»Desk to Success«: Master Blender Angela D’Orazio
In our »Desk to Success« section, we regularly introduce you to exciting personalities and their jobs. Meet Angela D’Orazio who works as a Master Blender in the first whiskey distillery in Sweden, a profession that is still male dominated. How she is doing in her professional life and what her duties are actually, you will learn here in the interview Caro from the sisterMAG team led with her. Many thanks to Microsoft for the nice cooperation!
»Desk to Success« with Master Blender Angela D’Orazio
Angela D’Orazio is a Master Blender at »Mackmyra«, the first whiskey distillery in Sweden… a country that is not traditionally known for making whiskey. Together with the Finnish company »Fourkind« and »Microsoft Azure«, »Mackmyra« is now launching the world’s first AI-whiskey »Intelligens«. We took this as a chance to have a closer look at Angela and the product in our new »Desk to Success« feature. What does her workspace look like? What does a Master Blender do? And how is Angela doing in a field that is still dominated by men?
1. Please introduce yourself to the sisterMAG readers. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Angela, a CNO, Chief Nose Officer at Mackmyra whiskey and an alchemist who loves what I do, or if you like, I’m a dancing Master Blender, with a black belt in Nia dance.
2. What does a workday usually look like for you? What is your daily business?
I’m testing a lot of casks and whiskey and blending recipes, both for existing products like Svensk Ek and for new limited editions like Vintersol. I’m also planning for the future editions and deciding what kind of cask to fill and mature in. It’s a lot of talking on the phone while driving my car, travelling between Stockholm, the Gravity distillery in Gävle and our warehouse in Bodås Mine.
3. Can you tell us about the whiskey distillery, Mackmyra, you are working for? What is special about it?
Mackmyra is the first Swedish distilling company. This year we are celebrating 20 years. We make Swedish single malt whiskey and gin and our focus is on delivering great new whiskey experiences to the world. I’d say the difference is that we are doing it our way, the Swedish way if you like, and we like to create the best tailor-made customer experiences we can, with meetings wherever we are, with the private 30 litre casks programme, Mackmyra Reserve, and all the visits to our satellite warehouses throughout Sweden and Germany. We also do a lot of special Scandinavian finishes like cloudberry and birchwine which is very exciting.
4. What is particularly important in your workspace and what should never be missing?
Communication, helping each other and the joy of creating the best whiskey experience we can.
5. »Intelligens« by Mackmyra and Fourkind is the world’s first AI whiskey. What is AI? What is an AI whiskey? How is it made, and how is the production different from the conventional way?
AI is a machine learning process applied to whatever you want to use it for. You can, for example, use it to make something new in any field or you can use it to augment an already existing process. In the AI whiskey case, we created, together with the machine learning company Fourkind, a whiskey where the machine learned how to create new blends by learning how we created the old ones. So by giving “it” (the tailor-made software for this purpose) all the data from the past — how we made our whiskies before, what the customer reviews have been on all those, all the casks we have used in the past and all the medals we have won for these — the software then processes all these about 100 million times in the two opposite “minds” it has, one for creating and one for criticising, until it thinks it has a good one. Then we get a blend suggestion. We have gotten many recipes or blend suggestions that weren’t of interest, and gave feedback until we received five recipes that we thought were possible to make. Or I did. I supervised this process as I know the casks, I know the blends, I know what works and not. So the phrase “made by AI, supervised by human” actually means just that. I decided on every step, I checked all the blends that came to us, I gave new parameters and I did the test blends. I decided on each cask and on which recipe to use. So to be clear, the AI was used only during the last phase of the whiskey making itself — the blending. All the rest has been done in the same way we have traditionally made it for the 20 years that Mackmyra has been making whiskey.
6. What is your job during the manufacturing process?
My job is to make new products and to create new blends. To keep the quality control of what we make. To educate and to be the taste spokesperson of the company.
7. Generally, how is it for you to work as a female Master Blender in a usually male-dominated domain?
It is great even though there are not that many of us women yet, but there are more of us now than 15 years ago. So, slowly we are getting there. I think personally I thrive with what I do as I am working in a non-traditional drinks company like Mackmyra – not the traditional whiskey business. And I dance. Which gives me a good balance in life.
8. Which qualities are important to work successfully as a Master Blender?
To be curious, to be open, to be willing to work hard, to listen to your intuition and to love to create new stuff. And to have a long and good experience and knowledge of the field you are working in.