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Mackmyra and Microsoft to create AI whisky

Swedish distillery Mackmyra has teamed up with tech giant Microsoft and Finnish consultancy Fourkind to create the “world’s first” whisky using artificial intelligence (AI).

Angela D’Orazio: AI can complement “craft” of whisky-making

Mackmyra plans to “augment and automate” the “time-consuming” whisky-making process using AI.

The distillery has created machine learning models that are powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and AI cognitive services, and are fed with Mackmyra’s existing recipes, sales data and customer preferences.

With this information, the AI can generate more than 70 million recipes that it predicts will be popular and of the “highest quality”. According to Mackmyra, AI is much faster than manual processes involved in researching and creating whisky, and also provides blenders with “new and innovative combinations”.

“This AI-generation can have an impact in different industries globally,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “I envision AI systems generating recipes for sweets, perfumes, beverages, and maybe even sneaker designs. Many of these have already been attempted, but large-scale adoption is still lagging behind.

“We are showing the way forward, and these new AI solutions can be used to generate products that retain the spirit, look and feel of the brands behind them, while at the same time being new and unique.”

However, Mackmyra stresses that its use of AI is “not designed to replace a master blender”.

Jarno Kartela, machine learning partner at Fourkind, said: “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.”

The distillery’s master blender, Angela D’Orazio, added: “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 [AI-created] whisky in the world.”

Mackmyra launched in 1999 to pioneer the Nordic whisky movement. The distillery’s portfolio includes a number of experimental expressions, including a single malt finished in ex-Calvados casks, which launched in March this year.

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