Food & Drink

Holiday Spirit: IBM Watson used to mix “joyful” vacation rum

By Kitty Knowles 24 January 2017

AI alcohol: A taste of the future?

How does a great holiday cocktail make you feel? Chilled? Refreshed? Or just a bit tipsy?

Whatever you feel, the joyful excitement of travel has now been bottled in ‘Holiday Spirit’ – a new rum that’s been crafted using artificial intelligence.

IBM Watson’s Holiday Spirit

In a bizarre move for booze, supercomputer IBM Watson has been used by Virgin to create an emotion-inspired alcohol.

Claimed to be the first data-distilled rum, the project’s mission was to create a rum “that tastes like a holiday”.

Intelligent ingredient selection?

To make the concoction, Watson read 15m posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter relating to holidays to understand the feelings of “excitement” and “joy” we feel on holiday.

It then read 5,000 online rum reviews, matching emotions from the reviews with the ingredients in the beverages.

“For example, Watson picked out that cask-aged rums often tasted exciting and it already knew that excitement is a key ingredient in holidays – so the final recipe was for aged rum,” said Joe Harrod, a Watson AI expert.

Want a taste?

Rum expert Ian Burrell was behind the mixing of Watson’s selected ingredients.

The final blend features subtle vanilla flavours, medium sweetness, hints of coconut, cinnamon and allspice, he said.

If you’re keen to get a taste of the AI alcohol, 800 bottles of the £59 smart spirit will go on sale from 24 January in nine of Virgin’s V-Room shops across the UK.

A still from IBM Watson's horror trailer.

Reverse engineering

It’s not the first time IBM Watson’s emotion-reading capabilities has been used to reverse-engineer a product.

Last year we got a taste of the AI’s film talent after it created a genuinely terrifying horror movie trailer after studying the genre. It’s even been used by musical creatives like rapper Alex da Kid to craft songs based on the emotions he’d like to rouse in listeners.

In every case the smart bot’s mission is to tailor to a desired emotional response.

Here’s hoping for more “joyful” experiences to come.