Whether it's jetlag or holiday blues, there's now a drink that's been designed to transport your mind back to the beach ... specifically, an exotic Caribbean one.
Virgin's Holiday Spirit is said to be the first rum scientifically produced to evoke the nation's favourite holiday emotions. How? Forget postcards, Virgin Holidays tapped into IBM's Watson (aka the world's most intelligent super-computer) to analyse the thoughts of more than 15 million holidaymakers through social media posts from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It's the modern-day "wish you were here".
Watson then analysed over 5000 rum recipes and reviews to pair the top emotions to specific flavours and so create the world's first data-distilled (and emotionally-inspired) rum.
"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," says Joe Harrod, data analyst and Watson AI expert.
The "happy" holiday emotion was matched to vanilla, "excited" with sugarcane, "curious" with cinnamon, "adventurous" with allspice, and finally "relaxed" with coconut.
The one-off Virgin Holiday Spirit concoction was overseen by Ian Burrell, global rum ambassador, who ensured the supercomputer's results tallied with the taste: "The spirit had to be rum because of its association with holidays and good times," he says.
"It was my first time collaborating with a super-computer to create a distinct blend.
Holiday Spirit has a subtle vanilla flavour, medium sweetness, hint of coconut, and is naturally spiced with cinnamon and allspice."
Most rum is distilled from molasses, a by-product of sugar production. The ageing in oak barrels helps develop each rum's unique characteristics, but rum ages three times faster in the Caribbean than a whisky would in Scotland because of the warm climate.
Rum is widely produced on the Caribbean islands, but Barbados is home to the oldest rum brand in the world, Mount Gay, which dates back to 1703.
More than 80 per cent of the world's rum comes from the Caribbean. Barbados boasts more than 1,600 rum shops and large distilleries include Mount Gay and Foursquare - the distillery that produced Virgin Holiday Spirit.
"This spirit really captures the home of rum, the Caribbean," Burrell says. "It's a naturally spiced, medium body gold rum that will appeal to both the rum connoisseur or casual cocktail drinker."
Just like a holiday romance, this unique emotion-infused rum is fleeting. Just 800 Virgin Holiday Spirit limited edition bottles have been produced, 59 pounds (NZ$100).