Recent forays into app offerings haven't been great. A quick browse through the N-dimensional space that we call "app stores" reveals a dozen or so firm options at "apping" your whisky enjoyment, all in various stages of what must be called prototype. This isn't a post reviewing those options one by one. Suffice to say that these tools either lean toward curated content (by industry professionals such as Jim Murray and his Whisky Bible) or crowd-sourcing (something like a half-fleshed Pinterest for people and their whisky collections / notes). This post is about the current drawbacks of our web-enabled tools and community, and where we could be if someone could just come up with the time and/or - ahem - capital.
I'm sure a lot of tech-trendy whisky connoisseurs rejoiced the day Jim Murray revealed his Whisky Bible app. After all, your options before that day were to either do all your research before you left for the liquor store, carry a book with you to the liquor store (I prefer Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, but only if Scotch is all you're going to buy - you see the dilemma), open a browser on your phone at the store and try to read trusted websites off that tiny screen, or put your trust in God and/or the salesman. For the sake of time, many of us went with the latter.
The world of whisky, especially single malts, is rapidly changing. Every year sees hundreds of new, rare, and exclusive releases. Who has the exposure to all of these spirits, especially if you're living overseas from the places they're being produced? Answer: people paid to write about them. Take a bow, Jim Murray, Mark Gillespie, and all the other bloggers who've struck gold (spirit) out there - you lucky bastards ;-)
Hence the limitations of curated content. There is no current elite reviewer out there who has a publication that lists every single whisky available, or even close. I appreciate that they try, but one day you're going to say "hey, what's up with this Bowmore 1991 Port Matured Limited Edition?" and turn to the app and be disappointed. Digital publication doesn't have the cost burden that comes with updating a new print edition, so these issues can be quickly addressed, but the reviewer is only human (at least, as human as someone who gets to dram for a living can be). So how do we solve the problem of data gaps?
Some apps are turning to that wonderful Six Sigma speak: crowd sourcing! Let's take a look at some of the more popular and highly-rated offerings available on Apple's App Store:
- Whiskey is a small world, in terms of people that write and talk and blog about it. What makes you think enough people want to write so much about it that you can turn this disheveled blogging/micro-blogging scene into something mass market oriented, coherent and captivating?
- Even if you could, why would they choose your offering? After all, using no shortage of tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tactilize, Storify, and more there are already ways to share the data you want with a more built-in, dedicated user base. Shoot, this blog uses some of those very tools, and its precisely because I didn't want to create a new online "whiskey community" from scratch. 2 years ago, the Mashable buzzword was "engagement" - reaching out through every online outlet possible. Now it's about simplification and consolidation. The web never stops evolving.
- The world of whiskey has unique (and frustrating) barriers to entry. It's expensive, it's mysterious, it's arcane, it is based on higher education (chemistry, biology, creative writing), and it's highly regulated. Besides, your key tech demographic - young people - is shrunken somewhat by the fact that people below drinking age (besides lacking the means or the persuasion to acquire expensive spirits) will just not see the appeal. Unless you really want to start that community for the dedicated connoisseur of PB&J vodka that is busily and secretly quaffing in his/her parents' basement.
- The whiskey Web 2.0 world is currently (mostly) pioneered by dedicated amateurs and poorly-equipped professionals who just want to add something to the public discourse. Because we love it! Hey, we can't all be renaissance men like Cereal Alchemist and combine the disciplines of web-savvy correspondence, design, marketing, blistering elocution, unassailable opinion, and awesome. Half the time, we just don't have the means to optimize our products for the people we most want consuming them - and I'm not talking about the malt, which - in the hands of a wise man - should be left to speak for itself.
What we need is a true whisky communicator. Not someone who speaks only to the converted, but who speaks to those who have yet to encounter our unique and potent brand of magic. In short, we need someone to step up and become the Penny Arcade of whiskey, of all distilled spirits. Should it someday be Cereal Alchemist? I don't know - I'll admit its a dream, but right now I'm a one man, part-time content provider. By all means, hit me up if you've got ideas. For those with the wherewithal, the time is right, and the undercurrents are massive.