Advisors and Instructors

Brandon McCraney headshot

Brandon McCraney

Brandon McCraney is the CEO and Master Blender of Olde Raleigh Distillery. As CEO, he provides the vision and strategic direction for the future of the company. As Master Blender, he hand-selects and ages barrels using a vigorous process known as élevage to identify the perfect point in the time to harvest distinct and flavorful small-batch spirits. In the pursuit in mastering the art of blending whiskey, he is actively involved in blending unique releases from around the world. The spirits curated to date have resulted in Olde Raleigh Distillery being awarded the Best U.S. Micro Distillery at the 2023 International Whiskey Competition. 
Brandon’s role extends beyond the walls of the distillery, to foster partnerships with local farmers and introduce heirloom grains in the heart of Old Tobacco country in North Carolina. As a Raleigh resident, he aims to build a meaningful brand that gives back to the community he loves. The goal is to showcase the positive environmental and economic impacts distilleries contribute from farm to glass.

This desire to have a broad impact stemmed from his experience as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, where he proudly served for four years. Brandon’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and Master’s Degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Harvard University. He is a certified Executive Bourbon Steward, Whiskey Sommelier, teaches at the Whiskey Marketing School and has industry affiliations with Moonshine University, the American Distilling Institute and the U.K.’s Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
As the sole owner and operator, Brandon has his sights set on making his family name one to be reckoned with in the craft whiskey world.

Chris Maddock headshot

Chris Maddock

Chris Maddock is an award-winning and world-renowned ad writer. He focuses on teaching marketing and ad writing to our students during our sessions. Ask his opinion of a particular whisky, and he’ll likely say he needs to investigate further.

Chrissy Martin headshot

Chrissy Martin

Chrissy Martin has been an influential and knowledgeable blogger, podcaster, and bourbon expert for years. She has a decade plus of experience in guided tastings, whisky reviews, whisky recipes, and industry training. Chrissy Martin is a Stave and Thief Executive Bourbon Steward.

She’s currently a Brand Ambassador For Blue Run Spirits

Daniel Whittington headshot

Daniel Whittington

Daniel Whittington is the founder of Whisky Marketing School. He’s also the Chancellor at Wizard Academy, co-owner of Crowded Barrel Whiskey Co, co-founder of The Whiskey Vault and Whiskey Tribe, founding member of the Texas Whiskey Association and President Emeritus of the Texas Whiskey Association.

With Crowded Barrel Whiskey Co, he was the first to create a blended whiskey using only Texas distilleries and the first to release a Texas Craft focused Independent Bottling series.

Also, WSET II and EWA Scotch Diploma Graduate and Instructor as well as Executive Bourbon Steward and instructor.

He also plays music sometimes.

Emma Crandall headshot

Emma Crandall

Emma Crandall is a Balcones Blender for Diageo and a Level Four Whiskey Sommelier. With experience in distillery management, distilling, blending, bartending, and leading educational whiskey tastings, her favorite aspect of working in the industry so far has been blending Balcones Distilling American Single Malts, such as Texas ‘1’, Lineage, and Mirador.

Blending is a creative process, and whiskey is about stories and people. Those two forces drive her passion for her career and the industry and her purpose to create compelling and beautiful whiskies.

Jack Stewart headshot

Jack Stewart

Jack Stewart started his first job as a nature eco instructor at Scout camp and moved into the restaurant business as a busboy and dishwasher, then became an assistant cook, photo lab tech, video store clerk, film student, satellite phone tech, corporate trainer, IT tech, and owned his own computer consulting firm.

He comes from a long line of teachers and preachers, artists, and musicians and was probably touched by the fae at some point. 

He is Dual Irish-US citizen who loves world travel, has a degree in History and English Literature, which is why he works as a Media/Tech Manager at a church in Fort Worth.

He’s hosted over 100 online whisky tastings.

But really none of that matters as much as the fact he is a clever and interesting person who loves whisky and is fun to be around.

Jason Sowder headshot

Jason Sowder

Declared by the world’s largest Whiskey YouTube channel as a “whiskey badass,” Jason Sowder serves as both a Level 4 Whiskey Sommelier and Executive Bourbon Steward. Additional training from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy with Certificates in Scotch and Gin as well as a Diploma in Single Malts and completion of the WSET Level 2 Spirits Certification program, BarSmarts certification, and T certification highlight his never ending thirst for knowledge.

Founder of TheProof, LLC, a whiskey consulting, events, and education company lending expertise to bars, restaurants, whiskey groups and businesses looking to elevate and explore their spiritual exploration.

Instructor at the Whisky Marketing School in Austin, Texas as well as an instructor for the Stave & Thief Society out of Louisville, Kentucky he looks to pass on his experience and knowledge to the next round of whiskey sherpas.

You can find his musings on whiskey culture and life at, a blog dedicated to finding our way back to what makes whiskey special.

Kate Van Name headshot

Kate Van Name

Kate Van Name spent several years in the professional education, certification, and testing industry and was the head of one of the world’s foremost certification companies.  She has over 12 years of management and consulting experience in curriculum process and test development as well as credentialing in over 300 industry professions such as Healthcare, IT, Engineering, and Finance. Kate helped us format our classes, exams, and records in a way that was designed to meet the requirements of a world recognized certification. Kate also ran consulting for vineyards and wineries in MD for several years. Her industry involvement included being in the Maryland Vineyard Association, Maryland Wine Association, and the VP of the Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws lobbying group. 

Kate and her husband Joe both obtained Diplomas in Single Malt Scotch from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, are avid investors in barrel projects and start-up distilleries, and own a company that provides guided tastings and food pairings for restaurants, private tasting events, and whiskey blending experiences as well as travel consulting and planning to distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.

Shannon Hood headshot

Shannon Hood

Shannon Hood, just a girl who really likes whiskey. Constantly traveling, eating, well mostly drinking. I don’t believe in the glass being half full or half empty, because it can always be refilled, and I always have whiskey on hand.

  • Whiskey Sommelier Level II (Level III in November finger crossed)
  • Executive Bourbon Steward and educator for Moonshine University
  • Bourbon Women Texas branch Ambassador
  • Founder of Pourly Educated
Steve Rae headshot

Steve Rae

Steve Rae has decades of experience in business development, marketing, radio, and communications. He was invited to become a member of our faculty because of his love of whisky and his ability to communicate that category specific knowledge and business acumen to the students. He’s also an amazing teacher of public speaking and event planning.

Tony Dina headshot

Tony Dina

Tony (Anthony) is a Level 3 Whisk(e)y Sommelier. He had the honor of joining the inaugural graduating class in 2015 from the Whisk(e)y Marketing School. He serves as the Food-and-Whiskey Pairing instructor at the Whisk(e)y Marketing School. He has led dozens of in-person and online whiskey tastings for people in High Tech. This includes a 100+ person event at Club 21, the oldest, private club in Manhattan. And Butter Restaurant, owned and run by Iron Chef and Food TV personality, Alex Guaranschelli.

During the day, Tony is a Global Field CTO for Unstructured Data at Dell Technologies. It’s his background in Fine Arts, obsession with cognitive neuroscience, love of analytics that create a wholly new perspective on Tasting Whiskey. Who else would author a post called “10 Parallels Between Tasting Whisky and Artificial Intelligence”. Tony lives in Austin, TX with his partner Renee, proud of his two adult sons Oliver and Gordon, and passionate about all things Italy.

Zac Smith headshot

Zac Smith

For over a decade Zac has been diving headlong into the why’s and how’s of whiskey. Haunted by IF-THEN, he took his love of deductive reasoning and created the Sequential Whiskey Tasting Chart. A system for blind tasting that helps you know what’s in your glass. In 2015 Zac and his wife, LeAnne, started Since then they’ve traveled all over helping people get more out of their whiskey. Zac teaches Sequential Tasting and the technical details of whiskey making. He helps students connect their knowledge of whiskey, the IF, to the final flavor profile, the THEN