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What Is A Whiskey Sommelier? Answered (2024 Best Edition)

What Is a Whiskey Sommelier

Do you own a bar, want to know more than your friends, be a whiskey expert or want to get paid high with your whiskey knowledge? Then be a certified whiskey sommelier. 

But what is a whiskey sommelier, and how do you become one? Here’s the deal

What Is A Whiskey Sommelier? 

Whiskey Decanter & Glass

A certified whiskey sommelier title is something earned and not bought. While you must pay certain fees to become one, you don’t enter a whiskey school, pay, and then get your certificate. 

Being a whiskey sommelier takes time-just like whiskey.

Finishing each level in a “whiskey school” is not a destination but a beginning to a new path. You can be a highly paid whiskey expert, make more money at your bar, and fall in love more with whiskey. 

What Whiskey Sommeliers Do 

Whiskey sommeliers can make your whiskey more enjoyable because they are knowledgeable whiskey experts.

They make recommendations in whiskey and food pairings to enhance your whiskey experience. 

Since whiskey sommeliers study whiskey history, discover the culture, and find the stories within every whiskey, their expertise will help boost your sales or amp up any event. 

Can Anyone Become A Whiskey Sommelier?

Bourbon Whiskey Bottles

Yes, anyone can become a whiskey sommelier. You read it right. You don’t need to be a degree holder to learn and be a whiskey expert.

Your love for whiskey can be your fuel to become a whiskey sommelier, but you also need some money because programs can be expensive [1]. 

You need to complete different expertise levels to become a certified whiskey sommelier, most of which revolve around public speaking.

However, there’s more to storytelling and public speaking than tests and facts, so you must do your homework. 

How To Become A Whiskey Sommelier 

Before the founding of different whiskey schools, no education, program, or certification was dedicated to whiskey.

Today, different whiskey schools offer different levels or programs to help individuals become whiskey sommeliers, and some you can even finish over one weekend. 

However, the certification and programs are more than a weekend seminar because students should demonstrate knowledge and a high level of experience in the “fundamentals.”

It is highly recommended to wait for six months at each certification level. 

Different Expertise Levels

Dewar's Blended Scotch Whisky

The whiskey world is rich in potential for ability and knowledge, and it may take a longer training and formal study to establish expertise. All you have to do is start.

Different schools offer different levels of expertise where you can start your journey to become a whiskey expert. 

In Whiskey Marketing School, there are five levels of certification that you need to complete, and in each level, you will be tested. You will be trained in public speaking, storytelling, and palate competency and are required to pass written tests. 

However, in some whiskey schools, you will be taught by communication and marketing people, not by people with decades of experience in the industry. 

Whiskey Schools You Can Try 

Whiskey Schools You Can Try 

Edinburgh Whisky Academy 

Edinburgh Whisky Academy is a prestigious school where you can get legitimate certifications. It is endorsed by reputable organizations. The EWA educators are whisky experts that are passionate and experienced in the industry. 

EWA offers different courses and lessons like Certificate in Scotch Whisky (97 lessons: around $139), Certificate in Irish Whiskey (72 lessons: roughly $139), Diploma in Single Malt Whiskey (8 lessons: approximately $1160), and many more. 

The Council of Whiskey Masters

Scotch Whisky

The Council of Whiskey Masters sets a great standard for knowledge and competencies in whiskey appreciation.

It offers study programs and certification exams in a remote format so candidates worldwide can master the spirits in their comfort.

However, master-level examinations are held on-site and in person in Glencoe, Scotland, or Lexington, Kentucky. 

The CWM offers Level 1: Certified Scotch Professional (roughly $395), Level 2 Certified Bourbon Professional (around $395), Level 3: Master of Scotch (approximately $5700), and Level 4: Master of Whiskey (undisclosed amount).

Whisky Marketing School

Whisky Marketing School focuses on public speaking, and whiskey sommelier is a term used by marketing folks to run this “Wizard Academy.” They offer certifications you can obtain in a weekend, and each level is recommended to be spaced half a year apart. 

The five levels include storytelling, public speaking, deductive tasting, palate training, and written test.

They offer Level 1: World of Whisky (around $4,000), Level 2: American Whiskey (roughly $2,000), and Level 3: Irish and Scotch Whisky (shy of $2,000). 

Then we have Level 4: Craft Distilleries and Cocktails and Level 5: Distillery Operation in development. 

Also Read:

How Long Does It Take To Become One? 

Whiskey Globe Decanter with box & glass

It will only take you two days to become a whiskey sommelier. Yes, a two-day seminar can make you a whiskey sommelier, but if you plan to complete the five levels, it may take 30 months. 

However, allow us to remind you that you will be taught by marketing people and not by those who have been in the whiskey industry for decades. 

If you can pay at least $4,000, you can get the “lazy certification” to assume a new experience. But it can be a mockery for actual sommeliers who dedicated long years to earn the title. 

How Much Do They Make? 

Based on ZipRecruiter, as of July 18, 2022, the average annual pay for Whiskey sommelier jobs in the United States is $52,135 [2]. 

You can be paid roughly $4,345 per month, approximately $1,086 per week; that is shy of $27 per hour. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you need certificates to be a Whiskey Sommelier?

While certificates and formal training can certainly enhance a person’s knowledge and credentials as a whiskey sommelier, they are not always required. Becoming a whiskey sommelier often involves a combination of education, experience, and passion for whiskey.

Many professionals in the field acquire their expertise through hands-on experience, self-study, and participation in tasting events and seminars.

However, some individuals choose to pursue formal certification programs offered by organizations such as the Whiskey Ambassador or the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) to further develop their skills and credentials as whiskey experts.

Can you hire a Whiskey Sommelier?

Yes, many establishments, such as restaurants, bars, hotels, and distilleries, offer the services of a whiskey sommelier to enhance the customer experience and provide expert guidance in selecting and enjoying whiskey.

Hiring a whiskey sommelier can be beneficial for businesses that want to curate a diverse and high-quality whiskey selection, organize tasting events and educational seminars, and offer personalized recommendations to customers.

A whiskey sommelier can also help train staff members on whiskey knowledge and service techniques, ensuring that the establishment maintains a high standard of whiskey service and hospitality.

What qualifications does a Whiskey Sommelier have?

Qualifications for whiskey sommeliers can vary depending on individual experiences and educational backgrounds. However, some common qualifications and skills that whiskey sommeliers possess include:

Extensive Knowledge: A whiskey sommelier should have in-depth knowledge of whiskey production methods, styles, regions, brands, and tasting techniques. They should be able to identify different whiskey flavors, aromas, and characteristics and offer expert guidance to customers.

Certifications: While not always required, some whiskey sommeliers choose to pursue formal certifications from recognized organizations such as the Whiskey Ambassador, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), or the Court of Master Sommeliers. These certifications demonstrate a commitment to professional development and may enhance credibility in the industry.

Tasting Skills: Whiskey sommeliers should have a refined palate and excellent tasting skills to evaluate whiskey quality and assess its flavor profile, balance, and complexity.

Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for whiskey sommeliers to educate and engage customers, make personalized recommendations, and share their passion for whiskey in an approachable and accessible manner.

Hospitality Experience: Many whiskey sommeliers have backgrounds in hospitality, including experience working in bars, restaurants, hotels, or distilleries. This experience provides valuable insight into customer service, beverage operations, and the overall guest experience.

Overall, whiskey sommeliers possess a combination of knowledge, skills, and experience that enable them to provide expert guidance and enhance the whiskey-drinking experience for enthusiasts and novices alike.

What does a Whiskey Sommelier do?

A whiskey sommelier serves as a guide to consumers, offering advice on selecting the right whiskey based on individual preferences, occasion, and budget. They may also curate whiskey lists for restaurants or bars, conduct tasting sessions, and educate others about whiskey through seminars or workshops.

How can a Whiskey Sommelier help me choose the right whiskey?

A whiskey sommelier can provide personalized recommendations based on your taste preferences, guiding you towards whiskies that match your desired flavor profile and budget. They can also suggest food pairings and offer insights into different whiskey styles and brands.

Are Whiskey Sommeliers similar to wine Sommeliers?

Yes, whiskey sommeliers share similarities with wine sommeliers in terms of their role in guiding consumers, expertise in their respective beverages, and ability to enhance the overall drinking experience through knowledge and recommendations.

Key Takeaways 

A whiskey sommelier is a whiskey expert that can help you and guide you in the whiskey world. You can obtain certification as a Whiskey Sommelier after a weekend course, but it is only the beginning of your journey in the whiskey industry. 

You can learn from people with decades of experience or be taught by marketing people, but one thing matters – your love for whiskey.

Like whiskey, it takes time to build your palate, absorb learning, and experience tasting and presenting. 


  1. Can An Online Course Turn You Into A Certified Whisky Expert?
  2. Whiskey Sommelier Salary
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