Finally: The Gin Browser


I recently got a heads-up about a new utility from a website called FindTheBest.com. It is a gin comparison tool. They have approximately 190 gins in the database, with some extensive information about each, including a picture, typical retail price, category (London Dry, “Modern”, Genevre, etc.), and major botanicals. FindTheBest also has similar databases for Whiskey, Brandy, and Vodka, as well as Dude Ranches, Fractional Jet Ownership, Pedigree Dogs, and STD Clinics.

While some of these databases may have higher utility than the one for gin, I can see a few uses for this one too. Say you tried a new gin at some bar in Tacoma last week, and cannot now remember the name. I know, the concept of memory loss during a bar visit is kind of improbable, but stick with me. If you can remember being told, or tasting for yourself that the gin had a bit of caraway in it, the FindTheBest site will help you narrow it down to four possibilities. Of if you remember it was from Ohio, then Bob’s your uncle: It was Watershed. (Here’s my review of Watershed, by the way.)
Similarly, if you are looking for just the right gin for this new cocktail you are creating, and it needs just a hint of cinnamon…. I want to start playing with Sloe Gin, and the website has given me a few to look into more before I buy.
It is also a good resource for bloggers, as it has nice bottle images, website links, and various other information provided by the distillers.

Of course, as with any database, the information is only as good as the data entry. Some entries are oddly lacking basic info. All have ABV and price, but several don’t have botanicals, or have left many out. On the plus side, entries are moderated before being added to the database, which gives me more faith that the data that is present is at least in the neighborhood of accurate. I found only one egregious error, which is pretty damn good for an on-line database.

I did learn two big things from perusing the site.

One: Ohio needs a better selection if gin, dammit! Out of 190 gins in the database, we have about 20. Maybe. For a gin aficionado like me, this is simply intolerable, and frankly, FindTheBest, you’ve made me sad….

Two: There is some severe grade inflation out there in professional spirits rankings. One of the basic categories in the gin database is “Expert Rating”. This is a weighted average of scores from such sources as the International Wine and Spirits Competition and The Beverage Tasting Institute. The first two pages of the listings are all 5 or 4.5 out of 5 stars.
In my opinion, the “professional” graders are not giving us useful information here. That means a quarter of all gins were given a best available grade from a half or more of the “experts”. Sorry, today’s straight-A college grad, if a quarter of the class got them too, then I’m dropping grades from my consideration when hiring, because they are meaningless, or at least uninformative. (I earned my Cum Laude designations, dammit! And get off my lawn!) Five stars should only be tacked on to a very small number of products. Four should still be a damned impressive spirit, but if you look at this list, you might get the impression that 4 stars is really a C.
For what it’s worth, I wandered through the list. And of those products with ratings, I thought most were at least hierarchically in line. I won’t mention the 5 star gins (or whiskeys, vodkas, tequilas, etc.) that don’t deserve such a rarified ranking. (Please feel free to vent your spleen down in the comments, though! Please.) I will only say that to have an aggregate score of only three (on this inflated scale no less) for freaking Aviation Gin makes me want to moon the judges collectively.

Anyway, it is a fun little way to look at the products out there. Give it a shot.

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

11 Comments

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  • A gin called “Ivanabitch” gets four stars and Aviation only gets three? And Aviation and Random *Old Tom* are both genevere? I guess it’s nice to have all that info in one place, but the ratings seem… dubious at best.

    And when you get into the whiskey, having Bulleit Rye rated high than Sazerac 18 seems a little bit off.

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  • Again, the problem is with the raters, not the database, AFAICT. with the ratings. The genever thing needs fixing.

    But the big takeaway from this is that any serious spirits guy needs to henceforth ignore any of these big ratings/awards groups. Sorry guys, but grade inflation sucks and leaves giant bags of stupidity lying around for us to trip on.

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  • The fact that Plymouth gin is not the highest rated leaves me cold. You can fool around with goofy botanticals all you want to make your gin “special”, but in the end you just end up with gin with a goofy botanticals in it. Don’t get me wrong, rose petals, cucumbers, saffron, etc. are nice, but it always seems like they end up causing discordant notes in some cocktail or another.

    However, take a classic london dry gin, whereby all the botanticals are properly balanced, but the ethanol is subdued, and now we are talking. Plymouth just works in everything, and is quite alright with not taking all the attention. It’s a team player, not a prima donna.

    The site also kind of useless with respect to brandies, eau de vie’s, grappa and other regional spirits not commonly consumed on this side of the pond. For instance I was hoping they would have an exhaustive comparion of armagnac’s. Yeah, not so much, only one result came back, a brand I have never heard of. Oh well.

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  • @Doug

    I haven’t been led astray too many times by the BTI, but there are likely issues translating from their somewhat crunched 100 point scale (I almost never see anything rated under 80) to a five-point scale. And ultimately I’m going to trust the weight of bloggy opinion more than any formal rating body.

    It hasn’t (and who knows if it ever will) happened, but I can imagine that it’s pretty hard to maintain objectivity when you’re getting stuff for free.

    Gin ratings in general seem tricky since, besides juniper, there are no hard and fast requirements for botanicals. It’s going to come down to personal taste more often than not. So being able to compare botanical lists seems more useful than anything else in that database.

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  • Jason: But… Plymouth is not a London Dry Gin. It is a Plymouth Dry Gin (in fact, the _only_ Plymouth dry Gin, but that’s neither here nor there). That said, it is a damned fine gin.

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  • Have you tried Right gin? We can get it in Ohio and it’s one of my favorites. I hosted a taste testing with some friends and it won hands down. Of course, it was the 9th (and last) one we tried and I talked it up a bit so that may have influenced the voting.

    Anyhow, it’s an aromatic and I’d recommend it far above the 3.5 stars listed at FindTheBest! Thanks for the link, I’ll totally return to it before my next trip across state lines.

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  • Chris,

    Right was one of those I noted as demonstrating the oddness of the rankings. There is nothing outstanding about it, so I don’t use it often, but it is just a damn nice gin. Price aside, I’d put it above New Amsterdam, but I can accept that an expert or two could disagree with me.
    I think the larger issue is one where you can have Tanqueray and Old Raj both get 5 out of 5. Tanq’s one of the world’s premier commercial gins. I don’t happen to like it, but that’s immaterial. Bombay Sapphire is a similar situation (this one I adore). NEITHER deserves a 5 out of 5 on any scale. It simply compresses things too much. Of course, Sapphire doesn’t get 5 stars, so I’m even more disgruntled….

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  • Ben, good point. After I posted, I remembered that Plymouth isn’t technically a London dry gin. However, as I had already made a second post (that also had a spelling error in it), I decided it was best to just walk away, before making it any worse.

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