I must play Devil's Advocate.
"I really think that the forefathers of distilling are having a giggle in their graves when they see the fad for peaty whiskies or sherried whiskies (not to mention all of the wood finishes)."
Perhaps, but we are very fortunate to have such a wide and varried selection to offer consumers who want something more/different than their grandfathers scotch.
"and throw away anything with a computer chip in the distillery we will get a chance to see what whisky used to taste like. After all, making whisky is an art not a science."
Although I am generally against modernization it's in ugliest form, that is in terms of depleting human resources and replacing them with machines... But distilling is both an art and a science. Allow me to explain.
In the beginning, distillers took a very basic concept and expanded on it. After time, and most likely by chance, they found they could alter the taste. After more time, through science, they found they could alter any element of the whisky.
Now, with science, and in combination with older methods, quality and consistency can be assured (gas chromatography testing, phenol levels) but at the same time we can also use older methods of production, such as hand turned floor maltings, traditional washbacks and spirit cooling etc... to ensure that history, and a tried and true method of making malt can be preserved.
I have always maintained that computers, technology should augment, improve upon, add to something, never replace it.
I work in an elite boarding school. Here, Technology is used in Academics not as a replacement to a textbook, or a teacher, but it is used to spark discussion and research.
Use the computers to anylize the product, use a computer to standardize the recipe, but I contend that the original methods should also be preserved where possible. It is my understanding this is being done at Laphroaig and Bowmore. Although many thing have been computerized, both maintain a maltings and have stillmen guiding the spirit. It is sad to see many distilleries using computers, down to one man operations. It is also sad to see older distilleries with DECORATIVE PAGODAS... Some built 75-100 years ago, but never have smelled peat smoke...
Computers aren't the only decption to be angry about. In certain places they are an aide, in others, a hindrance.