Smooth Johnnie and Confused Alexa Why Robots Make Terrible Whisky Sommoliers

first_img We like to drink here at Geek.com. It’s not quantity that matters, but quality, and as such, we’ve held several fine whisky tastings in the lab over the years. Everything from rare and unique single malts to blended bar staples like Johnnie Walker Black. And the world-renowned scotch distillery tried to get artificial intelligence in on the sophisticated fun by putting out a whisky tasting skill for Amazon Alexa.Yes, if you really want to enjoy your scotch with the power of technology, you can simply install the skill on your Amazon Echo and say, “Alexa, open Johnnie Walker.” And the voice app will open and walk you through a primer to savoring fine whisky. At least, that’s the pitch, and Johnnie Walker sent us bottles of Red, Black, and Green Label to try it out.Jack Daniels might have Gentleman Jack, but Johnnie Walker is the true philosopher-king in my book. Note to other forward-thinking distilleries: It’s not too late to earn our respect, too. A nice 12- or 15-year and you can join the pantheon of virtuous whiskey makers that I just made up. This includes Mr. Daniels, Mr. Beam, and Yamazaki-san.Anyway, about Alexa and drinking. We tried it out twice on two separate evenings. And failed, twice, on two separate evenings. This wasn’t because we drank too much beforehand, but I have a feeling Alexa might have.Here’s the rundown: you say “Alexa, open Johnnie Walker” and the app opens. Alexa will then give a variety of voice prompts, including running a guided tasting. When you ask for a guided tasting, Alexa will then ask if you have any Johnnie Walker, and which label it is. This is where the whole process hit a brick wall.“Do you have a bottle of Johnnie Walker?’“Yes.”“Which label?”“Green.”“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Which label?”“Green.”“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Which label?”“Green!”“You have selected Johnnie Walker Red Label.” Like out of a sitcom. Yeah, Alexa was no help in our whisky tasting. The main reason is the simply, fundamental problem of using voice assistants like Alexa in a group: Alexa isn’t the best listener. When more than one person is talking at a time, Alexa tries to figure out what not just you’re saying, but what everyone is saying. Which means what you’ll be dealing with a failure to communicate.Of course, when I quieted the group enough to talk to Alexa, she still heard me say the wrong label. The brilliance of technology!But you know what? We’re studied gentlefolk with refined palettes at Geek.com, so the failure of our Amazon Echo and the confused voice inside it didn’t stop us from holding a whisky tasting. So let’s talk about Johnnie Walker as an after-work refreshment.Johnnie comes in varieties identified by different colored labels, which are arranged in a general hierarchy of price and quality. Johnnie Walker Red is the basic, entry-level scotch, a simple blended variety without a specific age. Johnnie Walker Black is the next step up, using only 12-year scotches in its blend. Johnnie Walker Green is a 15-year blend of specifically malted whiskies, giving it a different test from the other varieties. Johnnie Walker Blue is the finest of the “standard” blended whiskies, with Gold and Platinum labels also standing out as the more high-end, expensive, splurge-y varieties that Mr. Walker was not quiet cordial enough to provide us. No complaints here, since Red and Black are stalwarts who are always welcome on my desk.Let’s start with Johnnie Walker Red. It’s a perfectly serviceable scotch. It’s better than bottom-shelf blended scotches you’ve never heard of, but it doesn’t have the sort of body or complexity necessary to really warrant a tasting. Honestly, Red is best used as a mixer. It’s a scotch you serve with cola or ginger ale for an easy drink. Its flavor is a bit smoky and sharp, with a sweet, slightly citrus finish.Johnnie Walker Black is more refined, and really the start of a good scotch tasting. It’s readily available and affordable, but with a complex enough flavor to make it a satisfying drink on its own. If you want to guide your friends through a tasting, a glass of Black can help kick things off with a taste that’s worth taking a few minutes really delving into before you turn towards more expensive, nuanced scotches. It’s also fantastic with black coffee. It’s smokier, smoother, and a little sweeter than Red, with a deeper flavor that contains notes of caramel and oak.Johnnie Walker Green is… difficult. It’s a blend of 15-year scotches, but its flavor profile doesn’t have the depth and complexity that should come with that age. That’s because it’s a blend of only malt whiskies, and the result is a very, very sweet scotch. This is the sweetest whisky I’ve ever tasted outside of those cloyingly sweet honey-infused bourbons from Jack Daniels and Evan Williams (which are excellent in hot toddies, at least). Because it’s so sweet, it’s very smooth, which makes it a dangerously easy to drink whisky. I could imagine some good mixers that make use of it, but it doesn’t compare with Johnnie Walker Black as a “proper” scotch. It’s a unique, niche whisky, and you can look at it as a replacement for honey-infused bourbons if you want a very sweet whisky as a building block for certain cocktails.Putting technology unnecessarily into things is a staple of what we do and what we love, but it hasn’t mixed well with scotch quite yet. Sorry Alexa, but we’re going to have to cut you off. And hog that delicious scotch all to ourselves. Geek Pick: Amazon Smart Plug Puts Alexa in Your WallsGeek Pick: Amazon Echo Show 5 Is a Nightstand Alexa Display Stay on targetlast_img read more