Facebook toys with your emotions. Twitter doesn't know what it wants to be. Instagram is lovely to look at, but gives you a serious case of FOMO. Social networks are fraught with such anxiety that we forget they're supposed to be fun. That's where Distiller aims to stand out — because it's impossible for a social network based on booze to make you miserable.
Distiller launched as a whiskey recommendation engine last December and quickly rolled out iOS and Android apps to help discerning drinkers find the best bottles. But users didn't just want to curate their own whiskey collections. They wanted to chat about what to buy.
So Distiller on Thursday turned itself into something of a social network, complete with followers, activity streams, likes, and comments — all about whiskey. When the site's devoted users sign in and check out a new bottle, they'll see two tabs: One with information about the whiskey — including cost, average rating, and Distiller's expert Tasting Table score — and the other with notes left by all other users. (You can choose to make your notes private.) The second major change is the introduction of a feed, so you can check out what notes your friends are leaving or which bottles they're adding to their virtual shelf.
It sounds like a full-fledged social network, so I had to ask Distiller cofounder Mikael Mossberg: Isn't whiskey a little too niche to spur all this social activity?
"While whiskey is a niche, it's really growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "Big brands are running out of products because our appetite for it is so voracious. It's a niche, but it's a very big one, and one that's growing all the time."
And with new drinkers discovering whiskey all the time, Distiller is positioning itself as a resource to walk novices through the process — now with help from their friends. Distiller has on-boarded about 20,000 registered users since launch, but because people can use the site and install the app without signing up, Mossberg pegs the site's real user count at over 100,000.
To spread the word, Distiller is brainstorming ways to work with cocktail bars or whiskey-focused lounges so curious customers can find new bottles to taste without bartender hand-holding. The startup also has bigger plans beyond whiskey, though it'll stay true to its boozy roots. Tequila and mezcal have loyal fans, and the craft beer movement is taking over America, so those are natural fits for the network's next phase.
"We built [Distiller] because we wanted to use it, but seeing the reaction to it has been really cool," Mossberg said. "We talk with big international liquor brands who get super excited when we roll out a new feature. We talk to different distilleries that say when new bottles are trending they pass it around."
Whiskey might be a strange subject for a social network, but Distiller's got a built-in fan base of liquor aficionados that might just jump at the chance to chat about their booze of choice.
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