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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale - Church-Key Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch AleChurch-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

49 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 49
Hads: 92
Avg: 3.63
pDev: 21.21%
Wants: 3
Gots: 10 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Church-Key Brewing Company visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy |  6.25% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2002

This unique beer was made as a connection with John and his Celtic family heritage. Ne Oublie, is the Graham Clan ancient family motto, indeed all that have tasted Holy Smoke can say that this Beer will never be forgotten. The Graham clan tartan is also used on the packaging. Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is a dark, strong ale that uniquely utilizes Scottish imported peat-smoked whisky malt, it is smooth, rich and malty, dominated by these peat roasted smokey notes.

17-35 IBU
View: Beers (14) | Events
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Reviews: 49 | Hads: 92
Photo of Sammy
3.93/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Black and licorice taste exceeded smoke taste, and no smoke aroma. More roast than smoke, like a stout, Thats good. Much carbonation, however. New formulation? Some fruitiness and malt made it balanced.. Surprisingly enjoyable directly form them at the 2004 St. Lawrence fest.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a black color ale with medium head with very little retention. Aroma is lightly smoked with some strong malt. Taste is quite enjoyable, almost like a mix between a light scotch ale with some notes of malt a little bit of smoke. As previously mentioned in past rating, body is a bit thin and I’m not sure this should be considered a smoke ale since there is very little smoke in this.

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Photo of liamt07
3.82/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draught at WVRST, into a pint glass. Scotch ale made with smoked peat. Alcohol on this was higher than listed here, around 6.3% I believe.

Dark red/burgundy, with clarity around the edges. Bubbles serve as a very transient head, but ultimately, nothing retains and only shreds of lacing. Nose has chocolate, light peatiness and strong dark caramel notes. Taste has smoked wood, peat and a bit of burnt plastic, but this subsides as the glass warms. More chocolate and rich caramel notes. Malty scotch ale character comes through in the finish. Medium body, low carbonation and a nice pairing with my Boerewors. Easily consumed and I would hit this up again.

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Photo of biegaman
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer looks smoked alright, but not charred. Despite the blackish colour a surprising amount of clarity is afforded; I'd liken it more to a shadow than a piece of onyx. It is underlined by sleek, polished brown highlighting. Its head is tinted the shade of dirty snow and, accordingly, melts all away.

The aroma smells less of actual smoke than it does smoldering pellets of hickory and mesquite wood; it's less the smell of a smoke-house than that of a kitchen with a wood-burning stove. Despite the first impressions of hickory and mesquite, the beer is far from 'Southwest' in style - it uses peat smoked malt after all and if the bouquet is to be placed anywhere in the world it's undoubtedly Scotland.

Besides that, roasted chocolate malt and hints of kettle caramelization lie just beneath the surface. The flavour, similar to the bouquet, is grounded in a tarry, roasted and rather heavy maltiness that is somewhat coffee-ish in character and has bold notes of carob. There is also a prominent amount of cured meat flavour (probably owing to the impression of hickory); it might deceive you into thinking it was brewed in a deli.

The smoky character is best described as 'smoldering' (a slow burning smoke with no flame - ironic, since peat burns quite fast). It doesn't seem like the result of a forest fire nor does it reek extensively of bacon. If anything, it's closest to a single malt scotch like Talisker or Laphroaig. It compromises not a single ounce of smoke and yet comes across a bit more approachable (and a bit less intimidating) than a bona fide rauchbier.

It's about damn time Church Key bottled Holy Smoke! I've enjoyed the beer for years on-tap but it'll be far more convenient now to keep my own stash at home (especially as this pairs so well, as one might imagine, with barbecued meats). The beer's peat-y scotch qualities make it an excellent candidate for slow sipping, although it is quenching enough to gulp right down. Either way, it's always greatly enjoyed.

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Photo of Derek
3.6/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had this at the Volo Cask day, Oct. 22, 2005.

A: Deep brown-black.

S: Subtle, pleasantly light smokiness.

T: Sweet (a little syrupy), but well balanced. Smokey caramel, reminiscent of a Scotch whiskey (smokey, but not peaty or medicinal). Finishes with a slight alcohol warmth.

M: Moderate to full body/mouthfeel.

D: Hard to quantify. It's a heck of a lot more drinkable than a Rauch beer, but not as easy as a Raftman from Unibroue.

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Photo of Viggo
3.73/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Volo.

Pours a clear very dark ruby red, approaching a dark brown, thin tan head forms, quickly settles to a very thin ring around the glass, a few lace spots stick. Smell is neat, quite smokey, iron, caramel and biscuity malt, more smoke, light peat, brown sugar, hemp, pretty interesting. Taste is similar, nice smokey sweetness up front, brown sugar and caramel, light chocolate, roast, peat, earthy, hempy bitterness. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with medium carbonation. A little messy but a nice beer, smokey without tasting like beef jerky.

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Photo of tbeckett
3.84/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I'll go ahead and say I don't typically like smokey beers but the sample got me interested. Pint at Black Tomato. From notes.

A - Poured black with a one finger eggshell head. Some carbonation coming up the side. Small lace chunks left over with an island of filmy retention.

S - Really strong malt, some roasty notes are mild, dark fruit is prevalent, chocolate and smoke too.

T - Roasty with smoke that isn't overpowering. Some chocolate, dark fruit, and bacon in the finish.

M - Nice carbonation, medium body, a little dry in the finish with lingering smokiness.

O/D - What I want from something smoked. I don't want that to be the only element. Smokey enough to make it interesting. Good.

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Photo of EgadBananas
3.87/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to cattersley! He was wounded, but not dead!

Pours a dark brown with ruby edges. Given the circumstances, the slight ring of head and bubbles are beautiful! The aroma is meaty, smoky, and rich with caramel. Taste is sweet, somewhat nutty, smoky and with a mild bacon not. Not as robust as the aroma. Good feel overall.

Enjoyed this...love me a meaty, bacon smoked beer!

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Photo of kwjd
3.72/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Volo. Pours a dark amber-orange colour with thin white head. Little lacing and the head dissipated fairly quickly. Smells of chimney smoke and sweet caramel. Flavour is dominated with smoke, which is to be expected with a smoked beer, though the flavour is lacking the depth that I expected. Nice carbonation level. I typically get tired of drinking this by the end of each pint, though I have had it about 4 or 5 times so I do come back.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.47/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this one at the LCBO in Waterloo.

From a bomber into a snifter

APPEARANCE: Pours a one finger, off-white or light tan head with decent retention. Quickly fades to a splotchy wisp and ring. Clear dark brown body and modest levels of carbonation. Splotchy wisp remains but leaves no real lacing down the glass.

SMELL: Some peat notes, leather and light chocolate on the nose. Toasted grains, brown and chocolate malts and lightly smoky as well. Not nearly as smoke dominate as I'd feared, but actually well balanced and nuanced.

TASTE: Brown and caramel malt sweetness up front, with light notes of peated malts and leather at the swallow. Mild but lingering of smoked malts, some caramel sweetness, bitter chocolate and peat flavors. Pretty well integrated and well balanced.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. A touch light on the palate, creamy, goes down smooth and finishes a touch dry. Good feel.

OVERALL: This was actually quite good. A solid smoke beer for sure. Well balanced and quite interesting and complex as well. Glad to have tried it. Not something I'll have to rush out for again, but easy to drink and definitely something for fans of the style. Recommended.

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Photo of peensteen
3.7/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brownish ruby colour with amber hues, light off white head, some lace. Smell is malty, roasted, caramel and toffee, light alcohol notes, smokey malt. Taste is smokey and roasted, caramel, sugars, toffee, some alcohol, smokey and bitter hop. Medium carbonation, medium body, good full feel. Not bad and at times a tad on the sweeter end of things but fairly well balanced and quite good.

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Photo of bobsy
3.66/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Draught at Volo. Wonderful mahogany pour, but what head there is is pretty sparse. Nice savoury aroma of smoked cheddar comes off this one.Taste is also of smoked cheddar or meat, with some chocolate malt. Palate needs to be a bit thicker to make this a well-balanced beer, but good nonetheless.

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Photo of SebD
3.74/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: It has a nice deep mahogany/amber color to it. It has a nice creamy beige head that dies down moderately fast and leaves little lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of toasted malts, chocolate, a bunch of smokiness and some woody notes as well.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has some smoky notes, toasted malts, light chocolate, some sweet caramel and faint wood.

Mouthfeel: It has a medium carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied by good flavors and aromas.

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Photo of pootz
3/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Experienced on tap at the Church-Key brewery.

Tapped a dark clear mahogany color with a frothy dirty cap.

Smells very "medicinal"....with some fruit and spice.

Started thin with an overpowering smoke taste the body was thin for such a good looking ale,,,then finished rather tart with the hops kicking in. A let down for such a good looking ale.

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Photo of thehyperduck
4.09/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle from the LCBO listed at 6.2%; best before Mar. 6 2013. I've generally heard good things about Church Key, but since I live outside of their distribution range, finding any of their offerings has been a tad troublesome. Grabbing this one while shopping in London was thus a bit of a no-brainer, but the fact that I haven't tried a new smoked beer in the better part of a year also factored into the decision. Poured into a mug.

Pours a brownish cola colour - seemingly opaque at first, but holding it up under the light reveals the liquid's inherent clarity (and some ruby red tinges). Topped with one finger of light beige-coloured head that recedes relatively rapidly, leaving behind a dense collar around the edge, and a thin, wispy film at the surface. The aroma is rich and enticing, with plenty of roasted malts and molasses underlying notes of bacon, glazed ham, peat and hickory smoke, with a faint hint of coffee grinds that is difficult to separate from the rest of the bouquet.

This is tasty stuff, with a wide range of different flavours mingling and (more importantly) complementing each other nicely. Roasted malts, caramel and molasses come through first, followed by some ambiguous hints of dark fruit. A few peaty notes. The smoke is only an ephemeral presence at first, but surges forth in the finish, imparting hints of smoked wood and bacon/pork that linger into the aftertaste. The flavour definitely improves a little as it warms. On the lighter side of medium-bodied, with mild carbonation that gives this brew a smooth, slick mouthfeel. Very drinkable, but more suited to washing down your dinner than sessioning.

Final Grade: 4.09, a solid A-. Church Key's Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is one of the more interesting brews I've had in the last month or so. The smokiness is not as intense or meaty as in genuine rauchbiers, but it's still a constant, distracting presence throughout the flavour profile, which I feel makes this particular brew a perfect introduction to smoked beers for any interested newbies. I enjoyed this bottle on its own, but this is the sort of beer that is really begging to be paired up with (or used in!) some sort of hearty pork/beef dish. All in all, this was a fabulous OCB offering that I wish was available locally! I'll definitely keep an eye out for more stuff from this brewer, and would eagerly encourage others to sample this.

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Photo of soju6
2.73/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: Dark brown with a good head that fades to light lacing.

S: Some malt and caramel aroma, but mostly of smoke.

T: Initially a bit sweet but smoke flavor seems to overwhelm the senses.

F: Moderate body, but somewhat rough texture.

D: Not really a style I enjoyed. The smoke flavor and aroma seem to hide the real beer.

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Photo of TerryW
2.62/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Cola brown and red. Pours with a moderate head that immediately disappates to . . . nothing. I mean utterly zero. Quite disappointing.

Aroma is gently smoky, but doesn't give up much of anything else. Similarly the taste is subtle, but doesn't offer much else in the way of anything interesting past a little smoke. Carbonation is quite sharp and doesn't add to the experience.

I also had this on tap at the 2003 Toronto Beer Festival and quite enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to picking up a six of this. I'm afraid the bottle didn't quite live up to what I remembered from the tap.

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Photo of mick303
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle, 6.2% couldn't find a freshness date. Poured into a wine glass, colour is pretty much black dark brown, head recedes really quickly, leaving a slight film and a trace of lacing.

Smell is strongly suggestive of smoky and ash notes. Charred barley malt. Bonfires, maybe a trace of smoky dark fruit underneath. Burnt chestnuts. So earthy hoppiness but it is pretty buried. Together its pretty unique, a bit dominated.

Taste as expected has a bit smoky impact but it is far from being one-dimensional. A bit coastal and briny, with seashore fires, fishnets and a bit of lightness to it. Some of the char aspect but some really unique other flavours going on, with a slight sweetness also. Bitterness is pretty mild, lots of (heavy) roast malt profile. Finish is pleasantly smoky

Mouthfeel is moderate, heavily toasty, slick and smoky, a bit thin with a light carbonation. It does drink pretty well and could be considered refreshing despite its somewhat intense flavour. Really nice. Alcohol doesn't really come through.

I had heard this was a love-or-hate-it beer. I was pleasantly surprised. Smoked a nice amount to give it definite character, and would make a nice food paring, but not so much as to ruin the beer for my palate. Quite a cool flavour interplay, could use a bit more body, and maybe a bit dominated by the peat and char, but otherwise worth checking out.

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Photo of CAMRAhardliner
4.17/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a great smoked beer that I tried at Cest What tonight.

It pours a very dark ruby - near black. The head quickly becomes a thin patch and lace is barely existent. The aroma is of a peaty. lightly smokey malts. The hops are very minimal in the nose.

The taste is a surprise. Its much smokier than I was expecting. Theres a lot of campfire and smoked meat flavors. The malts are also very prominent. They are roasty and fruity. The mouthfeel is mildly carbonated and very full bodied.

Overall this is an excellent smoked beer. While it isnt as smokey as Schlenkarla, its still very tastey. I highly recommend this.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
3.77/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

650 ml bottle purchased on sale for $4.25 CDN. Served fridge temperature into a pint glass.

Appearance - a dark ominous garnet coloured beer is poured with a small finger of head that doesn't last. Clear but too dark to see much of anything through the beer. Minimal lacing and barely a cap of froth on top.

Smell - a whole crap ton of smoke on this, not quiet rauchbier class but not that far off. Wood and smoke without the meatiness of that unique German style. Don't get much of anything from the whiskey notes.

Taste - holy smoke is right, plenty of smoke, burnt wood and a trace of meatiness. Trace of caramel lying underneath. No whiskey except maybe the heat at the very end.

Mouthfeel - the taste is all rauchbier, but the body is what gives this away as a scotch ale as the carbonation is nearly non- existent. Body is surprisingly light.

Overall - not something I'd drink everyday, but given the price, pretty good value for a smokey as hell scotch ale. Quite good and worth a try. A name for a beer has really been more suitable.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.45/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Volo.

Poured into a nonic. Dark brown-ruby, left a fairly sturdy head with a thin ring surviving the first few minutes.

Nose is dark malt, bread, smoke, a bit of meat and dark fruit.

Nice little smoked beer, good character to it. Smokey, but not oppressively so, as the brew has some decent malt character, caramel, chocolate and fruit to it as well. Very tasty.

Thinner bodied, slightly harsh carbonation.

Decent smoked brew, nice find on tap. Would be fun to BBQ with.

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Photo of FondueVoodoo
3.58/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

thanks to Cattersley for this trade.

A: First to note - sharp white graphic on the bottle is striking and sophisticated. the ale poured a deep black brown and glows a deep garnet when held to the light. Capped off with a finger of velvety head - it settles to a solid ring around the glass.

S: Solid smoky peat, wet wood and wet hay, deeply earthy and reminiscent of a old animal barn.

T: Reflects the smell to a T - Peaty smoke with plenty of wet wood and that barnyard funkiness. Very powerful smokiness that somewhat overshadows some of the other scotch ale notes, but as the palette adjusts to the smokiness notes caramel and dark toffee notes shine through.

M: Very subtle buzz of carbonation that supports the peaky smoke. A medium mouth feel that holds in the mouth.

O: A powerful smoky offering that pulls no punches - it's unabashedly forward in the smoky smell and taste and offers a deeply earthy and barnyard profile. It may be somewhat one sided, but does so boldly without attempting to be something it isn't.
Would be terrific with jerk chicken or bar-b-que steak, as a side dish.

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Photo of Dithyramb
3.77/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Retired? Had it just a week or so ago at Volo's on tap. Poured a deep, dark brown. Rather clear and not opaque with a short lived, large bubbled tan head. Rings of lacing. Roasted smokey malt aromas.

Taste of a caramel that had been sitting next to a campfire. Reminded me of a watered down scotch. Body lacked much of what was expected, which detracted from its drinkability. Great, real type of smoke flavor, not like they dumped some fake smoke into the batch..

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Photo of MeisterBurger
3.36/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

One thing you should know before I review this beer is that I tend not to like smoky flavors because they taste like bonfires and bonfires aren't something I like to put in my mouth.

That said, it pours a very dark color, more like a porter than anything, with a nice, velvety white head.

Smells like smoked salmon without the salmon. There's definitely some roasted malt along for the ride. It smells a bit like a porter. Very woodsy and peaty with an underlying sweet maltiness.

Taste is a smoky, peaty, oaky malt. This isn't too bad. Not as sweet as I'd expect from something that calls itself a Scotch ale but enough roasted, chocolate and caramel malt to keep it interesting. Really, the smokiness is prevalent and yet nicely restrained. I'm impressed.

The mouthfeel is a little thin for what I think they are going for here and is probably the weakest link in this beer.

It's an odd beer and a fun experience but not one I need to repeat too often.

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Photo of crwills
3.43/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Retired, eh? I've been looking forward to trying this for a while, and was even planning a trip out to the brewery to pick some up before I found out (just now) that it had been discontinued. I'm glad I tried it (at Beerbistro in Toronto), but I'm also glad I didn't go out of my way to get it, as it wasn't as good as I expected. I've definitely had better smoke beers.

Poured a pitch black with a small head that doesn't last. The restaurant was busy and the pour was somewhat lousy. Also, it was served too cold (cause I think they were in a hurry). Oh well. I waited a bit before drinking it.

Hard to discern the smell with everything else going on in the restaurant, but what was there was (of course) smoky and meaty. A little bit of bitter hops in there as well.

Sip was a bit disappointing. Less body than I expected, and a little watery. Smokey flavours were definitely present but far more restrained than some other smoke beers I've had (such as La Chaudron's Calumet or the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbiers). Definitely not BAD -- just not standout wow. Low drinkability since it just isn't good enough to put up with the baconiness for that long, but overall decent for being the only Canadian offering of this style.

OK, I'll admit, I would have picked some up at the brewery this summer anyway if it weren't discontinued. Oh well -- look forward to whatever replaces it from Church-Key.

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Church-Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale from Church-Key Brewing Company
82 out of 100 based on 49 ratings.