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.