I have nearly finished my bottle of whisky. I would like to make an informed decision when purchasing my next one. I know a little bit about whisky but not enough to make a confident decision. I found a dataset from Glasgow University. Can I use data to make a better decision?
After digging around in this data, I've found a few new ways to think about my whisky purchase. I also found Brian Cox clearly enjoying himself while helping with the pronunciation.
Contents of the dataset
There are 86 individual distilleries contained in this dataset. Here they all are on a map.
Each of these distilleries is given a score between 0 and 4 over 12 different taste categories.
This means that there are 12 ⨉ 86 = 1,032 observations in this dataset. We'd need to hold them all in our head at once to make an informed decision, which is beyond me. There are a few rules of thumb that we can use to narrow down our decision making criteria.
Geography of Scotland
One of the easiest things to get your head around is the geography of Scotland. The geography of Scotland is thought to have quite an impact on the characteristics of the whisky.
In particular there are two regions with a very high concentration of distilleries. Islay and Speyside.
Islay is an island on the west coast, in the island group called the Inner Hebrides. When you think about Islay whisky, you think about big, smoky, peaty whisky. You can see that this is the case, particularly in the three distilleries in the south coast.
The second area that has a high concentration of distilleries is Speyside. I've highlighted on this map the River Spey, which gives this area its name. More than 60% of Scotland's whisky comes from Speyside. I can't find out why so much whisky comes from Speyside. Some people claim that the area has water and climate that is particularly suitable for whisky production, but I can't verify that.
When you think about Speyside whisky you think about lighter, relaxed whisky. This does seem to be the case, but you also notice that there is a lot of variation between whiskies that are even right next to each other. There's something else going on here.