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  • Mike J. Walker

Episode 48: The World's First AI-Created Whiskey

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

AI and whiskey, you might not think they go together, but they do! Mike J. Walker hosts with special guest Angela D’Orazio, the Chief Nose Officer for Mackmyra Distilleries. Mackmyra, Microsoft, and Fourkind partner up, for the first time, to use Microsoft Azure AI in the creation of a new whisky recipes, by augmenting the capabilities of the master blender to produce novel suggestions.

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In this Episode

Whisky, the Mackmyra Way

Whisky ingredients include water, yeast and peat, all of which are blended together to produce different flavors. Over years, whiskies take on their color, aroma and flavors from the barrels or casks they are stored in, which also include the flavors and aromas of their previous contents, such as bourbon, sherry, wine or other spirits.

The combinations and treatments of ingredients, coupled with the all-important barrel choice, make for limitless possible recipes. It is the role of the master distiller to create recipes based on their expertise.

Once whiskies are created, Mackmyra stores them in casks, in its 50-metre-deep Bodås mine – named after the small village Bodås, which is located 50km away.

Cool, dark, damp and secure, the mine meets Mackmyra’s requirements for a whisky warehouse. Mackmyra began using the mine in 2004, and today, the casks age safely below the ground, until they are mature enough to be enjoyed by connoisseurs around the world.

The AI payoff

This is the story of human craftsmanship and technology working in partnership, to produce something rather special. In collaboration with the data results generated by an AI algorithm, D’Orazio personally selected the groundbreaking blend, before it went into production and on general sale.

Recipe number 36 is born!

The number 36 may not hold any significance for you, but for Angela D’Orazio, it marks an important milestone. 

The idea for AI-created whisky came to light during a meeting between Mackmyra and Microsoft, in which the future of whisky was being discussed. Inspired by the idea, Microsoft partner Fourkind – a Finnish technology consultant – was brought in to develop the solution.

Working closely together with Mackmyra and D’Orazio, Fourkind created its AI solution using Microsoft Azure and Machine Learning Studio, before providing it with the datasets it needed to begin generating its first recipes.

Jarno Kartela, Principal Machine Learning Partner at Fourkind, states that “We chose Azure for its vast massive infrastructure and Machine Learning Studio, and its ease of deployment.”

Microsoft’s Machine Learning Studio – a powerful browser-based tool – was used by Fourkind for its easy serverless infrastructure handling, allowing them to run and deploy their own custom solution, creating a bespoke AI algorithm which intelligently generates new whisky recipes.

For D’Orazio, the experience has changed the way she views technology, and the transformative effects it can have. “We always strive to challenge the traditions in the very traditional whisky trade, and that’s something we can really do now with the help of AI.”

“We see AI as a part of our digital development, and 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.”

The success of the world’s first AI whisky has also introduced new business opportunities for Fourkind, allowing it to use the same principles used for Mackmyra, across different industries:

“This AI-generation can have an impact in different industries globally,” says Kartela. “I envision AI systems generating recipes for sweets, perfumes, beverages, and maybe even sneaker designs, and I think we’ll see a lot of complex consumer products being designed by AI or with AI during the next few years.”

About Angela D’Orazio

Dr. Scott J. Allen is a speaker, professor, author, and entrepreneur who empowers people and organizations to build stellar leaders.

Scott is the Reid Chair in Management at John Carroll University, where he is an Associate Professor. He teaches courses in leadership, management, executive communication, and the future of work. His creative teaching style has earned him recognition on campus, including the Wasmer Outstanding Teaching Award. Scott is as likely to design a learning activity around a Guinness World Record attempt as he is to take students to Fortune 500 company headquarters for one-on-ones with CEOs. He believes students learn best by practicing leadership - not just talking about it.

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