We’ve never had so many questions about a whisky before, which probably comes as no surprise. In this post we’ll meet Malin, our Marketing Coordinator, who has been tasked with answering the 10 most frequently asked questions regarding the latest addition to our whisky family.
1. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA TO MAKE A WHISKY CREATED WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
It was definitely about having the right people in the right place. And the right place in this case was Epicenter, where part of our Mackmyra team are based, in Stockholm. We met up with Microsoft there and started discussing whether it would be viable to work together on the creation of the world’s first AI whisky. As luck would have it they went for the original idea and put us in touch with their friends at Fourkind, a highly skilled Finnish tech firm specialising in AI technology, among other areas. We were on exactly the same wavelength, and the project got under way. Right from the start back in 1999, Mackmyra has loved to involve its customers in the tasting process through crowdsourcing. So now, coinciding with our 20th anniversary, we wanted to create a whisky in a similar way but with millions of times more data.
2. WHAT WHISKY SPECIFICATION DID YOU GIVE THE AI? WHAT WAS THE OBJECTIVE?
We tasked the technology with blending the Mackmyra whisky that would appeal to the majority of people’s taste, based on feedback provided by our whisky friends who have sampled Mackmyra over the years.
3. WHAT ROLE DOES AI PLAY IN PRODUCTION? AND HOW WAS YOUR MASTER BLENDER INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS?
Our Master Blender, Angela, acted as mentor throughout the process and closely supervised every step of the journey. The AI is nothing more than a tool deployed by the Master Blender to put together recipes. That is to say, AI is unable to create whisky all by itself, since there are number of gaps in its knowledge. The AI is quick, and capable of processing large volumes of information, as well as generating lots of new ideas. Yet without the whisky expertise of Angela, our Master Blender, with regard to the whisky, casks, storage and the process of marrying flavours, there could never be a proper whisky – technology is unable to replicate our discerning sense of smell, our palate and the human brain.
4. DESCRIBE THE PRACTICAL PROCESS THAT LED TO THE AI AND MASTER BLENDER ARRIVING AT THE PERFECT RECIPE.
At the start of the process we “fed” the AI with every conceivable relevant item of data about our whiskies, including the casks used for maturation, the number of years of ageing, the flavour profile they had and the casks that had won the most awards, etc. Based on this data, the AI then worked out which recipes it thought would end up producing the best possible whisky. The next stage saw Angela carry out her first elimination as she culled the recipes which, for various reasons, it would be impossible to make use of. This process was then repeated several times until the best five recipes remained. In the final phase, Angela tasted and graded the five recipes before selecting the winning beverage.
5. WHAT IS THE AI’S BLEND SUGGESTION BASED ON?
Its suggestion is based on the recipes used in all of our previous bottlings, all of their reviews, feedback from customers, articles on the internet and medals, as well as experiences gleaned from Mackmyra’s 19,000 30-litre private casks. Since Mackmyra was founded in 1999 we’ve produced around 75 bottlings, which the AI was able to analyse in order to obtain information about various distillates, types and sizes of casks, different types of maturation and the age of casks, in addition to the 10 or so flavour profiles featured in our 30-litre private single casks. 6. What limitations did the AI have to take into account? The main factors were the volume of whisky held in our various distilleries, the availability of different recipes at the present time and which casks are in the maturing stock.
7. HOW DID MACKMYRA BECOME THE FIRST TO PRODUCE AN AI WHISKY?
How did Mackmyra become the first to produce an AI whisky?
We’ve always gone our own way at Mackmyra; that’s exactly how we started this journey 20 years ago. We embrace whisky traditions but we also like to challenge them, so a project like this feels like a completely natural progression in our whisky adventure. Not only that, we also have to live up to our tagline, “Explorers in whisky”!
8. HOW DOES THIS WHISKY DOVETAIL WITH YOUR COMMITMENT TO CRAFT-PRODUCED BEVERAGES?
This whisky is still craft-produced to the greatest possible extent, throughout the entire process. The AI whisky was produced through a combination of software and manual input, in exactly the same way as our distillation machines. Artificial intelligence handled part of the process and, in time honoured fashion, the human brain and our sense of smell did the rest. 9. Doesn’t this detract somewhat from the creative aspect of the Master Blender’s job to devise new whisky blends? Not at all. On the contrary, Angela collaborated with the software and allowed it to inspire her. That said, she still always had the final say and selected the finished product.
10. WHAT DOES ANGELA THINK ABOUT AI DOING PART OF HER JOB?
Angela has no cause for concern, her job as Master Blender is in no way under threat. Our whisky is certainly not going to be produced exclusively with AI overnight, and will continue to be crafted through traditional means in our distillery. This is an exciting, groundbreaking step for both ourselves and the whisky industry, but AI is just one of a number of tools we harness to make delicious whisky.
11. WHAT DOES THE AI LOOK LIKE?
It doesn’t really look like anything! The AI tool consists of codes, numbers and abstract data; unfortunately there was no cute little robotic workmate wandering around and asking if we wanted coffee after our meal!
12. HOW MUCH OF THIS WHISKY IS THERE?
We want to keep this under wraps until the launch on 29 August.
13. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? WILL THERE BE MORE VERSIONS OF THIS EDITION?
That’s entirely dependent on how the world reacts to the finished product. So we’re searching for four-leaved clovers and hoping for the best!
That’s all for now, but if you have any questions, you’re welcome to get in touch here at the blog or on our social media platforms.