Communities of booze connoisseurs have existed on the Internet for ages, but they weren't exactly easy to find or join. If you're a casual whiskey drinker, you're not going to ask a forum full of diehards if Jim Beam or Wild Turkey will go over better at your next dinner party. But a new breed of apps proves booze--from delivery to discussion--pairs well with technology.
We covered whiskey recommendation engine Distiller when it launched a year ago and checked back in to see if the site, which has since launched iOS and Android apps and widened its scope to social networking, has found solid footing in such a niche area.
The app has racked up 115,000 downloads since launching on iOS in February, and Distiller founder and CEO Mikael Mossberg estimates another few hundred thousand people use the service regularly without signing in. You don't have to register to search for recommendations or read Tasting Table reviews of bottles written by top experts in the field. There are more than 250,000 whiskey searches a month on average, and people have offered up 3 million recommendations in the last year.
"We built Distiller for this new generation that was discovering whiskey for the first time, and we knew that was a pretty huge chunk of people," Mossberg said. "Whiskey is on pace to outsell vodka now in the U.S. for the first time in a decade. We wanted to build something not for connoisseurs but people who want to try something new at the bar or at the store and didn't want to read a long blog post."
Distiller's numbers are small compared to, say, Facebook, but the network's incredibly narrow focus limits its potential user base. No teens here. No vodka drinkers, either.
If you search for Distiller in the App Store, which accounts for 80 percent of the network's users, you'll notice it's been awhile since an update dropped. Mossberg said major changes are in the pipeline with a major partnership announcement expected in a few weeks. But don't expect Distiller to deviate from whiskey--at least not anytime soon.
But Distiller isn't the only booze-based online community. Untappd has become the Facebook for beer, as one App Store reviewer described it. Other apps like Thirstie and Drizly are promising on-demand liquor delivery, part of the inescapable Uber-for-everything trend. Distiller can't bring you the whiskeys you want to try, but it might make you a more serious drinker. Or at least a more educated one.