REVIEW : Gin Diploma with Edinburgh Whisky Academy

When I think about gin, I think mostly that I love gin and I am a big fan; that Scotland has ALOT of gin distillery and gins and that I wish it was 5 o’clock so I could enjoy a G&T. The last thing I think of is a diploma in gin, an officially recognised SQA accredited qualification and being taught everything there is to know (well almost) about gin.

I attended the inaugural Diploma in Gin Course run by the Edinburgh Whisky Academy who specialise in whisky education but with the growing demand in all things Gin, have expanded their portfolios of courses to include this diploma.

The venue for this informative course is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Giles Street, Leith and with a 930am start in a very relaxed atmosphere, you embarked on the journey of gin.

The course is taught by gin guru and author, Geraldine Coates and covers six modules;  History of Gin, Definitions & Styles of Gin, Gin Now, Distillation, Sensory and Cocktails.

The History of Gin is fascinating and takes you on a journey from times of the earliest recordings of distillation in the Babylonian era, to the father of distilling Arnold de Villa Nova in the 13th century, to the Dutch made Genever, the direct descendant of gin; the 1700’s and the years of gin madness, the glory days of gin in the 1920’s and 30’s all the way to present day.

The Definitions and Styles of Gin covers what gin is and what makes gin gin. On the course you will have a talk from a gin distiller and in our case it was Tom Nichol, ex Master Distiller at Tanqueray Gin and responsible for brewing Tanqueray Ten which he considers the best gin in the world! Tom’s tells it like it is and parts with some funny anecdotes from his working life at Diageo. Tom is the first to admit that he has a better nose than a palate and that’s what’s kept him right when separating the heart of the gin from the heads and tails. (The heart is essentially the middle part of the distillation process – the best part of the gin that will be separated and used. The head is the start of the process and the tails the end part, both of which are discarded or recycled).

Gin Now is all about trends, money, market share, audience and who’s drinking the most gin. Around 70% of all gin is made in Scotland and Spain is one of our largest consumers of gin!

The distillation process is also covered, which in a class setting was quite challenging to imagine. Luckily we all went off on a field trip to the Biscuit Factory to visit Gin Ginny at Edinburgh Gin’s Distillery which brought all the text book drawings and learnings to life. Head Distiller, David Wilkinson ran through the process, the botanicals and the bottling process.

Sensory for me was the most interesting part of the day. Here we learnt about botanicals and it is noted that in order for gin to be a gin the predominant botanical has to be juniper berries. There’s also a blind tasting which is very participatory and immersive.

Bring out the herbs, plants, berries and oils that can be used to make gin. You get to smell and taste these; and although they all actually smell like ‘gin’ you start to associate some smells and tastes with memories ie Orris we all agreed smelled like ye olde musty comforting smell of yer grannie!

The blind test is so much fun. Four gins all lined up to be tasted neat at first then diluted with a little water to open up the taste and aromas.

The Gin Flavour Wheel will definitely get you thinking about the 5 big tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami and you’ll be in for a wee surprise when you do or don’t manage to guess the right flavour profiles of the four chosen gins.

It’s a full day of learning and then it’s time for the examination. Arghhhh. After the stress of it, gin cocktails await. You get to sip G&T’s and Negroni’s whilst Geraldine kindly fills you in on the history of the mighty G&T such as 80% of gin is consumed as a Gin & Tonic!

I hope that I have done enough and ticked the right boxes in my examination in order to pass – I guess we’ll wait and see, but in the mean time I do feel like a gin guru.

The Gin Diploma is aimed at Brand Ambassadors, Bar Staff, Mixologists, Spirits Retailers and Gin Enthusiasts. It costs £350pp and the next one is on Wednesday 30th May at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Full details on the diploma are available on the

Edinburgh Whisky Academy website




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