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EWA Alumni: Susan Magen

EWA Alumni: Susan Magen

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am a Certified Wine Sommelier with the Court of Masters. For the past 13 years I have been working for Vino Volo – a high-end wine bar and retail concern operating in airport terminals across the US and Canada. My professional journey at Vino Volo has taken me from an associate in a single store to National Director of Operations. 

How did you first discover whisky?

On one of my visits to Vancouver BC, (back in 2017) I spent some time at a local pub with a substantial Scotch Malt Whisky program. Their book was divided by whisky regions in Scotland along with descriptions of each region and style of whisky. It was a revelation! It appealed to the wine geek in me. I started my journey with whiskies from Speyside and I’ve been hooked ever since!

What attracted you to the EWA course?

I wanted to learn everything about the production of whisky and its regions. I was furloughed in April due to Covid-19 and thought “this is the perfect time to pursue my passion for scotch whiskies and parlay my experience in the wine industry to the whisky industry”. When searching for Scotch whisky training online, EWA popped up (as well as several others). I liked the fact that it offered classes online as well as being accredited by the SQA, plus – I LOVE Edinburgh! I’m looking forward to traveling to Edinburgh and taking the Diploma course once travel restrictions subside.

What aspects of the course did you find most enjoyable?

The history and production are fascinating, especially learning about distillation and the ways you can manipulate style by still choices.

How might you use your new-found knowledge going forward?

I’m hoping to find a job in the whisky industry, whether working for importers, distributors or being a brand ambassador. I want to represent and help spread my enthusiasm for Scotch whiskies to others.

Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions

First whisky you ever tasted?
The Balvenie 12 year Double wood.

Best whisky you have ever tasted?
I believe it was a Caol Ila special release. I was in Edinburgh last year and visited a great bar on Victoria Street (The Bow Bar). The bartendress poured this for me. I saw the label but I didn’t write the name down. I went back the next night to take note of the bottle but they closed early and I had to leave the next morning. I’ve been chasing the monkey ever since!

Who is your ‘whisky hero’?
Neil McKerrow, for developing the cradle to grave cask concept (especially finishing casks). Coming from the wine industry, I know and appreciate the effect oak can have on its contents. On my way home from Vancouver after spending the night tasting my first whiskies, I purchased a bottle of Glenmorangie “The Duthac” at the YVR Duty-free shop. I purchased it solely because of the finishing in PX casks. I had no idea of the connection with Mr. McKerrow to EWA nor Glenmorangie when I signed up for the class.

Who would you most like to conduct a whisky tasting for, dead or alive?
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

Favourite distillery to visit?
I’ve only visited The Balvenie and enjoyed it immensely! I’d like to visit Islay next – probably Caol  Ila and most definitely Laphroaig. Of course the next time I get to the Highlands – Glenmorangie. 

Ultimate bottling for your collection?
I’m not sure… I have a way to go on my collection.

Favourite non-whisky drink?
I do like a martini.

Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Whisky goes magnificently with a cream-based pasta dish – cuts right through the fat, but a juicy ribeye steak wouldn’t go amiss! And I always like to have a whisky with a chocolate dessert.

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