The Edinburgh Whisky Academy is a new centre of learning launched to fill a vital gap in Scotch whisky education. Diplomas are said to offer participants the chance to gain a professional qualification that is fully accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. “They are brand-neutral, in-depth and, quite simply, one of a kind”.
I talked to founder, managing director and fellow whisky lady Kirsty McKerrow to find out more about this new spirited diploma!
First of all, could you please tell me a bit more about the EWA :when was it created, who’s behind the idea and what purpose does it serve?
The EWA was created in 2015 by myself. I had recently returned from Sweden where I had been working as the Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. Through my ambassadorial work I was constantly looking to increase my whisky knowledge without being too technically focused and I was frustrated to find that there was no course offering this level of whisky education. So this is the purpose of the EWA: to fill a vital gap in the whisky education market. All of our diplomas are accredited so the candidates can be assured of consistency in every course as well as a high level of professionalism and standards.
There’s already quite a few distilleries offering “whisky school”courses (with programmes lasting from a couple of hours to a whole week), so why deciding to create a new whisky diploma?
The EWA is very different to distillery whisky schools. Firstly we are not connected to any particular distillery. All of our experts who contributed to the material are independent specialists. So the material taught is not limited to a particular style of whisky or reinforcing brand messages. Our diplomas also cover all aspects of single malt rather than focusing purely on the production process.
As I mentioned earlier, these short-courses are filling a gap in the whisky education market and we are the first and only accredited centre which is purely for whisky education. I believe that our Academy, the established distillery whisky schools as well as the 1-day Introduction to Whisky courses all complement each other well and ensure that there is a course for every different need.
What specific courses/modules did the September attendees study? How and why were those topics chosen? Who’s to teach those courses?
The Diploma in Single Malt Whisky consists of 7 modules: The Historical Development of Whisky and Distillation, The Business of Whisky, The Raw Materials, The Batch Distillation Process, The Maturation Process, Sensory Aspects and World Whiskies.
The first 2 modules are delivered as pre-course reading, with the remaining 5 being taught over 2 days at Arniston House. These modules cover the key areas that we believe are necessary for this diploma.
Our course lecturer is Vic Cameron, who has worked in the industry for over 25 years. Vic is currently Lecturer of Whisky at the UHI, committee member of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky School, Technical Manager for the UK NIR Grain Network and founder of Discerning Spirits. He has taught at a variety of events including the Orkney Science Festival and Holland’s first ever whisky school. Vic has also contributed his vast industry knowledge to the diplomas content.
Are the new diploma courses designed for students showing all levels of whisky knowledge or does it require a “whisky basics” background to get involved?
Our current diploma courses are aimed at candidates who know the whisky basics. However, on our September course we had a few people with no previous knowledge of whisky. They worked extremely hard and managed to keep pace with the schedule. So whilst I would recommend to all candidates to gain an element of knowledge pre-course, for those who this isn’t possible then the diploma is achievable as long as you are prepared to put the hours in!
Your recent press release said “The diploma is the first in a series of short courses with further diplomas in the Art of Tasting Whisky and Blended Whiskies that are scheduled to follow early next year” – could you please give us more details about the upcoming courses (dates, content, prices etc.)?
Details of the future diplomas will be distributed towards the end of the year. At the moment these diplomas are still under development, but we are hoping to have one launch in early 2017 and the other mid-2017.
How do you see the future for the EWA? How do you picture the Academy in 5/10 years time?
Gosh, that’s a tough one…right now my main focus is on achieving accreditation for the next 2 diplomas and bringing them to market. Thereafter who knows?!
I hope to welcome many people through the doors of the academy over the next 5 years and benefitting them with increased whisky knowledge.