Last week, I talked about the difficulty of branching out and trying new whiskeys. It’s hard to plunk down your hard-earned cash on something you don’t know you’ll like. Turns out, I’m not the only person to notice.
Distiller is a new app designed to help you choose your next bottle of whiskey.
Other apps give you tasting notes and ratings, but Distiller looks at your personal ratings, as well as expert ratings and flavor profiles, and suggests your next whiskey purchase.
It has some fun features. When looking for a new bottle, it asks where you will be enjoying it: by the fireplace, poker night, outdoors, etc. Sadly, there is not an option for “in front of the TV watching House of Cards,” because that’s my real answer (although you can choose the couch on the iPad version). I haven’t played around with it enough to detect a pattern in how the recommendations change based on location, but it’s still fun.
For each recommendation you request, you can specify a region (American, Scotch, Irish, World), a price range, how adventurous you would like to get, and whether you’re looking for a gift, something new, something for your collection, etc.
As you rate whiskeys and add your favorites to your “Top Shelf,” Distiller learns your preferences. I rated a handful, and loaded up my top shelf, and the recommendations were pretty good. Glenmorangie Original was the first recommendation, and I do indeed love that Scotch.
As part of the recommendation, it shows both a detailed and a simple flavor profile. Glenmorangie Original is listed as “Fruity and Sweet,” which seems fairly appropriate. Looking at the more elaborate profile, you can see that it is low on saltiness and peat, relatively high on vanilla, richness, and full flavor.
It also lists other similar whiskeys you may like, with modifiers. For example, the Glenfiddich 12 is listed as similar, but “less sweet.” I find these “similar” whiskey recommendations very helpful for finding a whiskey to fit a certain category. For example, if you’re a George T. Stagg drinker, and want to know what to buy when you can’t find it, Distiller lists William Larue Weller (well, that won’t exactly be easier to find), but also lists Stagg Jr. and Col. E.H. Taylor, both of which are excellent suggestions for someone looking to scratch a Staggish itch.
For now, Distiller is only available for Apple iOS, but the Android version is in the testing phase and should be ready soon. They have already begun adding features, such as showing average user ratings in addition to the expert ratings, although most of the whiskeys don’t have enough user ratings yet for that to show up.
The app is very new, and will grow and deepen with time as the community of users grows. One area that is still glaringly lacking is the social networking component. You have the ability to make a profile and upload a photo, but so far, there is no way to link up with friends, and the Facebook and Twitter integration is pretty rudimentary.
I would like to see the capability to follow certain users, when I find someone whose tastes closely match mine. Or better yet, have those users suggested to me based on similarity in our top shelves and ratings. I would also love to be able to request recommendations based on a particular flavor profile.
Finally, the main thing Distiller needs is for the experts to drink more whiskey. The selection is decent, but I have searched for several whiskeys that were not yet in the database.
So drink up, experts… Let me know if you need any help with that!
Overall, Distiller is a great idea that may have released a few months too soon. For the average user right now, though, the recommendation engine will work well once you’ve rated some whiskeys, and the “You may also like” similar whiskeys will be useful for those who don’t want to bother with making a profile and doing ratings. Just search for your favorite and look at the similar offerings.
I’m eager to see the development of more social components of the app. Once those come online, look for me! My username is WhiskeyPam.
If you want to check it out, but don’t have an iOS device, you can play with Distiller on their website. To follow progress and new developments, as well as general whiskey chatter, you can also follow their blog.
When Pam isn’t living some imaginary fabulous whiskey lifestyle, she can be found hanging at home in her PJs with her husband and school-aged twins, or driving her glamorous minivan shuttling the kids to dance and gymnastics. She also writes a blog focusing on self-love, body acceptance, and being a mom at Pam-a-rama ding dong. With the more lucrative half of her brain, she works as a statistician and scientific writer. Follow her on Facebook (facebook.com/whiskeypam) and Twitter (@pamdesmond)!