Peter Ranscombe goes back to school to put the online ‘focus on flavour’ module from Edinburgh Whisky Academy through its paces.
REGULAR readers will know that my geekiness knows few bounds when it comes to wines and whiskies.
I even put myself through the diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the equivalent to a foundation degree, so that I could ask uber-nerdy questions when I’m visiting wineries and distilleries.
Being born and raised in the Highlands, it’s hard for whisky not to get into your bloodstream and so the spirits unit was certainly one of my favourite parts of the diploma.
That’s why I was geeking-out when I was given the chance to try the Focus on Flavour (£25) module created by Edinburgh Whisky Academy (EWA).
While we’re all social distancing and self-isolating – staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives – online courses like this are an excellent way to sharpen our whisky knowledge.
I was very impressed with how easy it was to access the module online.
Anything to do with the internet is filling me with dread at the moment – who knew there could be so many different options for video calls until all your friends, family and business contacts want to use a different piece of software?
No such worries with EWA’s module though; all I had to do was click on the link in the email and it opened a webpage through which I could read the study material – as simple as clicking through a powerpoint presentation.
The module aims to explain how each of the different flavours we taste in our whisky is formed, from the influence of the shape of the still through to the material used to make the casks in which the spirit ages.
The material is pitched at a very sensible level – you don’t have to be a whisky expert by any means to enjoy the module, yet there’s enough detail in there for people who have more than simply a passing interest in our national drink.
One of the most impressive aspects of the course was that the information was up to date, with discussions about changes in the mix of yeasts used to ferment the grains and about the alterations to the rules over which casks can be used in the warehouses.
The photographs used in the course materials are excellent and really elevate the module to another level, helping to turn what could become a dry subject into an enjoyable romp.
EWA suggests allowing about an hour to study the module, and that feels about right, including the time for the quiz at the end.
Some of the wording is a little clunky and there a few typos – not to mention a bit of an obsession with using Capital Letters when they’re not necessarily needed.
But those are very small gripes when compared to the high quality of the course materials, which will make an ideal treat over the coming weeks and months and beyond for anyone even with a passing interest in whisky.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/