Case Study— Infographics and Visualizing Flavor

When I began writing about and reviewing gin in 2009, the number of gins produced in the world numbered in the low hundreds. In 2019 the number of new gin launches alone was nearly double that number.

Early on I realized that there was a disconnect between distillers and consumers. Distillers often talk about process and the ingredient used in gin. Consumers talk primarily about flavor.

When a distiller tells the story about their gin, they might say, “this gin uses lavender and juniper.” However, the average consumer has never tasted lavender after being distilled. Further, even if they did, to say that lavender always tastes the same way in gin does a disservice to the amount of control a distiller has over that lavender. It may taste floral. It may taste herbal. It may have menthol and mint notes.

I began researching how everyday people talked about flavor in gin, and several words began to appear over and over: floral, citrusy, piney and “hot.” My reviews weren’t communicating as well as they could. That’s why in 2012 I designed the world’s first infographic visualization for gin flavor.

A sketch from the initial flavor diagram concepts.

Upon the flavor diagram’s debut on my website, unique visitors shot up over 500% in the first year. In 2019, over 750K people visited the GIN is IN— the most visited site devoted just to gin in the world. 

The GIN is IN is entirely designed and built by me. In order from left to right—
left: the home page of the GIN is IN in February 2020, with articles and recent reviews
middle: awards page highlighting the best scoring gins of 2019
right: Every year since I started doing research, Gin and Tonic is the top way readers of the GIN is IN like to drink their gin.

In the decade plus since I started writing about gin, I’ve taken the ways people are talking about gin and have designed ways to convey abstract concepts like flavor in easy-to-understand and engaging visual formats.

In 2018 I designed the current flavor profile visualization that appears on every gin review page. The more bars filled for a flavor profile, the more intense that character is for that gin.
A work in progress— in 2019 I began trying to bridge the gap between the ingredients distillers use and the flavor profiles they tend to invoke in gin. Further research is needed before a final version is ready.
From 2017 to the present, I designed and built the “flavor profile” search on the GIN is IN.
left: mobile view of a flavor profile with a find similar gins button that performs a search base on the flavor profile the user is looking at.
center: Users can manually input the flavor profile they would like to search for
right: Search results appear organized by similarity in flavor profile.
In 2014 I experimented with diagramming how various flavors unfold on a person’s palate while sipping a gin. In this visualization, I borrowed the language from “perfume” to describe a gin’s flavor.
The first implementation of the flavor diagram in 2012 only had five flavor profiles— herbal gins were less common and users tended to describe them using a different language. In 2015 the wheel was redesigned to include six flavor facets
This was an early attempt to visualize how flavors mapped across different types of gin. While this visualization went mildly viral in 2012, users liked it because it emphasized similarity among brands; however, users weren’t able to understand anything about the spirits’ taste, especially as you get further away from the edges.