Meet the Educator: Daniel Whittington
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the industry.
I’m the Chancellor of Wizard Academy, a business school for entrepreneurs. In 2015, we founded Whisky Marketing School to train and educate whisky sommeliers. In 2016, I co-founded what became the two largest whisky focused YouTube channels: the Whisky Vault and the Whiskey Tribe.
In 2018 I co-founded Crowded Barrel Whiskey Company, the world’s first crowd sourced whiskey distillery where I eventually operated as Head Distiller and Head Blender until October 2023. In that capacity, I also helped start the Texas Whiskey Association and served as its third President.
In 2022, I reached out to both Stave and Thief and Edinburgh Whisky Academy to partner with them in offering their courses at Wizard Academy.
How did you get into spirit education?
I began studying wine and sprits when living in California in the early 2000’s. It eventually led me to the whisky industry where I found a spirit I truly loved. I studied under various programs like WSET and smaller localized certifications before I ended up at Wizard Academy in 2013. I tend to study and analyze anything I find interesting, and Whisky was a rabbit hole that just never ended. And because teaching is one of my core drivers, I started finding small ways to share the knowledge and information I was learning. After two years at Wizard Academy, I realized that the whisky industry could benefit from a whisky education program with our focus on communications, marketing, and public speaking. And that’s what led me down this current path.
What do you love about teaching?
Teaching is a gift. First, I love having the honor and privilege of opening doors and shining the light on new and interesting things for students. I love watching their love and passion grow with knowledge and support. I love seeing what students go out into the world and do with what they learn.
But I’ve also found that you don’t truly understand something until you try to teach it. I’ve learned more about whisky in the last 8 years by teaching it than I ever did by simply studying it on my own. It took head knowledge and transformed it to a deeper level of understanding.
What excites you most about EWA?
Edinburgh Whisky Academy has done a truly wonderful job of making courses on whisky that are both challenging, highly in depth, and at the same time accessible and practical. They are one of the best in the world at understanding how to make information meaningful beyond facts and data and taking it into the realm of practical knowledge and true understanding. And they have some of the best and most knowledgeable instructors in the world.
What advice would you give someone wanting to learn more about whisky/get into the whisky industry?
First, drink more whiskey. Drink it with friends and talk about what you’re experiencing. Write what you’re experiencing, seek more understanding and community. Second, there are thousands of jobs in the industry. Find out what someone needs and be a part of solving the problem. That works in bars, restaurants, distilleries, and just about anywhere there are people gathered around whisky.
Quick fire questions
First whisky you ever tasted?
Best whisky you have ever tasted?
Is there really such a thing? I think my first experience with Longmorn 16 when my Dad shared it with me on our back porch in Austin, TX still holds first place in my head. Because that’s what turned me from a casual drinker into a whisky lover.
Favourite distillery to visit?
Balcones in Waco, Texas for personal reasons. Laphroaig in Islay Scotland for tourist reasons.
Favourite non-whisky drink?
Armagnac or Mezcal.
Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Talisker 10 goes with just about anything.
What person, dead or alive, would you most like to share a dram with?
My grandfather who passed when I was in my early 20’s. He was a Baptist Preacher and a teetotaler, but I like to think I could have brought him around eventually. And I miss the conversations we were never able to have.