A research project spearheaded by Virginia Tech University’s Department of Food Science and Technology aims to quantify common descriptors used for whiskey. A team of researchers and data consultants has developed a tool that applies Natural Language Processing (NLP, a subfield of linguistics, computer science, information engineering, and artificial intelligence that involves programming computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data) to review a data set of 6,500 published whiskey reviews of about 50 to 100 words each.

“This tool will analyze free-response comments and identify which words are describing flavor and separate them from what’s not descriptive,” said university researcher Leah Hamilton in a prepared statement. “It will also identify which words are related and describe the same flavor. This will ultimately be helpful to consumers who may want to buy something that’s close to a high-dollar whiskey but is more affordable.”

Caption: University Libraries’ data consultant Chreston Miller and Department of Food Science and Technology researchers Jacob Lahne and Leah Hamilton discuss whiskey research data. Photo by Trevor Finney for Virginia Tech.