The Willett Family Estate bourbon and rye releases of the past decade have become some of the most sought-after bottles in the American whiskey market. With private store pick releases, export-only offerings, charity bottles, and weekly gift shop releases it is hard to keep track of everything that is out there. Whiskey nerds will sling the bottle names or numbers around like a secret language that can be difficult to decipher for the uninitiated. “I tried a ‘Caught Stealing’ at Jack Rose and it was fantastic.” Okay, is that a bourbon or a rye? What’s the age on that? Where did it come from?
Until recently, the excel spreadsheet uploaded and updated regularly over on the Willett timelines page at Whiskey ID was the only way for me to keep track of it all. May God bless Luther Stevebennett who keeps that spreadsheet updated. It can be fun to get lost in all that data; but the web-based excel spreadsheet can be cumbersome if you’re looking for a specific bottle, like that “Caught Stealing.”
Enter the WFE Pocket app for iPhone and Android … this easy to use app has a search function that will allow you to look up by name or bottle number. You can review the bottle details and view a picture of many of the bottles. If you have one of the bottles without a picture, users can submit their own photos to complete the archive. The app logo can be confused for the Uber app, so separate those on your home page.
I caught up with Kyle Buza, the WFE Pocket app developer to learn more about the past, present, and future of the app. Kyle resides in San Francisco, CA where all good app developers live. He’s been a mobile app developer for 15 years and a bourbon enthusiast for the past decade.
WERE YOU PAID TO DEVELOP THE APP OR WAS THIS PURELY A PASSION PURSUIT?
“The app was solely a passion pursuit. During a trip to Japan, I found myself coming across a lot of Willett bottles from barrels I hadn’t seen before, and really wanted a quick way to look them up without having to try to navigate the Willett Single Barrel spreadsheet every time. The app is based on data in that spreadsheet, to which I’ve added a number of bottles as I encounter them. In addition to the general barrel information, I’ve been curating bottle pictures and relevant review links (as I find them).”
ARE THERE FUTURE VERSIONS/UPDATES/OTHER FEATURES BEING CONSIDERED?
“Honestly, the main focus for me is to fill in the missing bottle pictures. The ultimate goal would be to have a picture for every bottle. I made a recent addition to the iOS version of the app to allow people to upload bottle pictures, which has been great as folks have been uploading pictures I haven’t seen. It’s really helped fill in some of the gaps with the newer releases. The feedback I’ve gotten from some people is that they want more pictures of each bottle (e.g. wax, back label, etc.), so adding a way to let users navigate through sets of bottle pictures might be coming at some point. I once prototyped a feature that showed you a list of ‘what’s new’ (e.g. new bottles that have entered the database since you last opened the app), but ended up removing it because it didn’t feel useful at the time.”
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE APP?
“As far as stories go, there’s an amusing one related to the app that I can tell. When visiting Kentucky last September for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival / Whiskey Pig, I was over at Drew (Kulsveen)’s house and we were looking through his bottles for something to open. I inquired about a bottle from a barrel I hadn’t seen before, and before I knew it, Drew pulled out his phone and said: “You should use the Willett Pocket app… I use it all the time”, which was funny because he wasn’t aware that I was the one that made it. Definitely a nice endorsement.”
I’d say so, Kyle. The Wizard of Willett himself is using the app you created to reference his own product. Take a minute to download the app on your iPhone or Android device and if you have a bottle that doesn’t have a picture, take another minute and upload one to the app. Let’s help Kyle finish the pictorial catalogue. Do you have the WFE Pocket app already? What are your thoughts on the app and development ideas? Let us know in the comments.