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Craft gin makers must ‘skill up’ to succeed

The global growth of craft distilleries is fuelling a similar growth in demand for professional distilling qualifications, says professor Katherine Smart speaking at this year's Gin Guild’s Ginposium

Katherine Smart Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD)

The IBD has seen candidate numbers for its distilling examinations soar over recent years. This year, 223 candidates will sit the General Certificate in Distilling, representing an 80% increase since 2010, and 159 will take the next stage Diploma in Distilling – a 65% hike.  It has also launched a new Master Distiller qualification, aimed at senior managers, which will see the first series of examinations in June 2017.

We welcome the new wave of craft gin makers, who have attracted a wider consumer base and reinvigorated the category. However, it’s important that these new distillers equip themselves with the right level of technical knowledge to produce a consistently high quality spirit.

Technical training to the standard set by the IBD’s distilling qualifications will ensure that craft gin makers can distil in the confidence that their product will taste the same, batch after batch.

The IBD qualification structure caters for everyone in the distilling industry from newcomers to experienced professionals, with four examinations. For most of these, individuals are able to acquire the requisite knowledge either by attending classroom-based courses delivered by IBD-accredited trainers, or by completing the IBD’s on-line learning programme.  It is also possible to sit all modules together, or take them over a number of years, depending on the candidate’s previous knowledge and which qualification they are aiming for.

Our examinations are designed to be accessible to all candidates, whether they are working for a global spirits company or a small craft distillery. The earlier stages of examinations are in multiple choice format, which are still demanding but easier for candidates with English as a second language.

To succeed in the increasingly crowded spirits market, it is crucial that distillers underpin their passion for the product with knowledge from a trusted source.

The IBD is staging the next Worldwide Spirits Convention in 29th May – 1st June 2017. Held in Glasgow, with the theme 'Local Roots; Global Reach: Delivering Distilling Expertise to the World'; further details can be found at


Fundamentals of Distilling: designed for non-technical personnel working in the distilling industry, who would benefit from background knowledge in spirits production. 

General Certificate in Distilling: provides international recognition of a basic, underpinning knowledge and understanding in the principles of distilling. Candidates have to answer a core section plus one elective section, choosing from Cereal, Sugar Cane Molasses or Grape.

Diploma in Distilling: provides international recognition of comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the principles of distilling.

Master Distiller: a new qualification, with the first candidates sitting examinations in 2017. Master Distiller is the most advanced distilling qualification from the IBD and candidates are likely to be in senior production management roles.

Pictured above: Professor Katherine Smart, president-elect of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, speaking at Ginposium 2016

The Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD) is the world’s leading professional body for people working in brewing and distilling.  The organisation originated as the “Laboratory Club” in 1886 and now has an international membership of 4,500 people based in over 80 countries world-wide.

13 June 2016