The Islay Whisky Academy (IWA) is on the verge of launching WHISKY AFFINITY ©, an online whisky course starting off in August 2020. Next to that IWA director Rachel MacNeill reveals more news.
Never stop learning
I wonder if the IWA Residential Diploma makes you more than complete as a whisky enthusiast. ‘As everyone in the distilling industry will concur, there is no such concept as “qualified” in the sense of having finished learning’, Rachel explains. ‘In Scotch – as in life, anyone who thinks they know everything, really knows nothing. We never stop learning’. Listening to Rachel I learn that the new online course is an extension. ‘Knowledge about the ins and outs of whisky making is something that you engage with over years of smelling, tasting, comparing, analysing and working to understand what is happening. This is the same thing you will do whilst studying with WHISKY AFFINITY© online course’.
I feel like standing on the shoulders of giants when she adds: ’My friends in the industry are people who actively live whisky and its components: Jim McEwan, Richard Paterson, John Campbell, John McCheyne SMWS, Alasdair MacDonald – Manager of Clydeside, Fraser Hughes – Manager of Ardnahoe, Professor Graeme Walker, Allan Logan & Adam Hannet, and others of this calibre. These people promote learning every day. While they are all masters in their field, they would never presume to state they had “mastered” whisky or whisky making’.
Going further into the online art of learning I wonder how I would get my sample of, say any whisky that is being dealt with during the course. ’If we do send out whisky, it will because we have chosen to highlight this whisky for a reason. This is not a course where you have six whiskies and we sit and talk about what we get from them. That style of learning is already well provided for’. Rachel adds: ‘WHISKY AFFINITY© and the IWA are totally independent. We are beholden to no one. All knowledge is presented because I think it is authentic and valid. Not because we are pleasing a corporate sponsor’.
Sounds like everything is full proof from start to finish. ‘Definitely. The whisky knowledge offered at IWA is second to none. Our lecturers, teachers and presenters are people working in the industry and are all expert in their field. I also know whom to ask when I need someone to elaborate on specific points. This is the professional, technical, and theoretical side. But there’s more to it than that Rachel continues. ‘We are loyal to the heritage and history of this land; and land the world over. This is the underlying ethos of the IWA’.
No competition at all
It sounds as if WHISKY AFFINITY© online could really make a difference and be the refreshing change in the plethora of online courses around the world. Next to the Edinburgh Whisky Academy (EWA), a Scottish training institute that offers certified whisky education there is the Speyside Whisky School and The Council of Whiskey Masters which offers whiskey expertise courses covering both Scotch and Bourbon. ‘The IWA is not in competition with all the other courses because we offer a style of learning which is completely different; in fact we complement each other.
WHISKY AFFINITY (c) provides a fresh perspective on Whisky and Whisky Production – from the Inside looking out and not from the outside looking in. We have no interest in producing something that has been offered before. WHISKY AFFINITY@ derives from an authentic Gaelic Celtic Consciousness. This is the awareness that birthed uisge beatha. Therefore our tagline is Mac na Braiche is Siobhraich à Ìle agus Air Astar (Malts and Magic from Islay and Beyond).’
WHISKY AFFINITY@ online whisky course (as of August 2020)