Whisky is a drink that is based on custom and handiwork, and it is at a crossroads right now in terms of how technology is changing. Automation in breweries is putting at risk the delicate balance between new technology and practises that have been around for hundreds of years. The use of automated processes may increase accuracy and efficiency, but at what cost? Is it possible that the rise of technology is putting us on the edge of losing important skills? During this in-depth look, we think about how automation will change the way whisky is made and try to predict the future of the distiller’s art.
Automation is Used in the Process of Making Whisky
Over many years, technology has made its way into this process slowly but surely. Automation has made small steps towards making this process more efficient and less prone to mistakes.
Automated systems have been put in place in bigger distilleries to do tasks that need to be done over and over again and take a lot of work. For example, in most modern facilities, the steeping, sprouting, and kilning steps of malting are often done by machines. In the same way, mashing tools have taken the place of people who used to stir the mash by hand during the traditional process.
“There is no doubt that automation is more productive than human work. The Master Distiller at Glenford Distillery, Connor Davidson, says, “It lets us make whisky on a larger scale while keeping the quality the same.” But he also said that there is a bad side to this: “The artistry and human touch are things that machines can’t do.”
The Quickly Disappearing Art of Distillation
Many people think that distillation is the most important step in making whisky. In the past, this process worked best when the brewer was skilled and had a lot of experience. The maker would make important decisions based on what they saw and how they felt. Even this step, though, could be done by a machine in the future.
Digital control systems can now be used to watch and control the distillation process. They can control it and change things like heat and flow rates to get the best results. Some distilleries have even started using AI-assisted distillation. In this process, machine learning algorithms look at data from previous batches to make guesses about which distillation settings will make the best product.
Even though these technologies keep everything the same and get the best results, they also make distillers’ experience less important. Erin McIntyre, who has worked at the distillery for a long time, said that the distillery’s tasks have changed recently. “Our job has become less hands-on and more about watching the machines,” she said. “This requires a different set of skills, with data and technology knowledge being more important than intuitive thinking.”
The Spirits Business and How Automation Affects It
How can distillers keep their skills up-to-date and adapt to a changed world? Traditional whisky is made with a lot of intuition, sensory awareness, and practises that go back hundreds of years. These things seem to go against the precision and effectiveness of machines. A new era in the making of whisky might begin when distillers learn to work with technology in a way that keeps the art’s spirit while taking advantage of its benefits. This would be a good way to move forward.
Getting a Solid Start With Technology
Distillers need to learn about technology so they can stay relevant in a business that is becoming more and more automated. They don’t have to become computer hackers or experts in artificial intelligence because of this. Instead, you need to be able to understand and use the information that these automatic systems give you. This is a very important skill.
Declan Ross is a distiller at a well-known Scottish distillery. He says that he has spent more time than he could have expected studying spreadsheets and system outputs over the past few years. “I’ve spent more time studying spreadsheets and system outputs than I ever imagined,” he says. “However, doing this has given me new insights into the distillation process that I wouldn’t have been able to find any other way.”
Increasing the Human Senses
Even though technology has gotten to the point where it can copy and even beat human speed in many ways, it still can’t copy what it’s like to be human. Distillers who have been in the business for a long time have trained their noses and palates to pick up on subtleties that robots would miss. When combined with data from automatic systems, these human contributions can give a full picture of how whisky is made.
Lena Nilsson, a master brewer in Sweden, uses a technology that is helped by AI to keep an eye on the fermentation process. But she trusts herself more than anyone or anything else. “The system gives me important information, but I use my intuition to make the final decisions,” she says. “The system is easy to understand.”
Cooperation Should Be More Important Than Replacing
In the future, it’s possible that human distillers will work with automatic systems to find the best way to make whisky. Instead of seeing technology as a possible threat, distillers should see it as a tool that can help them grow their business.
Distillers can use AI systems to keep an eye on the thousands of bottles that are stored in a whisky warehouse, for example. AI is more than capable of doing this job, but it still takes human skill to evaluate the flavour profile of whisky and figure out when it has hit its full maturation potential.
How Whisky is Likely to Age in the Future
Even the process of ageing whisky, which has always been left to time and nature, is being changed by robotics. Some breweries have started to use artificial intelligence to keep track of how the barrels are doing and predict when they will be ready.
These kinds of innovations could totally change how whisky ages, making the process more reliable and productive. But this means that the usual job of the whisky blender will become even less important. “With AI, we might lose centuries’ worth of knowledge about how to choose casks and let them age,” warns whisky historian Ian Millar. “This is a real danger.” “In our quest for efficiency, we run the risk of losing the art.”
Whisky’s Cultural History Needs Must Be Protected
As automation changes the way whisky is made, we need to find a balance between the speed that technology brings and keeping these old skills alive.
“Automation is a tool, and just like any other tool, it’s all about how we use it,” says Aileen Sims, a master mixer. Let’s not let it replace our skills, but instead let it help us get better at what we already know. Let’s not forget that whisky is all about the people who make it.
Automation has a lot of benefits for making whisky. However, there is a lot of worry about the chance of losing traditional skills. As we look to the future, it’s important to think about how we can use new technology without changing the spirit of whisky, which includes the fact that it’s made by hand, has a long past, and involves real people.