Originally created 03/09/99

Software and hard liquor do mix



Learning how to use fire was good, but here's to the ancestors who discovered how to distill whiskey. Their legacy has warmed many a heart in places flames can't reach.

And before the Perpetually Righteous rise in wrath, yes, moderation in matters of whiskey, like moderation in most things, makes sense.

But, that said, many enjoy the taste of the stuff. And those who want to know more about it than how to pour it now have a friend in a lighthearted bit of multimedia software from Uniqum Systems of Sweden.

Called Whisky Pilot , it runs on Windows 95 and higher PCs with at least 16 megabytes of RAM, a 4X CD-ROM player and up to 20 megabytes of hard disk space.

The Whisky Pilot offers information, images and tasting notes about 786 whiskey brands, more than most people will sample even in a lifetime of tippling.

And it does it with a smooth user interface and some humor. There's bagpipe music, of course, because there's probably a World Court order against discussing Scotch whisky without bagpipe music in the background. But if you've never heard "A Bicycle Built for Two" or "When the Saints Go Marching In" played on bagpipes, be warned -- the sound alone could drive you to drink.

You are guided through the software by a Mr. Ataki, an animated fellow offering tips and commentary. The software includes maps locating distilleries and historic information.

A check of a couple of distilleries revealed, for example, that one of the things that helped launch Jack Daniels No. 7 was that Daniels delivered whiskey to his customers -- a marketing enhancement in a time when the customer was expected to come to the shop.

Or how Dizzy got a job at the Strathisla Distillery in Scotland. Dizzy, a black-and-white cat, fell asleep among some bourbon barrels in a Louisville, Ky., container destined for Scotland. Four weeks later, Dizzy -- famished and drunk on bourbon fumes -- staggered out in Strathisla. After being quarantined, he was assigned mousing duties.

The English translation offers occasional unintentional humor: "Jack Daniels' distillery is a 7-story high building covered with ivy and located in a sloop." The captain and crew of that sloop must be quite appreciative.

The whiskeys of Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Japan and Wales are covered, and the software includes quizzes and a dictionary.

Installation was quick and easy, and the package includes an uninstall utility. The user interface is very much like a Windows active desktop, and navigation through the various software functions is clean and direct.

The Whisky Pilot is available for $39 through its Web site, where, not surprisingly, you can also buy some of the topic material.