Wednesday, April 24, 2024

AI and algorithms used to analyze the aging process of whiskies from Scotland

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For two years, Diageo analyzed various Scotch whiskies using AI and algorithms.

Diageo, an alcohol beverage company, invested $230 million into a portfolio of whisky tourism projects. Of this lump sum, more than $44 million was dedicated to the exploration of whisky maturation using technology called SmokeDNAi.

Using SmokeDNAi, teams tested and analyzed the flavor profiles and mouthfeel of non-identical twin whiskies distilled in different casks – one remnant and one original. The pair of rare whiskies is named Port Ellen Gemini, and each bottle costs $50,000.

The purpose of the analysis is to better understand whisky aging in a barrel.

The announcement of SmokeDNAi comes on the heels of Port Ellen’s reopening in Scotland. After 40 years, the “ghost” distillery welcomed tourists back with modern advancements to both construction and whisky-making.

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SmokeDNAi technology is used by Diageo to test and analyze mouth-feel and flavors of liquids from different casks. (Diageo)

“What we want to do is have this wonderful slow maturation in a barrel where we’re controlling the flavor,” Ewan Morgan, national luxury ambassador and head of whisky outreach at Diageo North America, told Fox News Digital. “We have a much better understanding of why they taste the way they taste, or why they smell the way they smell, or the mouth-feel.”

Between two whisky casks from Port Ellen, a distillery in Islay, the vanilla characteristic, vanillin, varied. One cask contained around 3%, while the other included more than double, around 6%. The remnant cask contained liquors from the 1960s and 1980s, according to Morgan.

“We can get a much better understanding of what the final product is going to be like,” Morgan said.

Port Ellen can leverage data sets in order to maximize production, flavor and sales of whisky and new blends in the future.

Using samples of whisky, the liquid is put through a chemical analysis process, gas chromatography or liquid chromatography, and data sets of distinct components are broken down by an algorithm.

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“It basically takes a signature of that liquid, and then it gives us a reading or a spike reading of the different compounds that are in there,” Morgan said. “And unless you’re an organic chemist, or you’re really into that kind of stuff, it doesn’t make that much sense. So, what we wanted to do was demystify that and make it easy.”

Diageo also sought to offer consumers taste and flavor through sight.

Out of the Ether, “an algorithmic machine generated work of art that harnesses SmokeDNAi technology,” according to Diageo, produces imagery of whisky smoke over time.

Design experts, in collaboration with Bose Collins, worked to produce visuals that are more easily digested by a consumer versus data sets.

“We have an overlay there that will have the chemical name like vanillin, for example, which smells and tastes like vanilla,” Morgan said.

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Here, whisky enthusiasts can gaze at flavor combinations, aromas and unambiguous profiles that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye.

“On the visual, you will see the small amounts of one particle that moves around,” Morgan said. “Then, there’s a larger cloud in there and then that will show you the percentile of these compounds that sit in there.”

Visual profiles may include a combination of coconut, smoky, earthy, medicinal, floral and sweet flavors.

“It gives you kind of a really great, at a glance, visualization of what’s going on inside the barrel,” Morgan said. “It just gives us a much, much clearer understanding of our own whisky.”



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