Unlike, say, a Consumer Reports review of a new Samsung flat screen TV or an Auto Trader summary of the 2011 Volkswagen series, when we read an opinion from any critic it will be skewed on personal taste - both literally and figuratively. There are very few facts about books, movies, music, and whisky. "This book is 512 pages long." "This movie has Johnny Depp in it." "This whisky is bottled at 46%." Those are facts. "This book is amazingly well-written." "This movie is hilarious." "This whisky tastes like coconut and brown sugar." Those are not facts. It's important to keep the difference between those types of statements in mind. One person's own opinion is not necessarily any proof that something has quality or merit, even if that person is generally knowledgeable concerning the related subject matter.
There's nothing worse than getting reservations at a restaurant, only to hear that your friends went there and hated it. Immediately, you begin thinking about cancelling and finding another place to eat, or you scrutinize every bite on your plate. However, maybe your friends had a bad experience, or maybe they just have different taste in cuisine. No matter the reason, hearing something like that really gets your head spinning, but you'll never know what you actually think unless you block out all that hoopla and decide for yourself. Sometimes I feel like we can't make a decision anymore without consulting Yelp or some other consumer website. It's one thing to search for new recommendations, and another to let those recommendations guide you right out of your own personal impulses.
Having your own opinion and sticking with it is incredibly important in life. Nobody respects the guy who changes his belief to fit in with what's cool or hip. Yet, ironically enough, we change our opinions in the hope that doing so will make people like us more! There's not a person out there who hasn't at some point wavered in their view on a particular subject after hearing someone else disagree. Facts are what should sway an argument, however, not opinions. When Jim Murray awarded Old Pulteney 21 the title of #1 whisky in the world, I thought to myself "Really? That's crazy." However, after having some time to let that statement sink in, I thought, "Jeez, maybe I missed something." Tasting it again I realized I simply didn't concur with that judgment. That's not to say Jim Murray is wrong because he literally can't be. Factually, there's no such thing as the #1 whisky in the world, so it's just his opinion.