Who said you were allowed to train whiskey sommeliers?
In short, we did. The Wizard Academy is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit and has been teaching business and marketing for almost two decades. For that classification we undergo annual audits and reviews by the US Government. Whisky Marketing School operates under the auspices of Wizard Academy.
CEO’s of some of the world’s largest companies, bestselling authors, and even a Nobel Prize Laureate have graced the halls of our school and made it their home and community.
We didn’t look to the existing industry for support or credibility because we wanted to build something they weren’t currently doing. In our experience, design by committee usually ends up creating camels instead of racehorses. However, we have a lot of respect for them and continue to use their books, teachings, and resources to help train our students. As often as possible, the money for those books and materials go straight to the authors instead of 3rd party retailers. We also send students toward the other schools on a regular basis if we feel their needs would be better served there.
We started the Whisky Marketing School when we noticed a gap in the education and teaching direction of the existing industry certifications. Our school is just one piece of a well-rounded education for someone looking for a career in the whiskey industry.
Why are you so expensive?
Our prices reflect our background in business education versus our attempt to price match the typical service industry certification.
Most beverage and food certifications are priced fairly low. For $1,000 you can have your pick of some of the best whiskey training in the service industry.
In the service industry, we are expensive. In the business world we are not.
But we’re doing far more than a basic spirits certification. Our graduates walk out the door with knowledge of food pairing science, marketing, event hosting, and business design. The price also includes a stay on campus for 3 nights surrounding class, having every single meal catered for the two days, and all whiskey expenses for the 36 whiskeys that are sampled during the official class hours and access to our 2200 bottle Whisky Vault.
Why use the term Sommelier?
When we founded the school we spent a significant amount of time deciding what we wanted to call it. After much discussion and a look at the industry overall, we decided on the term “whisky sommelier”.
The term sommelier originally began as French slang for “butler in charge of the wine cellar”, and eventually grew into wine expert. Because the English language is a fluid, living thing, it’s now commonly used as a term denoting expertise in a food or beverage category – which is why it isn’t a trademarked word.
We treat “sommelier” as a term for a knowledgeable drink steward. We specifically attach the word “whiskey” so as not to confuse our accreditation with the Master Court of Sommeliers that begin certifying wine sommeliers in the 70’s in Europe and the 90’s in the US.
Beyond that, the worst marketing strategy is to invent a term that you have to explain. “Sommelier” is relatively understood to mean beverage expert, and that’s what we’re creating in the field of whiskey. .
Is this a two day turn and burn event?
You can take the first class without a decade of whisky experience, but you may not pass. A general understanding of whisky, the history, the categories, and the flavors will have you ready to go. We view the level one course as an education in the fundamentals of the whisky category.
After level one, we have industry and experience requirements that have to be met before you can register and attend plus a minimum of six months between courses. As of right now, we are still building the level four and five certifications. If we are able to graduate any level fives by 2021 at the earliest, it will have taken them almost six years to complete the entire course. More likely closer to eight.
If anyone fails our written tests, they are allowed to return and retake it the next time we hold that course.
We believe you can have all the whiskey knowledge in the world, but if you can’t communicate it effectively – your expertise will never be fully understood or appreciated.
Yes, whiskey knowledge and tasting skills are cornerstones of our training, but the Whisky Marketing School is focused on more than that. By capturing attention, sharing relevant stories, and guiding people through an expertly crafted tasting, you’re providing an experience that commands respect and compensation.
What does your certification mean?
There are only two reasons to get a certification of any kind. Community and knowledge. If you already have both, you may not need it.
Our goal is that the majority (if not all) of our students can make a living in the whiskey industry if that is their desire. We’ve don’t hand them a title and shove them out the door. We connect them with companies, industry resources, and other students to build their careers. We offer ongoing instruction and support during the time between classes.
If you’re looking for furthering education and a community of gracious and generous whisky people, this is a great fit for you.
Who is it for?
Our class is for whisky industry people and those who wish to be in the industry. it is designed specifically to help you build a business and a livelihood. There are plenty of other programs that are amazing and valuable. Many of our students have also graduated from those programs as they built their career.
If you’re looking for a more affordable but incredibly valuable education in the fundamentals, check out the Stave and Thief Bourbon Steward Program, Edinburgh Whisky Academy, or one of the many amazing programs put on by ADI and others.
Almost weekly I send people to these programs and recommend them over ours. It depends entirely upon what you’re trying to accomplish.
If nothing else, we live in a beautiful era where access to information is better than ever before. Read blogs, books, meet with others, check out events, and find a job in the industry. You don’t need a certification in the industry to be a badass in life.
Either way, we’ll be here for our people helping to create a more open and magnificent whiskey community. And our people will continue to make their companies more money, bring more people into the whiskey industry, and contribute to a gracious and open whiskey culture.