On April 1st, Proof66 officially “flips the switch” on the new year of 2014.
This matters because our scoring algorithm gives preferential treatment to more recent scores from the judges. So when we move the clock forward a year on our algorithm, all the scores “decay” just a little bit (or, in some cases if they’re really old, a lot) and start to make room for newer scores that occur in the year 2014. We do this in order to reward consistency and discourage brand owners from resting on the good scores that they had in the past. We feel like the very best spirits should be able to prove it again and again, year after year.
April is also the month that the San Francisco World Spirits Competition releases its results. This year was their biggest ever with over 1,400 entries. That’s huge! It wasn’t that long ago when we were wondering if they were going to break a 1,000. So at the same time that we “flip the switch,” we also start updating a massive number of new scores into our database.
In short, expect a lot of volatility in the coming months with a great deal of turmoil in the top places for each spirit.
We make a point of mentioning this for a couple of reasons. First, just because it’s an exciting time of the year for those of us who follow the results rather closely. Old favorites, new brands, they’re all in there and they’re all in play. There’s nothing quite like the first perusal of the hundreds of results coming out of San Francisco. Keep an eye on our “new and notable” bottles over the coming months.
Second, it’s to re-emphasize how important we feel consistency is. The brands that were in our top 20 a couple of years ago aren’t there now. New brands have arrived. The top 20 is a fluid list of spirits and a guide for what’s going on right now! We’ll call out Tito’s vodka because we just saw it for sale at a store with a little collar on the bottle bragging about its Wine Enthusiast score of 95 points. That’s a fine score but it was in 2004… that was over 10 years ago! The person who gave those 95 points isn’t even with Wine Magazine any longer! On our site, you should get a more current picture of the critical landscape.
Third, it’s a chance for us to acknowledge what it is that we do. We manually review every single one of those 1,400+ results when they're entered into the database. It makes the process a long one-this isn’t an overnight batch file updating our database. It’s a real human being that looks over the scores, mulls them, and thinks about how to represent them. So please be patient while we go through our process of consuming these results… it’ll take us many weeks. And it’ll wreak some pretty major havoc on the tiers and top 20 results over the coming weeks and months.
Fourth and last, this anticipates our annual adjustment of our algorithm itself. Over the 6+ years Proof66 has been in business, we’ve reviewed the algorithm and refined it every year in June. The tweaks have added up to the point where the thing is pretty complex! We’ll cheerfully admit it’s still not perfect yet. If you have thoughts about how the algorithm might be improved-that is, if you’re seeing oddities in the results even when reviewing our FAQs on the matter-this is a great time to let us know.
As ever, we’re a guide to smarter liquor purchases but only a guide. In the end, the critical results only get you to purchase and put it in your mouth… at that point, the only critical opinion that matters is yours!
by Neal MacDonald, editor