Whisky training is a tourism matter

Lack of knowledge in industry is damaging the country’s offer to visitors

Whisky tourism numbers are up

SCOTLAND needs to do more to improve whisky knowledge in bars and pubs as tourism numbers continue to rise.

That’s the opinion of whisky author and consultant Blair Bowman, who said the lack of knowledge in the trade has become a tourism issue.

Bowman founded the World Whisky Day initiative in 2012 while a student at the University of Aberdeen and sold it to Edinburgh firm White Light Media in 2015, which continues to promote the scheme.

Since then he has worked as a whisky broker and consultant as well as writing his own book on whisky, The Pocket Guide to Whisky.

He said that, specialist venues aside, knowledge of the category in Scottish outlets is often “abysmal”.

He said: “I’ve been having a go at the Scottish Government about this, at VisitScotland, at Scotland Food & Drink.

“Because if you go to any other part of the world, every waiter, bartender, whatever, would know about the national drink or the local wine or whatever it might be. And they’d promote it and upsell it and they’d know how to talk about it in even the most basic, simple terms.

“And for whatever reason we just can’t do it here.

“There’s some places that do it very well, but I’d say the lion’s share of places don’t have a clue.”

VisitScotland chief executive, Malcolm Roughead, said whisky “is a vital part of local tourism and we continue to work with the whisky industry to promote events, trails and films associated with Scotland’s national drink”.

A spokesman added that the organisation “doesn’t deliver training”.

However, Graham Young, industry development director at Scotland Food & Drink, said the group is prioritising product knowledge as it looks to help promote Scotland’s food and drink industries.

“A key theme which has emerged from discussions, especially within the brewing sector, is people and skills and specifically the training of those who will be serving Scotland’s diverse offering to the public,” said Young.

He added that the organisation is working with the Scottish Tourism Alliance to promote the importance of Scottish food and drink to the hospitality industry.

A ‘food and drink industry framework’ is expected in the coming months.