June Outturn 2023 Article
If there’s one topic we’ve all heard ad nauseum in the mainstream press lately, it’s of the advancements in artificial intelligence, and the great strides it has made recently. Words like “Chat GPT” weren’t anywhere near our lexicon even just six months ago, but are now in wide use. Something that’s been puzzling me amongst all this chatter about AI is just how that might play a role within the world of whisky? How might AI change the whisky game? Let’s dig a bit deeper…
The whisky industry has a long history of artistry and tradition. But as technology advances, it’s becoming more and more obvious that artificial intelligence (AI) will be a major force in the future of the sector. AI has the ability to completely transform the whisky industry in many ways, from distilling, maturing the spirit, to even how we host and present whisky experiences.
The distilling process is one of the most important areas where AI is anticipated to make an impact. Distillation is a complicated process that calls for meticulous observation and regulation of numerous factors, including temperature, pressure, and flow rate. As AI continues to evolve beyond just chat-based prompts and funny photoshop images, AI-powered sensors will be able to keep a precise eye on these factors in real time and make adjustments to maintain the whisky’s high quality. This might be through ultra-precise measurements of the new make, to fill rates, and much more than current distillery management software can handle. A ‘quantum leap’ if you will.
AI can also potentially be utilised to accelerate maturation. Whisky traditionally ages in barrels for a number of years to produce its unique flavour profile. To anticipate how various whiskies will age over time, AI can model the ageing process using machine learning methods. AI can assist distillers in optimising the ageing process to create whiskies with particular flavour profiles and characteristics by analysing data from various barrels. The level of opportunity here for AI to integrate with the maturation of stock is immeasurable.
Hosting whisky events is another area in which AI might be useful. AI has the potential to improve the experience for attendees as virtual events continue to hybridise and change. For instance, AI-driven chatbots can provide information about the whiskies being tried, respond to participants’ enquiries, and suggest further whiskies depending on their tastes. The way in which AI can then further understand your individual tastes and preferences is quite remarkable, and would open avenues for personalisation, even connected to barrel profiles, in ways we’ve never seen before. Essentially this opens a more tailored whisky experience and can provide a level of appeal to members that examines data in ways that humans can’t — ultimately broadening our palates and discovery in new ways.
On the other hand, there are genuine worries that AI might hurt the whisky industry. The disappearance of the human touch is one potential problem. Since whisky is frequently connected with handcrafting and tradition, the prospect of automation taking over the process may turn some off the whole idea, both from a consumer and producer level.
The potential uniformity of the whisky business due to AI is another issue – something that many Australian distilleries for instance already grapple with! Artificial intelligence (AI) may make it simpler to produce whiskies with very comparable flavours by streamlining the distilling and ageing procedures. The whisky market may become less diverse as a result of smaller distilleries finding it difficult to compete with bigger, AI-powered ones.
In conclusion, although the function of AI in the whisky business is still developing, it is obvious that it has the potential to fundamentally alter the sector. AI can help to produce whiskies that are of consistent quality and catered to consumers’ preferences by optimising the distilling and maturing processes and improving the consumer experience. There are of course worries that AI can cause the whisky market to become more homogenised and lose its human touch. The future success of the whisky business depends on distillers finding the right mix between tradition and innovation, and of course, always listening to its customers who enjoy this marvellous ‘uisge beatha’ (water of life).
Whatever the future may hold, it’s an exciting one to navigate, and that mix of tradition and technology will always be at the fore.
Happy Champs month!
*This article about AI taking an active role in whisky, was almost entirely written by AI. That’s just how wild this all is… anyway, back to humans…
This article is featured in June 2023 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 2nd of June at midday AEST exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.