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June 10, 2020 -- Smoke. Coal dust. Fine leather. Dark berry fruit. Coffee grounds.

So many descriptors and personal perceptions swirl around a glass of whiskey. Published whiskey reviews include sensory and nonsensory descriptions of thousands of these distilled spirits. 

Finding meaning in and understanding these descriptors is at the heart of discriminating whiskey connoisseurs’ debates. But even for the not-so-discriminating, all of these words can be confusing for investigating the flavor and value of a bourbon that costs $130 a bottle - when a $55 similar substitute would do.

A research project by Department of Food Science and Technology researchers Jacob Lahne and Leah Hamilton and University Libraries’ data consultants Chreston Miller, and Michael Stamper received a SEAD Major Grant from The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) to create a tool that finds a common language in a data set of 6,500 published whiskey reviews of about 50 to 100 words each. 

ICAT awards SEAD grants to projects that bring together scientists, engineers, artists, and designers to tackle some of the world’s most complex challenges. Figuring out how to consistently and systematically describe whiskey could be an important and complex challenge for many, but beyond this specific food product, the deep learning tool this project creates could be used for all research that uses descriptive data.

The team is applying Natural Language Processing (NLP), a subfield of linguistics, computer science, information engineering, and artificial intelligence that involves programming computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data — whiskey descriptors.

This data science technique offers researchers opportunities to analyze more data than what was possible through the traditional time-intensive and expensive manual text analysis process. According to the project team, there have been no previous attempts to apply this sort of NLP approach for sensory-evaluation purposes. 

“We don't know anyone else who has tried to take these reviews, which are in descriptive but messy natural language, and systematically analyze them this way. One of the nice things about whiskey is its enthusiast market,” said Lahne. “People care about taste deeply. Whiskey lives or dies by sensory perception. These reviews are in metaphorical, messy, natural language. What we’re trying to get to is some shared concept about taste.”

Hamilton said they may even be able to make connections among the descriptors used, the production process, and the geographical origin of the liquor. 

“This tool will analyze free-response comments and identify which words are describing flavor and separate them from what’s not descriptive,” said Hamilton. “It will also identify which words are related and describe the same flavor. This will ultimately be helpful to consumers who may want to buy something that’s close to a high-dollar whiskey but is more affordable.”

As a computer scientist with a research interest in qualitative data, Miller is excited about what this project could mean as a proof of concept for a larger proposal.

“There is value in a tool with deep learning, a subset of machine learning,” said Miller. “Deep learning is a machine learning technique that uses the technique of Deep Neural Networks, based on how neurons in the brain function, to automatically learn features of the data which then aids in identification. By training the tool, we are able to comb through more information and make sense of it more quickly and efficiently than a human. If we throw enough data at it, the peculiarities are diluted. This is a booming area of research and one that is very exciting.”

When the team has its common language defined, they will pass the data to Stamper, information visualization and interaction designer, to create the user stories, flows, and interfaces that audiences will use to interact with, and draw insight and meaning from the data.

“We will define our target audiences and build an interface to communicate the data. We can use visualizations to see how we can dig deeper into the information,” said Stamper. “The data is so rich that the visualization types that we'll be able to incorporate can include networks, geospatial, and temporal - it's just figuring out what will work best for making the information in the data meaningful to those who are interested in seeing and interacting with it.”

Upon the completion of the year-long process, the team will raise a glass to future research that could build upon this novel approach they have begun. 

“At some point, we may get to a place where we describe flavors like we do colors; it would be standardized,” said Hamilton. “This is a great step in that direction.”

 
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June 9, 2020

As Manitoba carefully reopens for business, Video Lotto wants to help you prepare to serve your customers safely once the VLT network is reopened.

To help maintain social distancing after the network is up, many VLTs will remain turned off through Video Lotto’s Central System. Placing plexiglass barriers between VLTs is not an approved method for social distancing. The reconfiguration of VLT gaming areas to achieve social distancing is being reviewed.

Following the reopening, it is important that VLTs are effectively cleaned after each player’s use with the prescribed 70% alcohol-based solution.
Do not use ammonia-based products as they could damage the VLT.

Please see the VLT FAQs, cleaning and social distancing information attached.

 
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June 3, 2020

Food Service Solutions has been appointed the Canadian distributor Graco Inc.’s SaniSpray HP products effective June 2, 2020.  SaniSpray from Graco Inc. is the industry’s first airless high production piece of equipment built specifically for your sanitizing and disinfecting needs. SaniSpray is designed to deliver consistent coverage, without drips and runs, so that you can achieve effective and safe results. Don’t leave your success to chance. Inconsistent and insufficient coverage of sanitizer needed to kill harmful viruses is often the result with other application methods.

 

Fast, effective and efficientapplication on key surfaces by SaniSpray works to ensure a safe environment for staff and guests. HP sprayers from Graco, just spray and let dry using any Health Canada-approved chemical, including food grade certified sanitizers.

 

We’re thrilled to represent the SaniSpray HP line in Canada. As our industry morphs into the next phase, customers visiting restaurants or larger venues will remain concerned with the risks associated with COVID-19. To win them back, they need to feel safe and know the facility is effectively sanitized", commented Chris Koehler, president of Food Service Solutions Inc. 

 
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (June 3rd, 2020): A step between Tequila and Mezcal, experience the rich, earthy notes of Sotol - a pure-distilled spirit 15 years in the making - from award-winning IZO Spirits. Founded by Mexico native Gaston Martinez, IZO offers premium, flavorful spirits produced sustainably right in the heart of rural Durango, according to centuries of tradition. Now, released as part of the complete IZO collection, Sotol adds a rich depth to fan-favorite cocktails and offers a subtle smokiness perfect for sipping.

“This is the only IZO spirit not made from agave,” explains Martinez. “But you simply can’t have a true Mexican-inspired collection without the depth and light sweetness of traditional Sotol.”

Named for the round-shaped root of the silver-blue plant from which it is made, IZO Sotol comes from the Desert Spoon found among the high desert landscape of Northern Mexico. While agave matures at roughly eight years, flowering only once and producing around five bottles of Tequila per plant, the Desert Spoon blooms every few years of its 15-year lifespan and produces just one precious bottle of Sotol. At maturity, relying on a similar process to Mezcal, the IZO Jimadores remove the outer leaves, and extract the  piña (or “heart”), which is then slow cooked in a lava lined pit, fired by hand selected local Oak. The juice is then fermented and distilled twice to produce a clean, smooth Sotol from start to finish.

Considered the official drink of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Martinez’s own home town of Durango, Sotol is best enjoyed by the sip to experience its full flavor. It can also be used in place of Tequila for a sophisticated twist on a variety of cocktails. Try it in a refreshingly simple Sotol and Sage - an upgrade on the classic summer Mojito:

●  1 oz lime juice

●  ½ oz agave nectar

●  2 oz IZO Sotol

●  2-4 oz soda water

●  5-10 fresh Sage leaves

Muddle lime juice and Sage leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, the agave nectar, IZO Sotol, and soda water. Shake gently to combine, then strain over a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with a spritz of soda water, garnish with a Sage leaf and enjoy.

Explore the clean taste of traditional IZO Sotol, along with a full collection of IZO agave spirits - including Mezcal Joven, Mezcal Ensamble, Mezcal Reposado, Mezcal Añejo, and Tequila Extra Añejo Cristalino - at IZOMezcal.com. Taste the proud tradition of agave spirits sustainably distilled “from ground to glass,” ensuring consistent, perfectly-balanced flavor. Discover the rich history behind the full-bodied IZO Agave Spirits collection, along with refreshing cocktail recipes, at www.IZOMezcal.com.

 

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