A north-east whisky expert has been named as the first tutor in the north-east of Scotland accredited by a leading industry body.
Mike Stuart – director of the Inverurie Whisky Shop and manager at the town’s Black Bull Inn – has been awarded the honour by the Whisky Ambassador, a global initiative designed to set standards of best practice across the licensed trade.
Mike is one of only a select band of tutors (fewer than 10) across the UK to have received the endorsement. It means he can deliver specialist training to bar, hotel and restaurant staff who are seeking a comprehensive grasp of the national drink.
Mike, who also holds a diploma in Scotch malt whisky from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, is now offering group and individual bookings for between four and twenty people to sit the course at licensed premises across the north-east.
As an official Whisky Ambassador accredited venue, training can also be held at the Inverurie Whisky Shop. The exam is then marked at a central location before a certificate is awarded to each successful delegate.
Mike Stuart commented: “I’ve always been passionate about educating people about all things whisky-related so that they can fully appreciate the product. Too often, you hear tales of visitors from overseas – whether it’s China or the USA – having a broader knowledge of whisky than those tasked with serving a dram in our own pubs and restaurants.
“Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence, but I feel we don’t push this tremendous product enough as a nation. While there are organisations doing a lot of positive work, there remains a huge opportunity to capitalise on tourism and revenue-generating opportunities through better promotion of whisky.
“Through this Whisky Ambassador accreditation, it will hopefully allow me to develop that knowledge base and skillset at a local level and help promote the fantastic distilleries we have on our doorstep.”
Whisky Ambassador courses are built around the needs of the learner and tailored to their level of knowledge. Each course gives delegates the knowledge, skills and confidence to talk to customers about whisky and make recommendations to improve their overall experience, whilst boosting sales.
Everything from the history of whisky and effective placement at the bar to tasting and nosing sessions are covered as part of the one-day course and exam.
Mike’s expertise is not only limited to those working in the licensed trade. The company organises corporate events, team building days, private tasting events and tours of distilleries across the country.
He is also exploring becoming an accredited gin instructor to raise awareness around the range of spirits produced in the north-east and support this growing market.
He added: “It’s important for people to have fun, responsibly of course, when trying out their whiskies or gins. We offer a relaxed tasting environment suitable for any budget or level of knowledge, while our distillery tour days are particularly popular with those visiting the region and looking to learn, visit and, of course, sample our fantastic Aberdeenshire spirit.”