If you are a regular veviski.com reader, you must have come across one of my articles about Edinburgh Whiskey Academy (EWA). I shared all the details and my experiences about EWA, which I met at the beginning of 2020 and completed all of its online training in a short time, to guide those who want to improve themselves in whiskey. (You can take a look here).
After I moved to London last year, I contacted the academy to take face-to-face trainings of EWA, where I had taken online training before. Dear Kirsty and Ian, the founders of the academy, “The Art of Tasting” were invited to their training. It was truly an amazing experience for me…
About a year later, he took me back to Edinburgh, this time. “Diploma in Single Malt” were kind enough to invite them to their training. I immediately accepted this training invitation, which I wanted to attend for a long time, and set off for the training to be held on March 7-8, 2022.
In this article, I would like to share with you the details of this training and the important points I learned, just like in my previous articles.
Scotland-based Edinburgh Whiskey Academy, prepared by different experts, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is an independent organization that offers both online and direct participation certification programs with a very rich content.
Diploma in Single Malt
Diploma in Single Malt was a very intensive training that lasted 2 days. Just like in the "The Art of Tasting" module, Vic Cameron made the narration here. Vic, who has more than 20 years of experience in the whiskey industry, has worked in different companies, especially Diageo, and has worked at every stage of the whiskey production process.
Vic is truly incredibly knowledgeable, both theoretically and practically. With the experience of working in different brands in the sector for many years, he also shared the little secrets and pleasant memories of some manufacturers during the narration. However, he is quite humble, humble and does not like the terms "master, expert, guru" etc.
The training took place at Arniston House, about 15 kilometers outside of the city. Arniston House, which dates back to the 16th century, is a magnificent mansion in a very large land, surrounded by greenery. This place has also hosted productions such as Outlander and Darkest Hour.
Diploma in Single Malt is a training aimed mostly at industry professionals or whiskey enthusiasts with a deep interest in whiskey culture. If I count myself in the 8-person class, 7 people were from the industry. A significant amount of pre-reading was also given before the training, in which all the important issues related to whiskey culture were covered. Since I knew that there would be questions about pre-reading in the exam, I started doing the readings about a week ago.
The 2-day training program was as follows:
- Raw Materials
- Whiskey Production Process
- Glenkinchie Distillery Visit
- World Whiskeys
- Sensory Analysis & Whiskey Tasting
The visit to the Glenkinchie distillery at the end of the first day was a complete surprise for me. Although it is written in the program details, I missed it. I went to Glenkinchie for the first time after its renovation in 2021, which I went to 2 times before. Of course, visiting the distillery with Vic Cameron offered a completely different experience.
At the end of the second day, a long and difficult exam with 200 questions and a blind tasting awaited the participants. I will share the exam details in the last part.
In this article, of course, it will not be possible for me to explain each title in detail, but very briefly, I would like to share with you some points that stand out for each title and attract my attention.
Whiskey Production Process
On the first day of the training, our topic was the production process. This is the first time I have witnessed this process, which I have seen dozens of times in different trainings, in such a detailed way. Of course, I can say that Vic Cameron's narration was also effective here. Working at every stage of the whiskey production process, from barley selection to distillation, Vic enriched the narrative with the examples he gave from different distilleries.
*That: The production process narrative started with the selection of raw materials. As you know, we need water, barley and yeast to produce a Single Malt. We can produce an endless variety of whiskey from just these 3 ingredients. Each ingredient influences or is said to affect the character of the whiskey to a certain extent. In many brand communications, the sources from which these components are taken are explained in detail.
For example, water. You must have come across the poetic expressions of many brands such as “pure water slowly flowing from the mountains of Scotland”. I want to share Vic's comment here with you. According to Vic, water has minimal effect on whiskey character. One of the examples he gave to support this view is Oban. Oban, one of my favorite Highland whiskeys, uses tap water during the production process. Doesn't that make you think about whether water has an effect on the character?
Barley: The part we talked about barley selection was the most detailed part of the training. The part we refer to as "Barley" in the trainings is actually a training topic in itself. According to Vic, a 3-day training could only be done on barley. The selection and quality of barley is very important when we compare it with water. Likewise, the importance of barley is very high in order to have an optimum production process.
*Peat and PPM Level: I have published a very detailed article about what peat is and its effect on the character of whiskey. from this link can take a look. I would like to emphasize only one point in this section. PPM (Phenol parts per million) is a term used to describe the amount of peat used in whiskey production.
Most whiskey consumers associate this ratio directly with the sooty character of whiskey. There is a well-established notion that the higher the PPM, the more sooty the whiskey. Let me explain how wrong this thought is with an example: Lagavulin and Caol Ila malts are sourced from the same place and these malts have the same PPM level. However, the amount of soot when tasted is very different. The most important reason for this is that they take the core of alcohol at different rates after distillation.
*Fermentation: One of the important factors affecting the whiskey character in the production process is the fermentation stage. We have examined this stage in great detail, which is generally not emphasized in the trainings due to technical details. Fermentation is the first stage in which aromatic components are obtained intensively. Here, there are many factors such as the fermentation time, the temperature of the water, the performance of the yeast, the alcohol level, the hygiene of the fermentation tank. If you are getting intense fruity and citric flavors in your whiskey, this stage should come to your mind.
*Distillery: Another important factor affecting the whiskey character. Today, if a distillery is built from scratch, the stills are designed according to the character of the whiskey to be produced. But of course it wasn't like that in the past. We can say that in the years when the effect of the retort on the character was not known yet, many distilleries used whatever retort they could find. For example, Glenmorangie. One of the distilleries with the longest stills. So why did they buy these stills? In order to produce a light whiskey by deliberately increasing the reflux? No, because they were able to find these alembics from a gin maker and used it. This formed the character of Glenmorangie today.
*Maturation: In whiskey production, our entire aim is to produce a quality New Make Spirit (NMS) until it matures. Even if you put a quality NMS in a very good barrel, you may not get good results. For this reason, although maturation is the most important stage of the production process, the process that comes up to this stage should not be ignored. related to maturation you may take a look at my article. I definitely recommend you take a look. Let me state that the effect of maturation on whiskey was noticed after many years and there was no maturation in old times, whiskey was generally consumed as NMS.
I have published a detailed article after my previous visits to the Glenkinchie distillery, if you wish. from this link you can take a look. I can say that the distillery looks much nicer after the renovation with big investments. Especially the shop at the entrance and the restaurant upstairs were great.
Sensory Analysis & Whiskey Tasting
After the first day with intense theoretical explanation, the second day was a little more taste-oriented. First, we talked about the intricacies of whiskey tasting, the olfactory system and the factors that affect the whiskey's character. I can liken this part to the “The Art of Tasting” training I attended before. (My notes from the training).
Before tasting, we talked about whiskeys in different countries, production details, similarities and differences with Scotland, and their regulations.
In the tasting part, we tasted 6 different whiskeys representing different countries. These are Aberlour 10, Teeling Small Batch, Buffalo Trace, JP Wiser's 18, Hakushu Distiller's Reserve and Amrut Single Malt, respectively.
We tried to make sense of the smells and aromas taken while tasting according to the production differences. In this taste, my favorite was Hakushu Distiller's Reserve. I can say that it definitely stood out among other whiskeys. I noticed that this was the only glass Vic Cameron finished as well… Even though I have tasted this whiskey before, I realized that I did not write the tasting notes on veviski.com, I will quickly clear my notes and share them.
The biggest disappointment among these 6 whiskeys was Teeling Small Batch and JP Wiser's 18. My previous grades for Teeling Small Batch were more positive, I guess I'll need to make a small update.
Quiz & Blind Tasting
Diploma in Single Malt eğitiminde başarılı olarak kabul edilip, sertifikanızı almak için sınavdan minimum %60 almanız gerekiyor. Bu puanı hem toplamda, hem de sınavın her 7 başlığında yapmanız gerekiyor.
I'll be honest, the exam part made me very nervous throughout the training. Because there were really a lot of technical details in the training. Some of these details could have been done with basic logic, of course, but you must remember that the optimum temperature of the mashtun tank was 65°, and there were many memorized details. After the first day, I worked until 1 am and did it again, but on the second day, unfortunately, you don't have a chance like this.
A total of 200 questions were asked in the exam, which lasted 2 hours. In addition to the exam, there was also a blind tasting section. The blind tasting area was set up in a different room from the room where the exam was held. You can go to this area and taste the part of the exam you want. Tasted 9 different whiskeys in blind tasting. You just smell the first 4 whiskeys and you find the right option that describes the whiskey's character. You get the aroma chart by tasting the 5th whiskey. You try to find the right tasting notes by smelling and tasting the last 4 whiskeys side by side.
I saved the blind tasting part for last. I was planning to pass the exam part quickly and do the tasting comfortably, but things did not go as I expected because the exam was really difficult… Despite the results, when the results were announced, I was very happy to see that I made 9 out of 9 in the blind tasting. In general, I can say that I am very happy that I passed the exam. To celebrate, I'm sipping a Mortlach 21 right now as I write this.
Diploma in Single Malt training has been a really great experience for me. I can say that it is the most detailed one among the dozens of trainings I have received so far. Again, I would like to thank Kirsty and Ian for their invitation and hospitality.
You can take Edinburgh Whiskey Academy's online trainings in Turkish or in English. (You can take a look here). As someone who has taken both face-to-face and online training at the academy, I can say that I find online training very successful. The biggest advantage of online training is that you can progress at the speed you want. My advice is to do these trainings gradually by taking notes and, if possible, blending them with different sources. At the end of the training, you can also make small tastings, taking into account what you have learned.
If you have any questions about Edinburgh Whiskey Academy or whiskey culture in general, let me know. Instagram You can always access via