Send me a bottle of your barleywine, I'll sit down with two or three other judges and give you some feedback for free!
What were the individual scores? Was the 23 an outlier?
Any chance you had bottle to bottle variability?
It's also possible that the competitions didn't temper the beers correctly. An ice cold barleywine can come across thin and bitter, even though the judges are supposed to ensure the beer is served at the proper temperature.
Some competitions are more stingy with points too, and some are more generous. A lot of times it comes from the judge director reminding the judges at the kick off speech that they shouldn't be afraid to give points out in the 40's, and be sure they use the entire range possible. Without such encouragement, I see it all the time, scores range from 20 to high 30's and that's it. So we're judging beers over an 18 point range instead of a 35 point range, from 15-50 (in general, we're limited to 15 as the minimum so as not to be hurtful). So some of the variability you see is from that. But within the competition they should be consistent, just more or less stingy with points.
interesting...I put my American Barley Wine this year in three different comps all within a time frame of 2-3 months. I've received scores from 23-43 on the same beer...yeah a 20 point difference from BJCP judges. The 43 was from the highest ranking judge, so I 'll have to agree with him