Anyone have an opinion on pursuing the WSET 3 Award for Spirits or the SWE Certified Specialist of Spirits? Which path might be better and why?
As a disclaimer I work at WSET and was heavily involved with the production of Level 3 Spirits course.
There have been a few people talking about Diploma Unit 4 (Spirits) which was removed in August 2019, this unit 4 is not the equivalent to the Level 3 Spirits. The Level 3 spirits is a much higher level course. The focus at Level 3 is not just the acquisition of knowledge, but also the application of that knowledge. So yes while there will be questions asking you to recall knowledge, the most difficult and challenging part will be the Short Written Answers which ask learners to display knowledge, comprehension and explanation / application.
WSET does not specialise in one spirit category, rather we provide a global perspective and put all the categories into perspective. So you will learn about the Asian spirits in particular.
The main difference is that at Level 3 Spirits you will be asked to explain and apply your knowledge not just regurgitate facts. There is also an additional tasting component where the focus is not so much the identification of the spirit (though you do have to do that), but a description of the spirit (using a Systematic Approach to Tasting- the WSET 'grid') and an assessment of quality. So long as you are a reasonably good taster, the description is fine, where students struggle is articulating the quality level of the spirit. Quality arguments are integral into all WSET courses, and so learners are tested on this.
The best place to find out about the course is on the wsetglobal website and reading the specification which covers everything that you will learn and be tested on.
Thanks so much for the info, Chris!
I recently sat for the WSET 3 Award in Wine, and though I am ultimately pursuing a path with the Court, this is another interest/passion of mine which I want to develop. I will look into it!