Thanks for the link Mary, very curious to see that!

  27. Just watched, and yes, I’m embarrassed for him too, both of them actually! The 12 year old kid is the creator of Word Press, cool, but doesn’t know anything about whisky, at all!

  28. Liking Scotch sure is a start Lawrence, I agree! But I don’t agree with them taking an authoritative approach in misinforming the viewers.

    • Mary says:

      I agree Jonathon – And it’s especially bad because he is an “authority” people listen to/take advice from. I used to follow his wine vlogs but that whiskey thing just turned me off (& I’m more interested in whiskey since then). He knows wine – he should stick to to wine. You don’t have to be a professor of whiskeytology to do a vlog but you should be more knowledgeable. He looked foolish.

  29. G.B.S. says:

    I have to agree with Jon that we are still looking for the Robert Parker of whiskey. We are all guilty of getting wrapped up in our own worlds sometimes and need to remember look out side to the people who actually buy the product. To us, Murray, Jackson, Serge, and so on are all great minds in the world of whiskey. However to the rest of the population they are faceless names. After reading the article, and some of the comments written after, I called my father (who does not drink) and ran the list of names by him. Parker’s was the only one he knew. I then polled a couple of other friends with varying levels of spirit knowledge and found the results to be pretty much the same.

    While Parker has made a name for himself outside the small wine geek community, The Whiskey World has yet to find anyone to bridge that gap, due partly to the fact that it is not as mainstream as wine. I think this is one of the biggest things that we in the Spirits industry often forget. It is kind of like when a sports fanatic is shocked that you don’t know the center for his favorite hockey team is.

    To be honest I would not be opposed to a Parker-esque figure in the whiskey community. We need someone to take people past just curiosity and give them a base to be able to grow their own thoughts and palates. I believe Parker is a very necessary step in a person’s wine evolution. He gives people the confidence to move past entry level wines and into the mid to high ranged wines. It is from there that someone will either continue and out grow him or just stay and be happy.

    • “To be honest I would not be opposed to a Parker-esque figure in the whiskey community. We need someone to take people past just curiosity and give them a base to be able to grow their own thoughts and palates.”

      Sorry, but why should we need one single leader to guide us? There are many whisky writers out there who do exactly this. I take the opposite view. The more knowleadgable people there are who educate the casual whisky drinkers, the better. We don’t need an evangelist for this.

      • Well put Oliver Klimek! And besides, one man or woman’s sole experiences and knowledge telling the masses is completely ignorant. I’d also much rather learn about the enjoyment of whisky through other whisky interested and passionate people.

      • G.B.S. says:

        y’all are missing the point to this whole statement. I am not suggesting one leader to take us all blindly into the world of whiskey. However whiskey does need someone to take it past our community and to the general public, Like parker did with wines. Parker’s greatest asset is that he has gotten wine into the world of non drinkers and drinkers alike. Again it is from there that people will discover better writers and better whiskey… Play the same game I did with people you know out side of the Wine and Spirits world and see what happens. Again I am not looking for a leader, I am looking for someone to get the rest of the world interested so we can see more amazing spirits come from different people being influenced in different ways…… Let this Parker of whiskey be our “Yellow Tail” and then as someone grows a love for whiskey let them find there “Burgundy”.

        • I think I’m getting the point you’re making G.B.S. And that’s exactly what I’m afraid of, one person telling most whisky curious or interested people out there, what to drink, how, why, when and for how much. This will get people started, maybe not all people, on the wrong foot. And whisky producers producing whisky to this one individual’s specifications and tastes and demands, in order to be well rated so that he can tell people “this is good, buy it” and thus all of his disciples follow suit. That’s what Parker has done and it’s truly sad, not allowing people to think on their own or have an open mind to enjoy other wines. I think people that are curious or interested in something, anything, whisky for example, should discover it on their own or through a friend. I feel lucky to have had a friend whom I worked with tell me to “sniff that bottle.” Instant heaven! Instant curiosity! “What the hell was making this whisky smell like this,” I wondered? And thus triggered my hunt, my research, my tasting, my experiences, my passion for this new found love! I had it inside, always, and a friend simply tapped into it! But for someone to say “Hey, whisky is cool, drink it, drink this, this is good, this is what it’s all about; that’s bad, that’s not worth your money, buy this. Oh sure, lot’s of people out there ready, willing and able to follow someone like that. We see it everyday in everything. Anyway, G.B.S., with all due respect, I feel whisky is something to be enjoyed, shared, discovered, and respected, deserving of our time and to learn about it through as many platforms and people as possible to find who we understand, who we agree with and to help us maintain an open mind. I honestly don’t want someone to tell the mainstream “this is how it’s done.”

          • G.B.S. says:

            Jonathan I understand your fear and it has some validation. But the reality of the whiskey that we all love is it is in a small group and has mixed views by the masses. Whiskey to the rest of the world is either your grandfathers drink, or it is what you do shots of, although Tequila has taken that place now. We need to let the rest of the world see that whiskey, in all it’s forms , has character and depth.

            My first experience with whiskey was drinking moonshine my uncle made, and I found the it and the process of making it amazing. That experience was one of the forces that later on drove me into this industry. I love the experience, and the Joy of the hunt, learning more about whiskey, and to be honest all spirits. However both of our experiences in life are not common place. Most people won’t walk down that same path we did. Where a Parker would help is by bring whiskey into the light.

            Parker opened the door for many to start exploring wine, and he has defiantly shifted the way many producers have made their wines.. This is one of the reasons that in many wine circles he is not looked upon with favor. However he has also been the driving force behind many producers to create new and amazing wines that are in the total opposite direction of what he likes. Good producers have stayed true to who they are without making Parker friendly wine. Without Parker and the drive he has made for people to discover wine, there would not be enough interest in wine for small amazing producers like Domaine Matassa (who makes these amazingly complex and petroly wines) to make its way here from France.

            I know my views are not the popular one in forums like this and I know many of y’all feel I maybe selling out or some how dishonoring whiskey.. I am not. I truly feel that buy getting Spirits as a whole in the mainstream market we will get more artisanal and amazing products out of it. It is because I feel whisky is something to be enjoyed, shared, discovered, and respected, deserving of our time, that I want it to move out side small circles like this and into the light for everyone to enjoy… I am willing to sacrifice a few generic whiskey styles to inspire and help create more artisanal spirits.

          • You’ve definitely cleared up your point G.S.B, thanks! I can see what you mean, it’s just I fear who that person could be! I sure would hope it would be someone open minded, curious, and passionate about whisky, striving to educate, while also learning. I’ve met a few in the industry that are truly passionate for whisky, maintaining an open mind, still excited about the wonderful world of whisky even having been living in it for so many many years, impressive!

  30. Gary Gillman says:

    I watched this clip, before this I had only seen him once, on Conan O’Brien’s show. He has lots of energy and expressiveness with a good dose of humor thrown in. I later watched another show (archived on his site), on beer. My sense is he is looking at these other drinks as a change from his routine and not really trying to be authoritative. I found it interesting how he approached some of the malts, e.g. when he said adding water made them more wine-like, or that Balvenie was a balanced whisky along the lines of a good European wine whereas Laphroig CS reminded him of a New World fruit bomb wine although tasting different from that of course. I’d like to see him taste bourbon but didn’t check the archives to see if he’s done a show on that. I first heard of him some years ago when he was profiled in a Jancis Robinson article in the Financial Times. Obviously he’s a smart guy and knows a lot about wine, but he presents it in a more informal way than earlier writers and more suiting the media he has chosen to use.


  31. Gary Gillman says:

    On the point of a Parker-esque figure possibly emerging in the whiskey world and becoming known in the larger community: had Michael Jackson lived another 10 years, this might have happened to him, and it was starting to with beer. But even if another writer acquires the same exposure in the wider community, I think whisky will always be perceived differently to wine and beer. We here know that a standard measure of whisky is equal (in alcohol) to the same of beer or wine. And that whisky can and should be consumed in no larger quantities than these other drinks when you equalize for alcohol content. But I don’t think much of the larger society really gets that due to whisky’s frontier image in the 1800’s and due to just being one of the hard liquors. Somehow vodka has (partially) overcome that image, but I don’t think whisky ever will.


    • Red_Arremer says:

      Yeah Gary it’s odd how completely decontextualized vodka has become. I suspect its largely the result of successful marketing on the part of folks like Absolut.

  32. Thanks Mary, I agree with you again! You don’t have to be a professor, just a true enthusiast interested in what they’re buying, drinking and sharing with others, to learn more and of course share their experiences and knowledge, while collecting more experiences and knowledge from others, that should be the goal.
    And G.B.S., I think you’ve actually completely misunderstood me, as I completely disagree with the “Parkerization” of whisky, wine or anything else for that matter. I rely upon a variety of sources for my whisky knowledge, pooling them in order to make my own judgement, find my own tastes, styles and interests. Sure I agree with some taster’s notes more than others; I might even make a purchase because of it. I did start my whisky passion by reading Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, which led me to discover the variety of other whisky producing countries then Scotland. And not to take whisky too seriously, but to enjoy it, and taste everything, snobbing nothing. I’m glad and grateful for that, though I have moved away from him in the past years. Charles MacLean is another whom I’ve also enjoyed reading immensely, and meeting too, spending a few hours tasting a variety of whiskies together one afternoon and hearing some fun whisky-laced stories as only he can tell! My respect for Charles MacLean as a true gentleman, scholar, and whisky afficionado comes from experience. I have yet to meet Dave Broom, whom I’m hoping to one day sooner than later as many common whisky friends only have nice things to say about him. Serge is another I’d like to meet, whom I read almost daily, as his experience, humor and dedication to whisky (and music!) is unsurpassed. There are so many other whisky friends out there, Gordon Homer also at the top of that list, whom used to have the weekly Wednesday whisky chat on his Spirit of Islay site, and his monthly postings sharing his whisky adventures and tastings. Again, too many to name here, some I’ve met, others I look so forward to meeting one day, that share their experiences, tastings, and knowledge with the rest of us via social media outlets, blogs etc.
    What I don’t want is there to be one whisky guy or girl out there that the majority of people follow, and those people to tell others what they know as fact and first hand experience cause they follow or read that one person, that’s ridiculous! But that’s just the mainstream anyway isn’t it. Whether it’s whisky, wine, or whatever, I hate to be like a sheep following the farmer. Research, read, taste, experience for yourself in order to find out what you like and don’t like in whisky is my theory.

  33. David says:

    For me, there is no doubt that Michael Jackson got the closest and I actually asked him about this (around 10 years ago). He hoped that people would never take his tastings or scores that seriously and always encouraged people to find their own favourites/route through whisky. He was also appalled that drinkers would poo-poo whiskies because of his ‘lower’ scores in his Companion. Michael was not arrogant enough to ever even want to be a pillar of opinion in the whisky world and I think here lies the difference between the two markets. The VAST majority (around 99.9%) of whisky drinkers I meet are really interested and open in attitude and opinion – there is so little snobbery, one-up-manship and arrogance. Whisky drinkers enjoy everything that comes along with whisky including other whisky drinkers – I don’t think I’ve ever met more than 2 whisky drinkers who believed their opinion was the ‘right or inarguable’ voice. With wine there is so much snobbery, so much belief that there is a right and wrong that it is inevitable some people will believe they are almost ordained to preach their gospel about it.

  34. Diane says:

    Imagine being told you could only access five whisky websites for the rest of your life. What would they be? My first pick was Serge’s “WhiskyFun.” He’s my Parker and more.

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