Whiskey, like wine, can be a polarizing drink. There's a huge range of quality. What appeals to one person might not taste great to another. And expertise doesn't come quick.
But as of last week, would-be whiskey drinkers can breathe a sigh of relief. There's a new app on the market designed to help you get a handle on the wily distilled beverage favored by everyone from Lady Gaga to Mark Twain.
"Distilld was built for those of us who can't tell the difference between a 91 and 92 and 93 point rating," says Stu Grubbs, founder of Distilld. "It was born out of necessity for me. I really enjoyed using apps like Untappd for beer, but there was nothing quite like it for whiskey." Other whiskey apps, he says, are encyclopedic in nature and lack the interactivity he was looking for. "If you walk into the store and you see hundreds of bottles, where do you start?"
Where Grubbs started was in Chicago. He began designing an app that would serve the needs of all whiskey drinkers, from novices to those hoping to become aficionados. Two years later, with the help of a developer and a small team, he had a final design. Distilld launched in Apple's App Store last week.
Distilld combines label scanning technology with community features and a buying guide. Users can explore some 6,000 whiskeys from more than 500 distilleries, see their ratings and reviews, record whiskey-tasting experiences, and share whiskey knowledge or receive recommendations from friends. The app even allows you to create a personalized virtual whiskey "cabinet" to showcase your collection of favorites.
Another feature that sets this native app apart is that it can function without an Internet connection, something Grubbs felt was vital to ensuring easy use. "You can use the app's image recognition to look up a whiskey anywhere, in a restaurant, bar, or store," he says. "Scan a bottle and use it as a purchasing guide on the spot."
Grubbs stresses that he and his partners wanted to build something that everyone could use, regardless of their level of whiskey knowledge. "We aren't a venture-funded startup group of app developers, or music execs trying to cash in on a trend," he says. "We're just four whiskey drinkers from Chicago doing our best to build an app for people like us." A second iteration of the app is pending App Store approval, and version 1.1 will include social media integration along with the ability to post tasting notes to Facebook and Twitter. Additional features like a check-in and achievement system along the lines of Foursquare are also on the way.