Reviewing & Scoring Whisky
How the Whisky Value & Transparency Score (WVTS) came to be

Scoring Whisky (My Ramblings)

There are many whisky reviewers. They can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Some have their own blog. I will add links to some of my favourites in due course.

Most, not all of course, of the reviewers will score a whisky according to their own tastes, this is usually a number, some like Stuart (Whisky Whims) has a binary score system with either a "Win or a Bin", others score out of 5, a fair few out of 10 and then the remainder out of 100.

When I was conceptualising my whisky review channel and the original WhiskyResource website, I wanted to do something different, something unique, to take away perception, subjectivity or personal bias.

I wanted to give my own rating to a whisky, I considered out of 10, however, I didn't want to give decimal places, which, you could always run the risk of doing, you have two whiskies which are so similar, you previously gave one of them an 8, the second one is better than the 8, but its not quite a 9, but you want to score it better than the 8, so you give it 8.1... before you know it, you are looking at 8.15, 8.2 etc.

For a while and you will see this on my YouTube reviews, I decided to score out of 100.
However I was never happy with scoring a whisky. You see when reviewing whisky, there are many factors to consider:

Is it a new bottle and are you reviewing the first pour?
Or is the bottle down to the label? or past halfway? What impact has an open bottle had on the experience?
Is it a sample? and was the sample the first pour or last pour, how long was the bottle open before a sample was taken.
When did you last eat? and what did you have?
What is your emotional state? what is your mood like? are you tired?

I could go on.

Many whisky enthusiasts will agree a whisky can change, even within minutes of pouring it into the glass, some take moments, others longer. Some whiskies will start to change once the bottle is open. YOU even change, they say your taste preferences change roughly every seven (7) years.
Each of these factors mean that how you score a whisky could be different to how you would have scored it yesterday or in a years time.

Whisky scoring is very subjective, it is a score based on your own palate and your preferences in that moment.
But because it is subjective, it will mean some people will agree with you and others will disagree, often with some passion.

So as I was saying, before I started to waffle, I wanted something unique, a way for a whisky to be scored and have all subjectivity removed, a way to look at a whisky and its key attributes. To have a score which would work for all whisky using the same fact based calculation with no subjectivity.

So I devised a value score, based out of 100, it takes the key whisky facts into consideration.

What the score cannot tell you is if the whisky is any good, as I state, this is very subjective and depends on an individuals taste, as such, it is important to take several reviewers points of view into account, before making up your mind about buying a whisky.

How is the Value Score calculated?

The Value Score looks at the following (Published Statements from the producer)

  • The Price of a whisky - Always stated
  • The Age - Often stated unless it is a Non Age Statement.
  • The ABV (Alcohol by volume) - Aways stated
  • Chill Filtration - Has it been chill filtered or not - This is not always stated.
  • Natural Colour - Is it natural colour or been adjusted - This is not always stated.
  • Cask Strength*- Is is cask strength or not - This is not always stated but how about Batch Strength?
  • Single Cask* - Is the whisky single cask or not - This is not always stated & isn't a well defined description.

The calculation begins with the maximum score of 100.
100 is our ceiling value, while it is possible for a whisky to score above 100, this is very rare and with whisky pricing increasing over recent times, getting more unlikely to occur.

Example calculation based on a whisky which is:

10 Year Old
43% ABV
Chill Filtered
Colour Adjusted
Not cask or batch strength and not single cask.

We look at the price and calculate the price per year (Age).
So a 10 year old whisky costing £50 would be calculated as 50/10 = 5

We subtract 5 (calculated above) from the starting 100 so 100-5 = 95

Next we look at the ABV, since a whisky is typically non chill filtered at 46% or above, we use 46% as the base point, for every % ABV below we deduct a point and for every % above to a max of 50% we give a point.

With our example whisky it is 43%, so we deduct 3 points 95-3 = 92

Next we look at chill filtration, this is a YES/NO/UNKNOWN answer
Yes we deduct 6 points
No looses no points
Unknown we deduct 6 points (We like transparency and push distilleries to be open)

In the example the whisky IS chill filtered and also colour adjusted.

So we take 92 from the previous calculation above and deduct a further 6 for chill filtration, therefore
92-6 = 86

Finally we look at colour, since this one is coloured we remove another 2 points - While colour isn't necessarily a bad thing, there are some people who believe they can taste the caramel colour, and while rare, there are some people who are intolerant (Alergic) to caramel colour - In the UK there is no legal requirement to state the whisky has been coloured - It is an accepted process that allows distilleries to keep batches of whisky consistent, having the same colour profile assists with this. But we think it is unnecessary.

So 86-2 = 84
The value score is 84

Another example,

10 Year Old
48% ABV
Non Chill Filtered
Natural Colour
Not cask or batch strength and not single cask.

The Calculation would be

50/10 = 5 (Cost per year)
100 - 5 = 95

95 + 2 = 97 (2 added for an ABV above 46%)

97-0 (No adjustment for Chill Filtration as it HASN'T been filtered)

97-0 (No Adjustment for Colour as it is natural with no added Caramel)

Final Score 97.

When we compare the two whiskies, they are at the same price, same age, one is naturally presented but is 5% ABV higher. However the former scores 84 points and the latter 97 points.
The better presented whisky is better value and the score reflects this.


We give an additional point if it is cask (batch) strength and an additional point if it is Single Cask.

In the example of the second bottle, if this were the case it would have scored 99 points as it is a completely naturally presented whisky exactly as it came from the cask with no adjustments made.

A whisky can achieve a value score of 100 for this to be achieved the whisky needs to be bottled above 50% ABV, have a price per year of less than £6 and be completely naturally presented.
Achieving a value score of 100 does happen, however, it is quite rare.

*Cask Strength - This includes batch strength.
*Single Cask - We use the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) definition which is that a whisky must remain in only one cask for its maturation to qualifying as Single Cask.

Should all of this leave you confused, then using magic and some programming skills, I have added a Value Score Calculator to the site, you can access it here Value Score Calculator (link new window)

Value Scores of -1, 0 and 101

Occasionally you will see me mention a value score which is -1 or 0 or 101, this is an explanation of those

-1 (minus one) value score are whiskies that are not necessarily rare, they do not achieve all 4 (four) presentation attributes of Non Chill Filtered, Natural Colour, Single Cask and Cask Strength. Simply put, they are just very expensive and do not reflect value for money. An example would be a 25 Year Old Whisky that is bottled at 43% chill filtered, coloured but not single cask nor cask strength with a retail price of £2,225, the value score would be calculated as exactly 0 (zero), any whisky with a calculated score below 0.5 would be assigned the -1 (minus one) value score. The whisky could be any combination of the 4 whisky attributes to still achieve -1 value score, it is calculated on the individual whisky specifics.

0 (zero) value score are those whiskies which we either do not have a historical/current price or due to our error no value score has been assigned. We look to re-evaluate each whisky as we update the database listing.

101 Diamond (one hundred and one) value score whiskies are those which are very rare or limited. An example would be this whisky: 

Glen Scotia 48 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

It is a very old and limited whisky, bottled with all 4 (four) key whisky attributes - non chill filtered, natural colour, cask strength and single cask, however since the price is prohibitively expensive, a value score between 1 and 100 cannot be assigned but it would be unfair to assign a -1 score due to its rarity and natural presentation.

This does not mean it is good value, since value cannot be assigned to such a whisky due to its rarity.

If you are interested, the calculated score would be -133.16 (minus one hundred & thirty three), at this level the information becomes meaningless and no longer serves any useful purpose.