Skål! Swedish Distillery Uses AI to Help Create the Perfect Whisky

Machine learning was used to create a unique whisky recipe.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to do assist us with a lot of complex problems from early detection of cancer to helping shave babies. Now AI is being put to work to create perfect whisky blends.

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Whisky - one of the world's favorite drinks - is created from a combination of grain water and yeast. The art of whiskey making is often in the aging process where the whisky matures in timber barrels.

AI helps distillers think out of the box

The age, location, and type of wood of the barrel as well as how long it sits in there, all influence the taste of the final product. Master whisky makers spend their lives trying to find the perfect combination for an iconic tasting blend.

A Swedish distillery is teaming up with Microsoft and a Finnish technology consultancy, to use AI develop a special whiskey recipe.

The drink which will hit the shelve this fall will be created using machine learning.

"We always strive to challenge the traditions in the very traditional whisky trade, and that’s something we really do now when we develop a whisky with the help of AI. We see AI as a part of our digital development, it is really exciting to let AI be a complement to the craft of producing a high-quality whisky. For me as a Master Blender it is a great achievement to be able to say that I'm now also a mentor for the first ever created AI whisky in the world" says Angela D’Orazio from Mackmyra.

Algorithm generates databank of new recipes

Basically, an AI algorithm which is running from Microsoft's Azure cloud platform and AI cognitive services will be fed raw data including the distillery’s legacy recipes, sales numbers, and customer preferences. The algorithm can then generate more than 70 million recipes, that should be both popular and tasty.

The goal of the project is to find new combinations of techniques and ingredients that humans wouldn’t think about themselves. But the whisky distillers are quick to point out; robots aren’t about to take their jobs.

Sense of smell still rules

Making whiskey is more than just recipe ideas and requires as all the senses especially smell, that for now, at least the robots can’t do. Says Jarno Kartela, Machine Learning Partner at Fourkind: “Algorithms don't have senses, so we need another take on how to understand something so complex as whisky. Although lacking human expertise, we can teach machines to understand what elements previous recipes and products are made of and how they are perceived and ranked by customers and experts. With this as a raw data asset, we can leverage a combination of explorative algorithms to generate endless new recipes and products and then use a set of discriminative algorithms to understand which of them might be great, repeating until better recipes are not found. This requires a lot from the computation side, as we need millions of iterations while keeping track of what worked and what did not before reaching a solid guess of a good new whisky."

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The first AI assisted whisky is a single-malt with herbal notes of aniseed, ginger, and white pepper and a citrusy, spicy mouth with a dry finish.

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