Swedish Distillery to Release World's First AI-generated Whisky - The Whiskey Wash

Swedish Distillery to Release World’s First AI-generated Whisky

By Katelyn Best / May 27, 2019

Robots don’t drink whisky (yet), but could they make it?

That’s something Swedish single-malt distillery Mackmyra will seek to answer when it releases the world’s first AI-generated whisky later this year. The Scandinavian distiller, known for experimenting with unique barrels (as well as collaborations with The Scorpions and Mötorhead), worked with Microsoft and a Finnish machine-learning company called Fourkind on this futuristic expression, a process that essentially involved feeding a lot of data about different steps of the whisky-making process to an algorithm, which generated a recipe.

Or, to be more precise, the algorithm generated a lot of different recipes (it’s capable of spitting out tens of millions), which Angela D’Orazio, Mackmyra’s very human master blender, sorted through to select one. The idea is that a machine can churn through many different combinations of all the variables involved in making whisky and predict based on sales data and customer and expert ratings which new combinations might work. Obviously, this is much faster than the traditional process of distilling a whisky, aging it for years, and then tasting it.

The world’s first AI created whisky (image via Microsoft)

“Utilizing AI is not only faster than a person carrying out the process manually,” according to a post on the distillery’s blog, “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.”

The distillery is quick to point out there’s still a lot of craft involved. “The work of a Master Blender is not at risk,” said D’Orazio in a feature on Microsoft’s website. “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.”

What, then, does the AI step really add, beyond marketing appeal? That question will remain open until the whisky is actually released later this year, as there’s no information available on what, exactly, the machine-learning algorithm came up with.