Monday 16 January 2017

Edinburgh Whisky Academy: Accredited, in-depth Scotch Whisky education courses

Readers from Hong Kong may well be familiar with Malt Masters, founded by Ian McKerrow and responsible for Hong Kong's very first whisky show (not to mention being one of the first HK organisations to really promote and grow whisky appreciation in the SAR).

Ian comes from a family steeped in Scotch Whisky tradition (his family started Mackinlay's Whisky in the 1800s, and his dad ran Glenmorangie for a time), and clearly that tradition has extended beyond the males in the family, as Ian's sister, Kirsty McKerrow (former Nordic brand ambassador for for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg) has recently opened the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, a Scottish Qualifications Authority-accredited centre dedicated to in-depth Scotch Whisky education.

From a personal perspective, I have to say I've been (very pleasantly) surprised at just how much interest there is in formal whisky education since moving to Hong Kong in 2014. I regularly meet people at whisky events who proudly proclaim they've undertaken a formal qualification (most commonly the Whisky Ambassador course, run here in HK by good mate Eddie Nara) and when you ask what it is they do in the whisky industry, their response is usually something along the lines of "Oh, I'm an artist / banker / chef / writer / whatever - I just really love whisky!"

Clearly the demand for formal whisky education is there, a fact Kristy has obviously noted too, who in September last year launched the two day "Diploma in Single Malt Whisky", which is (in Kristy's words):
“written and delivered by independent industry experts...compact and in-depth and will provide a true and factual grounding for whisky knowledge“

Set in the beautiful Arniston House (just outside of Glasgow), the two day course is led by Vic Cameron, a 23 year veteran of distillation with Diageo and regular whisky educator, and covers 7 modules:

    1. The Historical Development of Distillation & Whisky
    2. The Business of Whisky
    3. The Raw Materials & Their Preparation
    4. The Batch Distillation Process 
    5. The Maturation Process 
    6. World Single Malt Whiskies
    7. Sensory Aspects of Single Malt Whisky
    The Academy also offers a 1 day course in whisky tasting, and plans to offer a diploma in blended whisky too.

    Far from just being a classroom exercise, the Single Malt Diploma includes a visit to nearby Glenkinchie for hands-on education, and the upcoming January course (28-29th January) will include a guest appearance by Charlie MacLean (who we can safely say, from personal experience, will make it a course to remember)!

    Whilst we're acutely aware that there is no one single diploma or accreditation in the whisky world, nor even one that is seen (universally across the industry) as "the" accreditation, like say, WSET in the world of wine and broader spirits, we believe that a good accreditation/diploma needs a few key ingredients - knowledgable instructors, real experiences and in-depth content. Whilst none of us have actually personally attended an EWA course, they do seem to have those three elements in spades, and feedback from attendees backs that up.

    The next Single Malt Diploma is being held on 28-29th January and pricing and booking information is available here:


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