Words by: Simon Difford
What’s in it? How long has it been aged? Where is it made? And by who? These are just some of the questions asked by today’s discerning drinkers. Add to these, queries over allergens, vegan friendly, Kosher, added sugar and “craft” status. Sadly such information is not widely disclosed and this has led us to launch an initiative we call Quality Certification, to answer all these questions and more.
We have long indicated our assessment of a product's quality with a star rating out of 5 but this is judged purely on what we know, can see and taste. Now we will further differentiate products we consider worthy of recommendation - those we rate at least 4 stars and that fully disclose product information - by displaying our green Quality Certificate stamp alongside our reviews.
These Quality Certificates are designed to give discerning drinkers a visual reassurance as to a product's quality and provenance, endorsed by a respected industry source, and then when clicked on leads the reader to a dedicated page giving detailed product information - imparting as many as 80 salient facts about that product.
Brand owners will find our simple, mostly box ticking and drop-menu interface easy to use, allowing them to quickly impart large amounts of information about their brand. Their answers, subject to our approval of their application, are then displayed on a stand-alone unbranded page, allowing them to provide a url to others seeking this information as well as on a downloadable pdf.
I should add there is no requirement for brand owners to apply, nor to disclose, sensitive information - applying for a Quality Certificate is voluntary.
Unlike most medal issuing competitions or other such drinks industry award bodies, we do not and will not charge to assess and rate a product, nor to produce tasting notes. We will also continue to purchase products to assess in addition to those we are sent as we seek to ensure our reviews and ratings cover as broad a cross-section of spirits, beers and wines as possible - not just those submitted (as is the case in competitions). Unlike competitions we also issue bad ratings rather than just praise those products we consider good. We aim to be truly impartial.
We are keen for brand owners to view our Quality Certificates as a positive addition to their product reviews on Difford's Guide, benefiting those seeking assurance as to the quality and provenance of their product, hence we have made application as cheap as possible - just UK £45 / Euro €50 / US $70 per product - enough to cover our administration costs and to allow us to send random samples we are not sure about to be analysed at a laboratory to check health related concerns such as levels of methanol. Again, application is optional and we don't and won't charge to review and rate a product - just to issue a Quality Certificate.
We won't penalize brands we deny issuing a certificate to, but we will promote those brands we do issue with a Quality Certificate. These will also be the brands we seek to list on our soon to be launched on-line shop. We only want products for sale on Difford's Guide that we rate over 4 stars and whose quality and provenance we are assured of by full disclosure of related information by the producer/brand owner applying and being issued a Quality Certificate.
Consumers are also keen to support artisans who have a stake in the products they make and we seek to support these "craft" producers by indicating which of the products we recommend are 'Artisan Crafted'. Hence, we will issue an additional Artisan Crafted Certificate to those distillers, brewers, blenders and winemakers who retain an active hands-on role in production and also have 5% or more ownership in the company/business owning the product(s) they make. Note, they have to own a stake in the product itself - we want to help discerning drinkers find products that are made and owned by artisans. Unlike "craft" we think this concept has real meaning.
Interested? Then Long Table London Dry Gin and By The Dutch Batavia Arrack are examples of two of the first brands to apply and be issued with Quality Certificates. We've tried to anticipate some of your questions with answers below.
Each product with a Difford's Guide Quality Certificate receives:
• Quality Certificate displayed next to relevant product review on Difford's Guide
• information disclosed about product available for our readers to view
• the ability to direct consumers and trade opinion formers to a standalone information page
• periodic promotion on Difford's Guide as a product we recommended
• a downloadable high-res version of the certificate use in media and advertising
• permission to use Quality Certificate on packaging during the year and following year of certificate being issued.
Quality Certificates are valid for the year they are awarded, and the following year. For example, certificates awarded during 2016 state '2016 and may be renewed in January 2017 causing a new 2017 certificate to be issued. Or the 2016 dated Quality Certificate may continue to be used through 2017 and renewal delayed until 2018. Renewal is dependent upon a product maintaining at least a 4 star rating and is conditional on full disclosure of any changes.
Information you provided during an application for a Quality Certificate is displayed on Difford's Guide until such time that updated information is submitted by applying for a new Quality Certificate.
When a Quality Certificate is due for renewal we will send a renewal invitation to the email address given when the original certificate was applied for. At this point a renewal fee will be charged and a new certificate issued, subject to disclosure of any changes and our reassessment if more than three years since our sampling and rating (all our reviews are dated).
You'll find a link to apply for a Quality Certificate alongside every eligible product on this site. However, before searching for your product and starting the application process, you may want to consider reading our How to Apply page which also has links to a dummy application so you can view the application process and click menu options so you know what to expect when you do apply.