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Interview with Anne Gigney

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Welcome Anne, please introduce yourself and your role in the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


Thanks, Shane. I’m the Director of the Tasmanian Whisky Company and primary controller of traffic on course day. I am also the grunt behind the operation, so if something needs doing I better get in and get my hands dirty.



How did the Tasmanian Whisky Academy begin and is it based on any established model?


A couple of years ago the company I was working for was doing some agriculture work on the lovely Redlands Estate where the original Redlands Distillery was based. At the time we got talking to distiller Dean Jackson and our mate Bill Lark and the conversation of how you learn to be a distiller came up.

At the time, in early 2013, there wasn’t much around if you wanted to learn about distilling. The guys here in Tas had been learning on the job, reading up when they wanted to know something or asking other distillers (primarily Bill Lark) if there was something a little bit tricky.

We thought there had to be an easier way for distillers and people who wanted to work in the industry to gain those skills and knowledge; the idea of the Academy was born.

From there, my partner Chris who is passionate about training that works, and I started looking around at ways we could help create a pathway for people interested in getting into the industry and those looking to increase their skills and knowledge in distilling.

We tested the idea with Bill Lark and spoke with Patrick Maguire (Sullivans) to see what they thought and with a positive “yep, reckon it’s a goer” we took off.

The model is loosely based on the Irish Whisky Academy and is based on the premise of connection. Connection to experts. Connection to Tasmanian distilleries. Connecting people who love whisky, with people who know about it. We wanted to create an amazing Tassie experience that also gave students full exposure to the process of whisky making – from idea to market. That course has become the Tasmanian Introduction to Distilling and was first run in November 2016.

Our next goal is to be able to create a better learning pathway for the industry itself so that the people in the industry who have the skills are recognised for these and if they want to learn new skills, there is an avenue for this.



What does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy hope to bring to the Tasmanian and Australian whisky industry?


It would be great to think Tasmania, and by default Australia, can gain a global reputation not just for our amazing product but for our people as well.

In short, we’d like to think that when aspiring distillers from other parts of the world look at honing their craft, that Australia becomes a desirable place for that learning to occur. If we can play a role in progressing that reputation it would be fantastic.



What services, training and support does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy provide and to whom is it available?


Currently, the Academy offers the Tasmanian Introduction to Distilling course. This 1-day course is targeted to people interested in getting into the industry, those who love whisky or want to write about it and anyone trying to work out if distilling or brewing is what they want to do with their career.

We’ve also become a bit of an unofficial go to place for info about Tassie whisky and we’ve created the Tasmanian distilleries map with the view that if people are thinking of coming to Tassie, that they might come and do the Intro course, then stay a while and check out distilleries and tours around the state. We’re super happy to talk to anyone about whisky and what roads they should travel while they’re here.

We also have a few other things up our sleeve for 2017 and we’ll be sharing those soon.



So, if I wanted to start my own distillery, what unique opportunities could the Tasmanian Whisky Academy provide me?


The most relevant thing is the end to end overview. We’ve priced the Intro to Distilling so that if you are thinking about entering the industry, or you’re thinking about opening a distillery, the course will give you enough info that you can then make informed decisions about where to go next. It’s also an awesome fun day.

There are some other avenues around that may help, but the Intro is set out as a structured course, designed to be a great experience and provide a bit of business, info about barley, mashing, fermenting, distilling, bottling and market with pointers that help people on their journey.

The best part is getting out there amongst it at Moo Brew and see the grain and the mashing and Sullivans Cove Distillery to go through the process from receiving wash to bottling. Our mate Rex from Nonesuch Distillery also got to show our students a bit about gin, so that is a pretty cool too.

For people coming from interstate, we’d like to think we can offer them a little part of Tassie that they might otherwise not get to see. And while they’re here look after them, introduce them to people who might be able to help and create a worthwhile connection to the Tassie industry.



What work is being done to provide official accreditation and recognition for Tasmanian Whisky Academy courses and qualifications?


This is still being discussed but we’d like to think that in the future Tassie will be leading a distillers course that will help the industry. But that’s still a ways off and for now, part of the interest is that anyone can enter the industry and be trained on the job.



What was the local whisky industry’s reaction to the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


Largely the reaction to The Academy has been positive and we’ve had some tremendous supporters, especially Bill Lark and Patrick Maguire who helped us fine tune the idea in the early days, and Rex at Nonesuch who has opened his doors to our students.

Our hope is that we will be able to run our Intro to Distilling in other parts of the state as well and we’ve had quite a few discussions with distillers around the state who are interested in being part of the fun. That will be great for students who want to experience diversity within the distilleries.



Does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy have any partners and if so, who are they and what is their involvement?


Our main partners are Moo Brew and Sullivans Cove who have provided the venue and the knowledge to ensure the students have the most amazing experience possible. These two venues, with support from Dave Magill and Pat Maguire are great Tassie icons and we’re proud and delighted they have been able to join us.

Hadley’s Orient Hotel provide a home for The Academy in Hobart and is a tremendous venue to return to for a whisky or gin at the end of the day. Our host Todd from Destination Cellars brings colour to the story of whisky and Rex at Nonesuch has been a great support offering a complete picture of how distilling can be done. We’ve a heap of other friends and supporters for our journey, the least of which is the Tassie industry as a whole – they are the reason people head down south and for that – 25 thank yous.

Pat Maguire (Sullivans Cove), Dave Magill (Moo Brew) and Anne Gigney (TWA)

What is the vision for the future of the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


We’d just like to see more people heading south to learn about whisky. Tassie is really where it’s at. You can’t head more that 50kms from any major town in Tassie before stumbling over a distillery. We’d like more people to make our state a destination. Come and do a course, visit a distillery, take a tour and also experience the beer, cider and food that make Tassie great. And yeah, we’d like to play a role in making all that possible.



Are there any similar organisations to the Tasmanian Whisky Academy in other states and could there be an Australian Whisky Academy one day?


We think we’re pretty unique. There are a number of distilleries around Australia delivering unique and amazing whisky experiences but no single place to come for a complete education experience.

An Australian Academy? Not sure! But we think it possible the Tasmanian Whisky Academy will be offering Introduction to Distilling and more formal training to the industry in other parts of Australia in the future.



Thank you very much for your time, Anne. How can anyone interested in the Tasmanian Whisky Academy contact you?


The best place to head is the website www.whiskyacademy.com.au or Facebook www.facebook.com/whiskyacademytasmania.

The website has the links to the booking page for the Introduction to Distilling course and more information about us.

We’re offering two Summer courses in 2017 – 19 January and 16 February for people who are interested. $645 all inclusive with spots filling fast for January.


More Info

For more details on the Introduction to Distilling course, see my three-part feature here:

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