Raising the bar is a phrase all too often bandied about; however the innovative World Masterclass education course, which has just been unleashed for knowledge thirsty whisky fans, has done just this.
The game-changer in how education is delivered and consumed, the brain child of Whisky Magazine’s Dave Broom and one of the world’s leading hospitality training firm Lobster Ink, features a comprehensive on-line/DVD course.
I saw the course in action during its unveiling at Whisky Live South Africa, and have to say the results are excellent; in fact I cannot wait to get my hands on it and start going through it properly.
Each of the lessons includes a ‘classroom’ session, with Dave explaining in depth the principles behind each aspect of whisky production, followed by a lesson featuring distillers talking of their own specific techniques.
This means that students can learn about malting from Eddie MacAffer (Bowmore), milling from Georgie Crawford (Lagavulin), mashing from Andy Cant (Cardhu), fermentation from Alistair Longwell (Ardmore), distillation from Mickey Heads (Ardbeg), maturation from Andy MacDonald (Glenmorangie) and finishing from Jim McEwan (Bruichladdich)… and many more.
What better way to learn about whisky than from the people at the heart of the creative processes.
Dave tells me: “We genuinely saw the whole of the whisky-making process in amazing detail and got the people who make the whisky to explain what they believed it was all about. The end result is this fusion of hard fact and information placed in a real and living landscape populated by real people.
“When you listen to Georgie Crawford or Russell Anderson, Andy Cant or Eddie MacAffer, Frank McHardy or Alistair Longwell, Donald Renwick and Jim McEwan all talking – at length – about what is happening, it isn’t just the facts that stick with you but the passion these people have for their work. Capturing that, allowing them to speak, is the course’s greatest achievement – and there’s so much more still to come!
“The fact that they did this underlines that they recognised how important a course such as this is. It is generic, it treats all whiskies equally. We couldn’t have done this without the whole of the industry’s backing. That’s some achievement.”
The filming for Year 1 took place in the studio for the classroom material and during an intense three week period in Scotland, where the team filmed at more than 40 distilleries.
Dave adds: “Filming was an extraordinary experience, not only because of the number of sites we managed to visit, or the fact that we saw (and filmed) all of Scotland from Campbeltown to Islay to Skye to Orkney to Speyside down to Edinburgh, but the access we were given to the distilleries.”
I don’t think we can underestimate the impact this course is going to have on the education of whisky lovers, current and future. You can read as many books as you like, but this is almost as good as being there; and you get to watch and learn from some of the most important people in the industry.
In Dave’s words: “It tells you from the horse’s mouth what whisky is about and it does so in a way which is accessible to the newbie while also exploding a few of the myths which the aficionado may still be holding on to.”
With Year 1 complete, the team is working on Year 2 which will launch in spring 2012, featuring in-depth focuses on specific distilleries as well as Irish whisky and Scotch blends. Further whisky categories are then planned as well as extending The World Masterclass into all other spirits categories. “We have so many great ideas for this platform,” says Broom. “The possibilities with this application are endless.”
Students go to www.theworldmasterclass.com to enroll. Year 1 costs £99/USD150. The course is also available in a 5-pack DVD format in selected countries.