Frequently Asked Questions
How am I supposed to use this site?
There is a lot of data on this site and finding the best alcohol can seem impossible. Wanting to find a decent bottle of tequila and coming here to Proof66 you find over 850 tequilas (and counting). There are three main ways to use this website:
1) You’ve heard about something specific and you’re thinking about giving it a try (say, Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum). But you need some help to make sure you're not wasting your money. Head straight to the search field and punch in the name (or at least a piece of the name). You'll find quick information about relative rankings, price, where it’s from, and how it’s made. Those notes include professional reviews and thoughts from regular folks as well.
2) You don't know what you want exactly but you know you want something good (say, a great whiskey). And you're in a hurry and don't want to read hundreds of different reviews. Our Top Rated lists are meant to help with that. We update almost every day so those lists will change - check back often! These top rated lists give you the most accurate and up-to-date critical consensus available on the market. In seconds you can have your best possible chance of getting something great.
3) You're looking for a specific flavor (say, pineapple). Our search capabilities are highly flexible. You'll see a list of all the spirits we're aware of that feature that flavor. Want something from a boutique distillery? Type it in! You'll quickly see everything they produce that we're aware of - even the contracted labels that you might not otherwise know about. Your reviews and thoughts help the site, so register and let your opinion be heard (the distillers are watching). Let us know if you can think of other ways to make the site more user-friendly by sending us your thoughts.
What goes into your "magic" overall rating?
In general, the higher the score the better the spirit. We get that overall score as a combination from the three rating agencies we follow: the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and the Beverage Testing Institute. There are a lot of other competitions and we may add a few but these have been around for many years and established a certain credibility and breadth that we like. Higher scores from each of the competitions from a given year contribute more (of course), but receiving a score can never decrease a spirit’s overall score no matter what it is.
We favor more recent results over older scores and we also try and reward consistent results and multiple submissions. What we try to do is show all of those critics' opinions over time so that you can see the collective judgment, which we think is more useful than a stray score from a single source. Over the years, we’ve noticed that the judges tend to give higher scores to certain classes of spirits. For example, the average score of scotch is much higher than flavored vodka. For this reason, we often encourage visitors to focus on a spirit’s "tier" position, which reflects its score relative to other scores in its peer group. Given the fact that tiers are percentile rankings within each liquor type, a "tier 1" vodka could have a much lower aggregate score than that of a "tier 2" scotch.
One final note: we encourage users not to view lower scores as "bad spirits." In fact, any score means that it was at least "recommended" by the judges. If the ratings organizations don’t think a spirit is drinkable, then they will decline to give it an award at all and it would show up on our site as "unrated."
What does this number really mean?
In short, the number represents a value on the most recent judgment of the professional critics. We use a custom algorithm to combine a number of different factors to come up with a composite number that technically runs from 0 to 1,000. This number is not constant! It will change as new awards come in and older scores get even older. But in general, the best spirits are in the 600-800 range. But please remember, any number means it was recommended as at least drinkable and decent… do not make the mistake that low numbers mean bad-tasting liquor. To help with that, we divide the categories into “tiers” to show if they’re in the upper, middle, or lower third of the collective judgment.
What is the Rabble Score?
The "rabble" is everyone who isn't an expert. It is the mass populace opinion about a given bottle and operates just like the familiar Amazon.com® ratings or other rating services. It gets updated by user reviews and is the "common man's" judgment. We think this gives a nice counter to the overall critics' score - they may love some high-proof, hugely smoky scotch but eschew the candy-flavored vodka. Many "commoners" might disagree. So, in short, you Mr. and Ms. Joe Public, are the rabble. Be proud of that. And rate away.
What makes you guys think you know so much?
We barely think we know anything!! And that's exactly the point. Most websites merely give you one person's opinion on some day or another. We don't do that. We use the scores from multiple pros (where available) and balance that against the mass-populace opinion. That's the gap we're trying to fill: help you make truly informed purchasing decisions.
Why did you choose the judges that you did?
We have a couple of different things we're looking for in reporting the large-scale judging competitions. We want them to have a history; they should be pretty transparent about their results and their methods; they need to test blind and be largely independent of influence (or at least as much as possible); and they should try to use experts in the industry (though occasionally we see that "expertise" is debatable as well). Even then, they're not the end-all-be-all of evaluation. They're really just a place to start. We don't believe or agree with every movie review we see either but it's a good place to start.
Do you seriously expect me to believe you have every score from the judges here?
Nope... we do our best but we miss a few. Our first priority is to be current. We should have absolutely everything that has been rated since 2006. From there, we're working backwards as best we can. Right now, our plan is to go no further back than 2004. If you believe we've missed a score, please let us know. Additionally, we try and list every spirit in a major category but some of the more exotic stuff that we see less often—like shochu or pisco—are more likely to slip through the cracks. But we do our best.
Why aren't these scores more consistent?
Weird, isn't it? Here's something getting big marks one year from one guy and the very next year getting something way lower. Part of it is merely taste: judges' tastes are variable and, occasionally, fickle. That's why we try to reward consistency. But the liquor itself could be a bit inconsistent: different water, different ingredients, new master distiller... who knows? Another reason we reward consistency.
What's with these "lists" I'm supposed to use?
We want this to be the most useful site for liquor anywhere. These lists are for you to save and track any kind of bottle into the provided lists (bar, dream, shopping, and favorites). Make a shopping list for your spouse. Make a dream wish list full of exotic, expensive bottles. It's really all up to you!
I want to buy something. Where's my shopping cart and "buy now" link?
We have long-standing referral relationships with several different online retailers. This is strictly a referral/advertising service - we ourselves can't sell, assist in the sale, warrant the sale, or have anything to do with the sale - but with laws beginning to relax in online commerce, we can help you find spirits that are otherwise difficult to find at good prices. Not every bottle is available for sale online but we offer a filter on search results so you only have to see those that are available if you’re in a shopping mood. Does this affect our objective and neutral stance with respect to alcohol? No, not really. We want to help people get to good spirits that they enjoy drinking and referring seems a natural extension of that. Buying a whole case of $1,000 per bottle scotch is the same to us as buying a $10 bottle of vodka. We do, however, want to hear about your experience with anyone we refer you to, good or bad. We only want to work with awesome retailers.
Why would do I need to register for an account in order to make a list?
Well, obviously we need to sort people out so that we can make sure you see your lists and not someone else's. You can receive anybody's recommendations or lists without an account but if you want to interact with those lists, I'm afraid you need a user ID. We also require an ID in order to leave reviews… again, this is to ensure the authenticity of these thoughts. We don’t use your personal information for any purpose at all and will never email you unless you email us first.
Why isn't [insert your favorite bottle here] on your site?
As of early 2014, we have over 7,000 different spirits listed in our database. That's a lot but it's nowhere near the total number of spirits in the world. There are a few main reasons why you wouldn't see something you're looking for. It could be it simply hasn't been submitted for judging in the competitions we follow. We try to avoid listing "unrated" spirits (though we will in some cases). If we become aware that a specific spirit is discontinued, then we'll delete it after a period of time. It could be we just flat-out missed something in error or it's so new we're not aware of it yet. Bottom line is this: we will always, always put something in our database if we know that users want to leave their thoughts about it. Go here to send a new bottle suggestion to the liquor geeks at Proof66 and we'll work on getting it added!
Are you guys non-profit or is "Big Liquor" able to buy you off?
Well, we hate to admit it, but if Bacardi strolls up and offers us all Porsches to write nice things about their new line of flavored rums, we're probably going to do it. But in reality, Proof66 is immune to this problem precisely because we're using professional judges. While we can and do offer our own thoughts, it has no bearing on a particular spirit's ranking. The scoring we report on is objective, impartial, and - with the rabble score - built by you, the user. We are completely independent with no formal attachment to any particular organization or retailer. So far, no one's tried to buy us off.
Your score is whack! [Insert your favorite bottle here] is way better!
It's America, baby! Disagree all you want. Do it by writing your own review and become part of the rabble score and then tell all your friends to register at the site and write their review. After years of reviewing these scores, we will say that many spirits that have an unusual ingredient or flavor profile will occasionally seem to suffer in front of critics, who can tend to be more traditional in their interpretations of flavors. You should always let your own palate decide. One other thing to remember is that simply receiving a rating from a judging institution we follow means they feel the spirit is good enough to recommend. There are many spirits where the judges quietly decline to offer any sort of rating whatsoever, so don't let a low score deceive you into thinking something is of inferior quality.
I think you got something wrong... why don't you fix it?
We try really, really hard to be accurate. But even we catch mistakes every now and then. Please let us know and we'll fix it right away.
I have a judging competition and want to get my results listed… how do I do that?
We’re very cautious about adding competitive results to our combined score though we are looking to expand. To add, we’re looking for multiple years of judging, good expert panels, and a wide reach in different kinds of spirits. We also are exploring accrediting competitions to try and help ensure authenticity and validity in the mind of the consumer. Please let us know if you’re interested in exploring further.
Will you guys do a review of my spirit?
Yes, we certainly will. We like to think we have pretty sharp tastes after years of trying different things, even if we are "home schooled" in a sense. If we like your spirit, we'll write it up and post our thoughts online (we will simply decline to write anything at all if, for some reason, we don't end up liking what we tried). We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our response time and accuracy; for example, we hope to soon release a series of videos for our reviews. We will, at request, participate in formal judging at various competitions.
What’s your business model and how do I work with you?
Most of our contact is with producers and retailers. We work with producers to make sure we have good, detailed information… we do this for free and do not charge anyone anything at all to list their product. With retailers, we work on a referral basis so that people looking at a spirit can be referred directly to the retail site to fulfill the order. We also provide data services to retail outlets and even some distributors… we can provide API services to your network and lease our data so that all of our scores, notes, and other information are available to you. To our mind, this relieves a great deal of labor and effort on the retail side trying to keep up to date on all the most recent information (let the geeks at Proof66 do it!). If you’re a retailer interested in working with us on a referral basis or leasing data services (or both!), please contact us for more information.
How do I get my stuff on your website?
It’s very easy: just let us know! We try to provide good information to help people make a decision so the things that are most useful for us are:
- A nice, clean image of your product (pictures always help sell).
- A little history behind your production and your spirit - what makes it special in the marketplace.
- Any notes about target markets or drinking recommendations.
- The associated UPC/EAN barcodes so that it will work nicely with our mobile iPhone and Android apps.
You have something totally wrong!
Please let us know. We try very hard to have the best information available on the internet and we actually want to show your spirit in its best possible light. That doesn't mean we'll ignore completely issues that might arise or have been mentioned in other publications but try in every case to work with producers to be as accurate as we can. Our goal is to help people explore and try new things.
Why did you list someone else as the "producer" when I own the label?
Our practice is to try and mention those companies that are closest to the source of the spirit. In the case of American spirits, we will usually list the company noted by the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau. For tequila, that will usually mean the company associated with the NOM. Ownership and production are very thorny issues in the alcohol world and we try to clarify any tangled relationships in our notes section. If you have an issue, please let us know and we will try to work with you to be as accurate as possible.
You're missing one of my scores... will you post it?
If you've submitted to one of the institutions we follow: San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Beverage Testing Institute, and/or Wine Enthusiasts, we'll get that officially listed as soon as we're aware of the score. If you've received an award from some other contest or reviewer, we often will note these as well in the notes section. While these won't affect the overall aggregate score we list, it will certainly help inform people who are looking you up for more information.
My score changed and it went down... what happened?
Our scores are highly fluid and respond to the daily updates that we make. The aggregate score will be revised by more recent user reviews, more recent critical results, or prior results getting older. The "tier" is completely relative to the number of spirits we have listed in a category and your relative ranking. We are at pains to try and tell people that the scores are not mathematical certainties but only guidance and that any score is a "recommend." If you want to improve your score, our system is weighted towards recent scores and consistent scores from the judges.
I don't believe in the judges. Why are you using them?
Mostly because we feel like the judge's scores are better indicators of quality than marketing programs, actors, and half-nude models frolicking on labels. The judges we use taste blind and we are convinced are some of the best in the industry at sincerely trying to get things right. We combine that with the user reviews - essentially word-of-mouth - to try and get as realistic a picture to the consumer as possible. In many ways, we're designed to help the little guy without a large marketing budget. If you'd like to talk more about this philosophy, please let us know; we're always looking for ways to improve and facilitate customer exploration.