Bespoke Unit uses a quantifiable approach to its spirits and liquor reviews. For this, it has developed a review matrix called the Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula.
In this guide, you will learn all about the Liquor, how it works, how to use it for your own reviews, and download a black printer-friendly version:
- What Is The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula?
- Download The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula
- How To Review Spirits With The Liquor Formula
- Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula Scoring
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read out the entire detailed guide.
Learn All About The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula
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What Is The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula?
The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula is a review matrix that we designed in order to quantify the scores that we attribute to the beverages that we cover. It follows the original fragrance formula that was made in 2017 as well as the cigar formula that came afterwards.
After a three-month trial period in early 2021, the Liquor Formula was tweaked to make it more accurate and beginner-friendly. We consulted a number of professionals and Reinhard Pohorec assisted us in finalising the updated version.
Its objective is to render reviews more transparent by presenting a precise methodology for our readers. It has also been made so that’s comprehensive yet quick to read if you don’t have time to watch or read the entire review.
By justifying every point with an individual dot to fill on the sheet, the formula clearly illustrates a beverage’s strengths and weaknesses.
As we had already developed the Whisky Matrix and Rum Reviewer, we realised that different sheets for every type of beverage might be confusing.
Therefore, the Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula was designed to be universal so that it can be used for any alcoholic spirit or fortified and aromatised wine. As a result, we will be progressively retiring the old review sheets in favour of the new Liquor Formula.
Download The Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula
We have created a blank Bespoke Unit Liquid Formula, which you’re welcome to use for your own reviews! Simply download the print-friendly PDF below. It has been made for US letter paper but it will also fit A4 sizes.
You’re free to post your reviews online, too. If you do, we ask just that you mention or tag us depending on the platform and that you link back to this article if you can.
How To Review Spirits With The Liquor Formula
You can learn about each section of the liquor formula as we cover each section:
- Properties (Unscored)
- Robe (10 Points)
- Nose (30 Points)
- Palate (50 Points)
- Experience (10 Points)
- Cocktails & Pairings (Unscored)
You can jump ahead by using the links above or scroll down to read it all.
1. Properties (Unscored)
This section of the formula simply lists out the various details of the beverage to provide the reader with a clear overview of what’s being reviewed.
- Region: The area or appellation where the beverage is made.
- Type: The variety of beverage being reviewed (e.g. gin, vodka, cognac, etc).
- Base: What raw material the base alcohol is made from (e.g. grain, beets, molasses, grapes).
- Age Statement: Any indicators of whether the beverage as been aged.
- Casking: In what vessel(s) the beverage has been aged if applicable.
- Additives: Any additional ingredients added to the beverage (e.g. caramel, herbs, spices).
- Chill Filtration: Whether the beverage has been chill-filtered or not.
- Alcohol By Volume: The beverages alcoholic content as an ABV percentage.
Indeed, most of the above are pretty self-explanatory. However, while we endeavour to provide a detailed overview, not all the information is readily available.
For instance, some producers may be quite secretive about the ageing process and any additional ingredients in the beverage. Therefore, we research the beverage as much as is reasonably possible and include what we can.
2. Robe (10 Points)
The first scored section of the formula analyses the visual aspects of the beverage. As the appearance of the liquid doesn’t always reflect the quality of the drink, it only represents 10% of the final score.
After selecting the liquid’s hue using a visual scale, the reviewer attributes it a word of their choice that reflects the drink’s colour.
Its clarity is then evaluated on how well it lets through the light without distorting it. While this factor can help indicate its purity, it isn’t necessarily accurate.
Afterwards, the viscosity is reviewed according to several possible factors:
- Scallops & Legs: The speed and thickness of tears down the side of the glass.
- Residue Test: How sticky is the drink when a drop is rubbed between the palm of the hands.
- Swirling: How the liquid moves in the glass.
- Viscometric Potential: The amount of whirls in the glass when a drop of water is added.
As this section is somewhat difficult to accurately assess, it is at the discretion of the reviewer on how it is approached. Given that colouring and thickening agents can be added to modify its appearance, we approach it at a high level by evaluating its merits.
3. Nose (30 Points)
Tasters each have their own methods for smelling a beverage. Generally, we approach it by placing the nose as far into the glass as possible and taking several deep inhalations.
We then evaluate the following considerations:
The nosefeel is felt in the nasal cavity but doesn’t necessarily reflect the aroma. Instead, it reflects the effects of the beverages aromatic compounds:
- Warming Effects: Alcoholic, Peppery, Prickly
- Cooling Effects: Mentholated, Eucalyptic, Drying
In order to standardise our reviews, we aim to only select from the above options unless there’s a good reason. These are based on The Sensory Evaluation Of Whisky section in Charles Maclean’s Whiskypedia.
The aromas experienced in the nose are narrowed down to three distinctive descriptors to summarise the overall bouquet. Aromas and descriptors aren’t scored in the formula as they can’t really be objectively assessed.
However, they are indirectly evaluated by the factors that follow, which can each earn a potential 10 points.
Intensity (10 Points)
The richness of the aromas is judged on a 10-point scale from “mild” to “full”. This evaluation includes their lucidity, their strength, and how they interact with the nosefeel.
Complexity (10 Points)
A beverage’s nose is evaluated by the diversity of the aromatic families that are present. For instance, if it only consists of three types of spice, it’s not overly complex. Meanwhile, if it has an assortment of fruit, spice, and mineral notes, it indicates a higher level of complexity.
Similarly, the complexity’s score can reflect how to aromas are nuanced and the way that they interact with one another.
Balance (10 Points)
Our olfactive receptors are just as sensitive if not more so than our palates. Although a beverage’s balance is often evaluated in the mouth, it can also be assessed on the nose.
The balance analyses how well the nasal cavity is evenly stimulated in a way that doesn’t focus on one area more than the others. Similarly, the balance can be affected if the drink is too sweet, too alcoholic, or if its nosefeel is too strong in one way or another.
4. Palate (50 Points)
Precisely half of the potential points are found in the palate and for good reason! Indeed, while there are many factors in a beverage’s quality, the taste is by far the most important.
It consists of the following scored and unscored factors:
Primary Tastes (Unscored)
Here, we just list the primary flavour or flavours of the beverage. It can feature one or several of the following:
It’s unscored and serves just to provide an insight into the beverage’s overall taste.
Tasting Notes (Unscored)
Whether reviewing fragrances, cigars, or beverages, Bespoke Unit uses a rule of three. In short, the sensorial experience consists of a start, a middle, and an end in which there we include three separate descriptors.
For beverages, we refer to these as the “opening”, the “heart”, and the “finish”. The opening describes the flavours when the beverage first comes into contact with the palate. These often consist of the most volatile aromatic compounds.
The heart will often reveal itself after just a few second when the beverage has oxidised and interacted with the taste buds. Meanwhile, the finish consists of the final notes that evaporate on the tongue just after swallowing.
Like in the nose, they’re not scored directly but assessed indirectly by the factors that follow.
Mouthfeel (10 Points)
Unlike the nosefeel, the mouthfeel is scored since it plays a significant role in a beverage’s quality. The mouthfeel effects are attributed with descriptors from the following options:
- Warming: Alcoholic, Fiery
- Cooling: Mentholated, Eucalyptic
- Coating: Oily, Creamy
- Spicy: Peppery, Chilli
- Astringent: Drying, Furry, Powdery
- Spritzich: Fizzy, Sherbert
As with the nosefeel, we try to remain loyal to this selection of descriptors in order to standardise our reviews. Similarly, they were sourced from Whiskypedia Charles Maclean.
The mouthfeel can simply be assessed according to its smoothness as well as the texture it produces. The reviewer also analyses its weight and how well it envelops the palate in order to give it a score out of 10.
Complexity (10 Points)
Similar to the nose’s complexity, this section evaluates a beverage’s diversity of tasting notes. The reviewer considers the variety of different aromatic families (spices, aromatic herbs, fruit, musks, etc).
Similarly, how notes interact with one another can be insightful. A good indicator of a complex beverage is when two or more notes combine to develop an accord. For instance, individual descriptors of cream, caramel, and vanilla can potentially evoke a whole dish like crème brûlée.
Flavour (10 Points)
When scoring the flavour, the review considers the intensity of the aromas in the opening, heart, and finish. Their richness and depth are evaluated in order to produce a total score out of 10.
Harmony (10 Points)
A beverage’s harmony reflects its balance. A harmonious beverage will leave a pleasant or neutral sensation on the palate while it is being tasted. If the drink is too acidic, it may cause excessive salivation whereas one that’s too drying can leave the mouth parched.
The reviewer also analyses how well the drink evenly stimulates the palate. A high score reflects an even stimulation whereas a drink can be penalised if it focuses too many sensations in any particular area of the palate.
Length (10 Points)
The length assesses a drink’s finish and how long it lingers on the palate once swallowed. The reviewer simply swallows the drink and mentally counts the seconds until a clearly noticeable flavour has faded.
For wine, the length is comparatively short and usually lasts around 10 seconds. However, when reviewing spirits, liquor, and fortified wine, a point is earned for every 2 seconds flavour lingers on the palate.
5. Experience (10 Points)
A select number of points have been set aside on the formula to evaluate the beverage’s presentation, high-level usage thoughts, and value for money. These consist of the following factors, which are each worth 2 points:
- Label: The bottle and label’s quality, attractiveness, and attention to detail.
- Packaging: The quality and aesthetics of any additional packaging.
- Versatility: The variety of ways that the drink can be enjoyed.
- Occasion: The versatility of the circumstances the beverage can be served.
- Value: The beverage’s value for money given the experience and price paid.
6. Cocktails & Pairings (Unscored)
The final section of the review formula features cocktail and pairings ideas. These aren’t scored but are included to offer an insight into the ways the beverage can be enjoyed.
Cocktail suggestions can include anything from simple mixers to elaborate concoctions. Meanwhile, the pairings can include accompaniments such as food and cigars as well as ways that the beverage can be used as a cooking ingredient if relevant.
Bespoke Unit Liquor Formula Scoring
As mentioned earlier in this guide, the objective of the Liquor Formula is to quantify our reviews with accurate rather than arbitrary scoring. Each dot on the sheet represents a single point. Given that there are 100 dots, they also equal the final percentage.
Therefore, the liquor formula can use a full 100-point scale. Since this results in a wide range of scores, some of ours may appear quite low given that some popular publications often only rate products 80% or above.
As a result, we directly convert the score into a proportional 5-star grading system to make it easier to understand:
- 81% – 100%: 5 Stars [Outstanding]
- 61% – 80%: 4 Stars [Good]
- 41% – 60%: 3 Stars [Average]
- 40% or less: 1 – 2 Stars [Mediocre]
At Bespoke Unit, we don’t publish reviews that are rated below three stars and would score as “mediocre”. If possible, we contact the brand directly to provide them with constructive feedback. Otherwise, we believe that publishing negative reviews will only do more harm than good.
Now that you have read our guide to the liquor formula, here are a few related resources: