Angela D’Orazio

Master Blender of Mackmyra, NIA Dance Addict, Lecturer and Whisky Icon

Hi Angela, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, it’s exciting and a real honour.  Can you tell me a bit more about yourself?

Angela D'Orazio
Angela D’Orazio

I’m a happy person with a couple of really great jobs. Master Blender at Mackmyra Swedish whisky, sensory educator, lecturer and spirits judge at competitions. World traveller and a Nia technique dance teacher.

NIA, I’ve not heard to this can you tell me a little more about that?

 Nia dance is a fitness fusion dance technique, made to make you sweat and be healthy and happy at the same time, this by (amongst other things) creating new neurological patterns (Neuromuscular Inter Action =NIA) in the body while you have fun. It comes from America, is a 30 years old technique based on routines danced made out of 9 movement forms; self-defence (Aikido, Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi), dance moves (Jazz, Modern dance and Duncan dance- but has really all sorts of dance moves; Arab, Latin, afro etc) and 3 healing techniques (yoga, Alexander technique and  Feldenkreiss).

Nia is a quite big movement in a lot of countries in the world, amongst those are the UK, Sweden (or the whole of Europe), South Africa etc.

If you want to take a look for yourself, go to Nia s official web page http://www.nianow.com . See more on my profile on http://www.nianow.com/angela-dorazio there you can also see how I came in contact with Nia.  One of the Swedish bloggers suggested I’d do a Nia bottling and why not.  (Great idea but I think I’ll stick to the drinking rather than the dancing, as fun as it looks)

What first attracted you to whisky, have you always been a malt fan?

No I haven’t.  I didn’t like whisky when I was younger. I got to know good malt whisky and beer when I lived in Italy in the 80’s, but I became really interested in whisky (when I came to Scotland for the first time with Glenmorangie). It dawned on me like when people meets Jesus Christ.  I realized what a lovely golden liquid it is in all senses.

Can you remember your first ever whisky?

If it counts as a whisky it was Southern Comfort whisky liqueur when I was 14.  If it doesn’t, it was most probably something rocket fuel-like I stole out of the cupboard as teenager….

You are master blender for Mackmyra Distillery, how did this opportunity come about?

At first when Mackmyra was formed, I was an external whisky sensory panel member, then when employed as “whisky consultant” for Mackmyra (holding tastings for clubs etc).  Then becoming the head of development; I was the only person with a deeper whisky tasting experience within the company.  Then it was sort a natural following, to become master blender; when the experience was there and when we started to have more whisky to blend.

But actually people started to call me Master Blender a good bit before we did, so at a certain point the Mackmyra decided to upgrade my title.

Can you tell me what a “typical” day is like for you?

Tasting whisky casks and grading them for different uses and possibilities.  Taking samples and blending work in the mine.  Tasting test bottlings blends.  Planning and making recipes for new bottlings.  Helping colleagues to do their job by giving them all the different data needed.  Helping Mackmyra cask owners with tasting and advice.  Doing tastings, lectures and educate in the Mackmyra world.

What has the reaction been to Mackmyra whisky worldwide and in Sweden?

A lot of people like us for our fresh style, our uniqueness and our pioneering spirit.  Mackmyra’s known for having a typical style and being a vibrant whisky.  I think generally if there is a criticism against Mackmyra, then they criticize it for not being old enough.  But as the whisky is getting older, that starts to fade away.  (The NAS debates rages on, but I think the whisky speaks for itself)

Have you found any differences to the way you are treated because you are a woman?

Sometime positive and sometimes negative quite a diverse treatment, like life in general.  Mostly the negative part was during my first 10 years, when people doubted my knowledge more (and sometimes perhaps rightly so), as I didn’t have a traditional male brain to harbor all the whisky knowledge in.  That part really annoyed me, but I couldn’t see what I could do there, other than to prove them wrong.

But then it got better.  More and more women have become involved and have got to know and love whisky, even if it still is a traditional male territory we have taken some female space there.  If the female space was 4 out of 100 when I started, I would say now it’s perhaps 8 out of 100 or maybe even 10 out of 100.  Within that space there are a lot more women working with whisky than before, perhaps even 50/50, except in the production part, there we are still very few. Maybe 5 out of 100?

Do you think there should be more women in whisky, or do you think the industry has the right balance already?

Not at all the right balance yet! How many women would have liked or would like to work in the whisky industry and how many can actually do that I wonder?

If women generally would contribute to the whisky industry by their difference in thinking to an area like whisky, which I think they absolutely can, there wouldn’t be a problem if everything was fine and equal. But as in traditional male territories, there is still a tendency for men to promote their male friends for the next round, and that is how it generally works.

But luckily there are now some new aspects, and that is where women comes in.   If you can get the good female consumers with a fatter wallet buying your whisky, you can probably congratulate your brand to a good growth.   By bringing in more women in whisky, more women can see this and perhaps recognizes and tries the brand because of this.  This in turn gets more women drinking whisky, which perhaps brings a few more women into the industry.. so I’d say hopefully it works like that.

(And more woman in whisky does NOT mean whisky women as in having women / young “whisky girls” with shorts and wet bottoms in whisky glasses to look at, while (old fart) sipping their Ardbeg.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Ardbeg ad. This is supposed to be in 2014, not 1914! I adore Ardbeg whisky, but au contraire with their AD’s) (I think this is something that happens more in America and abroad thankfully, but there are definitely occasions good distilleries make bad adverts)

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to work within the whisky industry?

Ask yourself; are you ready to burn for it? If yes, you can work with whisky.  If not, it’s not for you.  If prepared to spend most of your free time on something as nice as this, well then go for it.  Also, it’s 99% hard work and 1% free rides. But I guess that is how it works in most industries nowadays…

Mackmyra is going from strength to strength with a good “core range”, what’s next for Mackmyra?

Next bottling is Midnattssol (Midnight’s sun) – The 2nd limited edition bottling after the Special series, a Birch Wine Finish bottling.

Moment Malström (Whirlpool) – very limited edition of 1500 bottles made with whisky matured only in 30-Litre casks of all kinds from the Mackmyra cellars; Ambassador Casks (see Moment Vinterträdgård for explanation), 1stfill Sherry, 1stfill ex-Bourbon, New Swedish Oak. 99% elegant whisky and 1% Smoky whisky.

Mackmyra TEN year old.  This is likely to be released in December 2014.

Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke) – the (still quite new) standard edition Mackmyra smoky bottling. Released in Sweden in autumn last year, will be released all over Europe.

Midvinter (Mid winter) – The first limited edition bottling that came after the Special series (1-10), a Mulled & Spiced Wine Finish bottling. Released in October 2013.

Moment Vinterträdgård (Conservatory) – very limited edition of 1500 bottles made with ex wild raspeberry wine casks, ex- lingonberry & blueberry wine casks and  ex-Ambassadors casks (=combination cask: 30L of 2ndfill mackmyra body + new swedish oak ends) , released in December 2013.

Moment Bärnsten (Amber) – very limited edition of 1500 bottles made with ex-cloudberry wine casks.

As part of this interview I was lucky enough to taste this range, see my tasting notes here

You are holding a class as part of the woman of whisky event at the Spirit of Speyside Festival, can you tell me a little about this? 

My master class on the Spey festival is basically on what is making Mackmyra such a progressive whisky maker.  I will give a taste of what comes out as in some of our unique small cask whiskies, plus on some of our very Nordic cask finishes/limited edition bottlings and our Swedish smoke.

There are only limited tickets for this, can’t be missed masterclass, book here whilst you still can

You have a good presence on Twitter, do you see social media as a useful marketing tool?

Absolutely! It is fun, easy accessible directly to and with the customers. I love it and I think we would all be a lot less interesting without our social media link today.  (Angela is an excellent example of a distillery using social media to great effect and you can find Angela on Twitter (@AngelasShare)

In five years from now where do you see yourself?

Making really good spirit and doing fun lectures, doing great quality travels and still, dancing like mad.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do to relax?

My family.  Having a nice country house with more cats, parrots, goats and dogs.  Dancing even more Nia, cinema and music concerts.

That concludes our interview Angela, thank you so much.  I am really looking forward to attending your class at Spirit of Speyside Festival and finally catching up for that dram.

Kirsty Clarke (@kirstyclarke29)

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