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I have tested for you the WSET level 3 in Spirits!

Last January was the first edition of the WSET level 3 in spirits in France. That was in Paris in the marvelous place of “La Maison du Whisky”, in the “Lab” most precisely. This is a place dedicated to the tasting and the discovery of the world of spirits.

I had the chance to be part of the nine first candidates to pass this diploma. This was a great adventure for me (and for my teammates!).

My name is Pauline and I am a wineshop retailer based in Pau in the Atlantic-Pyrenees. I founded my company, Wine Wander in 2021 with my husband Gauthier (you know him through wine articles in this blog). I passed the WSET level 2 in spirits in 2019 and I wanted to share with you my feedback on this level 3.

Some good reasons to go for the WSET level 3 in Spirits.

To my mind this diploma is the perfect way to achieve a technical and theoretical formation in the spirits domain. It gives a global view of the international spirits market and goes through the different methods of production and marketing. The level 3, which gives far more details than the level 2, will give you what you need to compare and to characterize different products that are sold on the market. If you are a wine retailer this diploma is ideal because it will help you to select your spirits according to your expectations.

What is good for a wine retailer is also good for the wine business in general. Among the 9 students of this session there were wine retailers, producers, distributors and even a bartender. A writer was also part of the team, she wanted to know more about spirits in order to write a book on it.

Whatever your job is the WSET spirits is the most advanced training on the market in France giving you a deep and valuable technical approach in such “short” period of time.

It is important to know and to keep in mind that the step between the level 2 and level 3 is consequent.

From one side the level 3 is covering much more spirits, from Asian spirits to Agave spirits, through French “eau-de-vie”. A real journey!

It is a unique chance to taste rare spirits but I won’t go further on that, I leave you the surprise…

From the other side, the level of details dealing with the preparation and production of spirits is really above the level 2. For example, you will deal with the starch’s technics of conversion and the chemical reactions occurring during the distillation. You will cover biological and thermodynamic phenomenon that take place during the production of a spirit that may remind you some things that you learnt some time ago…

How to prepare the exam?

As you may have understood the level 3 is as fascinating as complex! That is why a good exam preparation is necessary. Don’t worry you will have time to train, whatever your initial level of knowledge you can do it.

The TQT (Total Qualification Time) recommended by the WSET is 51,5 hours of personal work. I have to admit that I have overpassed this time but this is dependent of yourself.

Globally and after having talked with my fellow teammates I would suggest to start working at least 3 months before the beginning of the courses. You will have time to be familiar with the content and most precisely with the foundation unit.

During this time, it is truly important to use the different learning materials that are provided. They are the key to your success as they give you and tell you what to know to pass the exam.

First you have the book which provides you all the information that you have to know. It is important to read it in an active way so you can understand all the mechanisms that take place for any kind of spirit production. It can seem obvious but it is important to read the section 2 before the section 3 for instance. The section 2 is a foundation unit compelling the base information that you need to know to understand the section 3. The learning of section 2 is essential and you will need time to do so. This time is not lost, it will be easier to understand and to learn what comes next.

It is up to you to summarize all this information using flash cards or not.

Then you have the “Specifications” book which tells you what you need to know and understand for each chapter of the book. Don’t hesitate to keep it close to you so you can check if you are in the right direction in your learning.

Then you have the “Study guide”. It will give you the exam technique to pass the exam. This part is essential as in the level 3 you will have an open question which is different from the level 2 where you had only a multiple-choice questions. This open question will test your ability to explain something and/or understand something about spirit production, spirit marketing, etc… This is why it is important to train yourself to “teach” what you have learnt to your family or friends. It is a fact to know and understand something but here in the exam the focus is on explaining the information.

Don’t forget to train yourself to write in English (if you are not familiar with it) in a respected amount of time as the exam is in English and you have an allocated time not to exceed.

To take maximum profit of your courses with the educator it is important to have read at least once the “Specifications” and the “Study Guide”.

What about the courses?

It takes 5 days of in person course to cover the entire book. As you can imagine it goes fast and that is why it is important to be familiar with the content of the book otherwise it will be difficult to learn during the course as you would have learnt reading it.

You will taste dozens of spirits to prepare for the tasting exam and to put in application the theory. You will also train for the written exam thanks to group exercises. Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident about the exam at the beginning of the courses, you will be at the end of the five days.

During this time, you will be taught by an expert of spirits. This is a rare opportunity to ask all your questions to better understand what it is not clear yet. You can share about the exciting world of spirits with the educator but also with your teammates and you can also grow your network.

As you can see there are only good reasons to go for the WSET level 3 in Spirits. To succeed in this challenge, try to choose the best period of the year when you know you will be able to have time to prepare yourself and to have fun.

I am very happy to have participated at this first session in France and I hope it will be the case for you too. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

I would like to thank WiSP to allow us accessing this diploma in France and a huge thank to Didier for his teaching and the sharing of his passionate knowledge.

Pauline Uzabiaga. 

Crédits photos Wine Wander

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