Whisky Advocate

Whisky Masterclass – any time, online

December 19th, 2011

We hope you recall Dave Broom’s piece from our fall issue of Whisky Advocate, in which he chronicled touring Scotland in a cheese-reeking motorhome with a South African camera crew. The purpose of the tour was to create a series of video classes on whisky, and that class is now available, both online and as a set of DVDs, called The World Masterclass.

It’s no small project. This first year of the course is a series of 50 lessons, each featuring Broom describing an aspect of whisky production, backed up by video clips of distillers giving their own personal perspectives on that facet.  That’s perhaps the most appealing part of this package; learning about malting from Eddie MacAffer (Bowmore), milling from Georgie Crawford (Lagavulin), distillation from Mickey Heads (Ardbeg), finishing from Jim McEwan (Bruichladdich)…this is no surface-skim of whisky education, it’s as geeky as you want to get.

“It’s all very well having the theory laid out,” says Broom, “but the only way in which you can understand whisky is by seeing the places in which it is made: the landscape, the weather — and it was pretty wild when we were there — and, most importantly, the phenomenal people who make the spirit.”

You can’t have a whisky masterclass without tasting, of course. While you can’t actually taste whisky coming through the screen, there are 100 three-to-five minute sessions of tasting readily available major whisky brands with Broom, featuring full descriptions of the flavors and positioning them in one of five “flavor camps.”

It’s a serious undertaking, and you’ll have to take it seriously to get everything out of it; each lesson presents a multiple-choice test at the end. You have to pass the test to unlock the next level (whisky education as video game progression?). There are other rewards: once enrolled, you get offers for whisky specials, events, and further filmed specials. Year 2 will add Irish whisky and blended Scotch whisky, as well as more in-depth focuses on specific Scottish distilleries.

The price for the online/5-DVD course is $150. Enrollment and more information is available at–Lew Bryson

36 Responses to “Whisky Masterclass – any time, online”

  1. lawschooldrunk says:


  2. ps says:

    The content sounds amazing. The concept of it as a test where one must ‘unlock the next level’ sounds quite annoying.

    • Louis says:

      This reminds me of the compliance training that I’ve had to take at work, and also Angry Birds.

      And who knows, we may even have something like the recent SAT cheating scandal with paid stand-ins 🙂

      • Tim says:

        Hi PS and Louis! Thanks for the comments – and the Angry Birds analogy! Just to let you know, the ‘unlocking’ is only for the assessments – all of the course content can be accessed from the get go, and can be watch as and when you like. It is only for the assessments that the ‘unlocking’ is required – just to ensure the systematic working through the curriculum (i.e. it is important to understanding the Fermentation sections before you do the Distillation sections.) Hope that helps!

  3. PeteR says:

    Do you know if it will be available in Blue Ray format or if there is a HD download available?

  4. Ian Buxton says:

    Sounds great and the quality is assured with DB involved. But with so much free content on the web and many free tasting or educational sessions with distillers are people going to part with $150? The experience of trying to get $$ for content doesn’t inspire confidence.
    Apart from Dave who is behind this?

  5. Jason Beatty says:

    Yes, there is a lot of free content out there but this goes beyond. I have drinks with master distillers down in Louisville and it is tough to get information from them. This set of DVDs gets them to explain the process further and is well worth the money. It is not some undertaking contrived to make a profit. It is designed to let the very knowledgeable become schooled.

  6. Morgan Steele says:

    After reading this blog entry and performing a little research I signed up. The course sounds intriguing and thoughtfully planned. Also, I like the idea of short presentations with testing. I know some distilleries (e.g., Balvenie’s “Warehouse 24”) have done some very nice work, but, I was looking for some further and structured education. I have a scotch aroma nosing kit, too, so I’m hoping this course, that kit, and some spirited learning will enhance my future whisky adventures.

  7. I saw this a few days ago on I have to say I am pretty interested. I’ve also worked my way through the Balvenie video series and am anxious for more. $150 is quite a bit of money, so that is the only thing holding me back from already signing up. I do like what I’m hearing though. Are you going to sign up John? Or perhaps we will see some of your input in a video in year 2? 🙂

  8. John Hansell says:

    I just want to say that we posted this up because we’ve always been about education when it comes to whisky. We feel education is the key to a happy whisky drinker.

    We’re letting you know about this project, just like we try to let you know about new books that come out. This is NOT an M. Shanken sponsored project, and the company has no financial interest in this.

  9. Lew Bryson says:

    Some more clarification; DB’s working with a training company (Lobster Ink) that does instruction for restaurant and hotel staff. This masterclass is to get people up to expert speed on whisky; hence the “Angry Birds” style unlocking process for the next level. However…it is available for anyone who wants to access it (and pay for it), which is not the usual way this stuff works. And as John says, this is not connected to us in any way; it just looked like a good educational resource.

    • PeteR says:

      Since it’s not sponsored by WA, can you review and rate the course? The cost to purchase is similar to a 18-25 YO or limited release whiskey, and as you can see from the responses on this posting, there is some concern about whether the cost is worth the investment. You guys are experts on the content. Give us your “tasting notes” and give it a corresponding rating.

      • John Hansell says:

        We think we’ll just stick to rating whisky, PeterR. That’s enough of a challenge. Besides, books and DVDs don’t smell or taste very good! 🙂

        As people work their way through the course, I’m hoping they can chime in here with their feedback.

  10. Keith Sexton says:

    This sounds like something I’d really enjoy. But, at $150, I think I’ll take the wait-and-see approach and listen to more feedback. Or, I’ll watch it with friends and split the cost.

  11. Tim Nel says:

    Hi all, and thanks John for the great introduction. It’s great to see the interest for the World Masterclass, and we have already been overwhelmed by the feedback we have got – especially seeing that we are only doing a formal international release in Feb 2012. We currently have over 27 different nationalities as part of the community, which is fantastic.

    With regards to the comments about the cost of the course, we would just like to add that the video content is one aspect of the World Masterclass – it should best be considered a ‘Course’, with the assessments, 100+ tasting sessions, and detailed lesson content. We had a wonderful time in Scotland filming over 45 distilleries, and interviewing Scotland’s whisky legends – the result of which forms part of Year 1, and is the basis the more distillery-specific Year 2. All in all, it should be seen as a great, interactive (and fun!) way to explore the world of whisky, and engage with the whiskies that you love. If you have any more questions or need more information, please let me know – Thanks again for all your comments and interest. Tim

  12. Jacob says:

    Ralfy has a free 5-6 part masterclass on his website!

  13. Danny Maguire says:

    I’d be interested in having a go at this, but at$150, in this country probably £150, it seems pretty steep. I’d like to know more about it before I commit. If anybody out there who’s involved would like to tell all of us what we’d get for our money? You never know, some of us may even buy it.

  14. Timothy says:

    Chris: Just google “ralfystuff” and you’ll get to his youtube channel… his 7 part free masterclass is included there. I think there is a built in search engine for the channel as well. Good luck!

  15. bpbleus says:

    This could be heaven, this could be hell. Because I found the information supplied on their web site disturbingly shallow, I asked them if they had a syllabus or program of some sort. A few minutes later I found the press release (see above) in my mail box. Thanks for the quick response, but I had hoped for something a bit more substantial. I would be interested if the course is hard core, not some extended introduction one can find in any book on whisky plus a couple of breath taking shots of the landscape and people involved (a la Laddie’s PC canisters). Given the need to pass multiple choice tests to unlock a next level, I’m a bit suspicious (MC tests are behind the demise of education). It could really lift us to the next level, but who knows? It would be nice having a trailer and an explicit program.

  16. Tim Nel says:

    Hi Bpblues – thanks for your comments. I will arrange for an outline to be drawn up and sent your way. We do have a video example which we are preparing for our Feb 2012 international release – I can give you a sneak preview if you would like? If you have any specific questions, please email me at

  17. bpbleus says:

    Thanks Tim. I think it is really important to show something. Anoraks tend to be rather critical to marketing, especially if there is no evidence of substance. The fact that John and Serge have written some sympathetic words is, given the lack of info, not necessarily increasing the credibility of all involved (not me, just saying).

    • Tim says:

      Hi All!

      I am happy to say that we have made a little update to the front page to include a video which shows snippets of some of the +/-150 video lessons and tasting lessons that form part of the World Masterclass as at Jan 2012. It is being updated and added to all the time, but this should show you the general look and feel and quality of the video content. The full lesson list is also available. Go to, and you will see the links on the landing page.

      We have had loads of fantastic letters written to us by members detailing their thoughts and comments – we are in the process of putting together a ‘testimonials’ section on the page, which we will place onto the website soon.

      In the meanwhile, I hope the video and course lessons list suffice – if you have any more questions, as usual, please do not hesitate to let me know –

      We are thrilled to announce that we have members in over 25 countries, and over 500 assessments have been written already!

      Thanks again for all your comments and suggestions – any advice for us on how we can improve our communications and product is great appreciated.

  18. James says:

    I second the recommendations for Ralfy’s free masterclass on youtube. Great stuff, and free, all you need to know, and buy Whisky Advocate for the nice panoramic photos 🙂

  19. Tim says:

    bpbleus – could you please mail me at so that I have your email address? Many thanks

  20. JDW says:

    Any plans to include bourbon?

  21. Thomas says:

    I also think to have a preview-chapter of the lesson would be the best piece of information regarding the quality of the masterclass, and I think this would help many people decide whether enrolling to it is worth the money or not… also for me 🙂

    Not to mention that of course I would appreciate a preview 🙂

    Happy new year to everyone out there!

  22. aaronbarker says:

    Echoing the appreciation for such a concept and course, there’s just not enough information for me to feel confident about signing up. A free intro class or some sort of detailed course plan would be appreciated as stated by others earlier. Also, for the tasting lessons or sessions do we simply sit and watch others taste or are we to provide our own “course material” to taste along with the classes to develop our own notes and opinions? That may be much easier for some than others depending on an idividual’s circumstances. If all I’m looking for are reviews and tasting notes, there’s plenty of books/magazines/websites I can peruse. But if I’m taking a course such as this, I’d like to participate in some way.

    Bottom line: Just to vague to buy into at the moment. Course outline, chapter titles, etc. would do wonders for clarity and credibility.

    have fun,

    • Tim Nel says:

      Hi Aaron, Tom bpbleus and JDW – thanks so much for your interest in the World Masterclass! We have taken your very valuable comments on board and will be doing some updates to the website to make it more ‘marketing’ focused (!) with the course outlines, and some example video lessons for you to check out. We have been overwhelmed by the interest in the course thus far, and as our official international release is only in Feb 2012, we didn’t quite have as much information on the front page of the site as we would have liked. We will make the changes in the next 10 days or so – I will post on this blog to let you know when you can get the course outlines and watch some of the lessons. Thanks again for all of your comments. Kindest regards

  23. Tim says:

    Hi All

    Just to summarize a reply to the above post: I am happy to say that we have made a little update to the front page to include a video which shows snippets of some of the +/-150 video lessons and tasting lessons that form part of the World Masterclass as at Jan 2012. It is being updated and added to all the time, but this should show you the general look and feel and quality of the video content. The full lesson list is also available. Go to, and you will see the links on the landing page. Many thanks!

  24. Thomas says:

    I must say I am a bit disappointed… not by the quality of the preview, but that I submitted a question now almost 2 months ago regarding availability of the course on disc (there was a mention about it someplace on the homepage) and some more details without ever getting an answer, or even any kind of reaction. If there is anything I really expect from an online service, then that all requests by Email are at least answered. Wondering what went wrong…?

    • Tim Nel says:

      Hi Thomas – many thanks for letting us know, and apologies for the delay. We will try to find out how we missed your query – we work very hard to keep our email response time to less than 24h, so it is unfortunate to hear we overlooked your email. Please accept our apologies in that regard. In terms of DVD release, as mentioned we do have to course component available on DVD for ourmembers who have difficulty with bandwidth – at present it is only in PAL, so of you are in the USA you may need to wait for our US release. We will charge a small postage and handling fee for the DVD option, but beyond that it should be no problem at all. Please mail me at to find out any more details – I will personally ensure your mail is attended to promptly.

      Many thanks again for your comment. Kindest regards Tim

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