Humans have always selected the different blends of ingredients and casks to create near-infinite flavour combinations.
Currently, the distillery’s machine learning models, powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and Azure cognitive services, are fed with Mackmyra’s existing recipes (including those for award-winning blends), sales data, and customer preferences. With this dataset the AI can generate more than 70 million recipes that it predicts will be popular, and of the highest quality based on what kind of cask types there are in the warehouse.
This is not only faster than a person carrying out the process manually, but thanks to the algorithm’s ability to sift through and calculate a vast amount of data, new and innovative combinations that would otherwise never have been considered, can be found. It’s important to stress, however, that this AI solution is not designed to replace a Master Blender.
“The work of a Master Blender is not at risk,” D’Orazio states. “While the whisky recipe is created by AI, we still benefit from a person’s expertise and knowledge, especially the human sensory part, that can never be replaced by any program. We believe that the whisky is AI-generated, but human-curated. Ultimately, the decision is made by a person.“
Beyond the glass
Mackmyra’s AI-generated whisky will be available from Autumn 2019. According to the distillery, this is the first time that a complex consumer product recipe has been created with machine learning – but whisky is just the beginning.
“This AI-generation can have an impact in different industries globally,” says Jarno Kartela, Machine Learning Partner at Fourkind, the company behind the AI algorithm. “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”, continues Kartela.
A future where the power and speed of AI is paired with the ingenuity and expertise of a person to break new boundaries? We’ll certainly drink to that.