Juliette Buchan: Artificial Intelligence will never replace passion

GlenAllachie is a fifty-year-old Speyside distillery from Scotland’s Aberlour, which in 2019 was recognized the Scottish Whisky Distillery of the Year having won six awards in Edinburgh at the Scottish Whisky Awards ceremony. Some three months ago, the brand came to Russia with an intention to actively expand in its lucrative market with assistance of the local Sommelier Expert Association.

Juliette Buchan, GA Sales Manager, is on a visit to Moscow to present GlenAllachie products to the public. Within her mission, tasting sessions were arranged in Moscow’s Otdokhny wine stores where she spoke to Invest Foresight, noting, “I am pleasantly surprised that in Russia people seem to like the taste of whisky and there is kind of a fascination with Scotland. We can really work together, and the future is bright for GlenAllachie, its local partners, and consumers.”

GlenAllachie is no doubt an enthusiastic and innovative company. “Whisky`industry is always trying to apply new technology, mainly to actually save energy and to try to become carbon-neutral. Scotland tries to make things smarter. Much effort is focused on renewable and reusable energy,” Juliette Buchan said. “Our distillery is going smart, but we are not the smartest because we are not that new. Any new distilleries built now will be smarter that the old ones.”

When asked if, given the technology progress and accelerating transformations in production process, Artificial Intelligence can some day be a master distiller, “That would be a shame,” Ms Buchan stated. “Whisky is about people, taste, and passion. Artificial Intelligence will never replace passion. If visiting our distillery, one will be amazed how passionate people are about their work. In Scotland, we have to remain passionate and whisky is to remain being made by people. We can help that and become a bit smarter and more efficient, but we should not replace people with computers.”

Whisky industry overall is open to new financial instruments too. As Juliette Buchan noted, “GlenAllachie is fortunate to have owners for whom cashflow is not an issue. This is a very fortunate position to be in. However, a lot of new distilleries do employ crowdfunding or sell new spirits while in progress, so that one can buy a cask, mature it on site and then bottle in 10 years’ time. That helps to get the cash to keep activity going, as when starting a new distillery, you get your money back in 10 years’ time – at best.”

In 2017 Billy Walker, Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson acquired the GlenAllachie distillery itself as well as its brands and some stock. The distillery reduced production as, guided by Master Distiller Billy Walker, it is now prioritizing quality.

“Extension is not the plan,” Juliette Buchan said. “At the moment we are producing 800K liters of alcohol but have capacity for 4 mio liters, so we have a lot of capacity to produce more to meet the demand. What we might do is look for another distillery to acquire, in Highlands or Speyside, possibly.”

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