Devin Hatfield on His Studies at the Edinburgh Whisky Academy

By: Waddington's Staff

Devin Hatfield

Devin Hatfield, a Specialist in Waddington’s Fine Wine and Fine Spirits department, recently travelled to Scotland to study at the Edinburgh Whisky Academy. In advance of our May 27 – June 4, 2024 Fine Spirits auction, we caught up with Devin to hear about his studies, the best drams he sampled, and bottles you should know about in the upcoming auction.


Hi Devin! Tell us about your background and your role at Waddington’s.

I have held roles in a number of different fields, including hospitality, Information Technology and marketing. Knowing very little about the intricacies of the auction world when I first started I am proud to say that over six years later, I am now a Specialist in Waddington’s Fine Wine and Spirits department with two diplomas from the acclaimed Edinburgh Whiskey Academy.

Tell us about your trip to Scotland. 

A friend and colleague suggested the globally renowned Edinburgh Whisky Academy for advanced learning and I knew it would be the perfect next step in continuing my education. I decided to focus on their certified Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Diploma Courses: “Single Malt Whisky” and “The Art of Tasting Whisky.” These courses are offered at an estate in the Scottish countryside, surrounded by farmland and groomed gardens. I attended three full days of instruction, which culminated in exams and tastings. The instructor for both courses was the venerable Vic Cameron, affectionately known as “The Whisky Minister” because of his recent move to a ‘higher-calling’. His 23 years of industry experience provided us with insight into spirits far beyond our expectations.

The other students brought a surprising amount of knowledge to the proceedings as well. This international class had a wide variety of expertise in the spirits industry, ranging from enthusiasts to wholesale buyers. We all had something to bring to the classroom and I am happy to have had the opportunity to share my auction knowledge.

The courses were divided into ten modules of study, including prerequisite work completed before our arrival. They ranged from the history and business of whisky, distillation, maturation and raw materials, to the anatomy and physiology of the olfactory system.. Spread over three days, it made for some intensive study.

In addition to time spent in the classroom, we took a guided tour of the Glenkinchie distillery, which brought us through the inner workings of the production facility. The tour is aimed at educating patrons about the journey barley takes to become a single malt whisky from this famed Lowland distillery, which also happens to be one of the four pillars that makes up the Johnnie Walker Blended Malt Whiskies line-up.

What was the most interesting thing you learned?

I think it would have to be that the humidity and temperature of the local environment during the maturation process (time in barrel) greatly affect the alcohol and water content of the whisky. A whisky in a high humidity/low temperature environment like Speyside will differ greatly from a low humidity/higher temperature environment like Kentucky. This, tied with the range of oak varieties on offer and the bespoke peating that Scots use leads to a distinct spectrum of flavours.

I was also reminded about how helpful in-classroom learning can be. By listening and sharing anecdotes from each other’s spirits experiences, it allowed me to form key memories that tied directly to the theory being taught. It is not always easy to describe the aromatics and flavours one gets from a dram, but discussing our opinions definitely helped increase our vocabulary and our ability to elaborate on how esters and phenols from the whisky making and maturation processes make drinking this beverage a one of a kind experience.

Did you notice any major differences between the way Scots versus Canadians consume or think about spirits?

I think the largest difference was the Scottish patriotism towards their whisky. They have a lot of pride for their national dram, and rightly so. I really felt the country’s connection to their beverage.

What was the most interesting dram you tried?

It is difficult to choose just one. I had an outstanding Dalwhinnie 15 year old and a perfect Balvenie 12 year old, but the one that most stood out was because of its connection to our classroom: a gentleman attending the course was a representative for, ironically, an English distillery. He brought the latest yearly batch of their single malt for us to try which proved that passion and know-how are the most important qualities to making single malt whiskies. It was balanced, exciting, and delicious, and I regret it will be some time before I taste it again here in Ontario.

Any tips for those new to buying fine spirits? Any insider info for those more experienced collectors?

Staying true to your interests will go a long way to acquiring the right bottles for drinking or collecting. Try to not get distracted by the fair market values or flashy packaging. Waddington’s Fine Wine and Spirits department ensures that the reserve prices in our auctions are well researched and correct, and that the lots on offer are well curated for our buyers. Remember that although a bottle might look important by its packaging, it is not an indication of the spirit within. Whether you are trying to find your next daily dram or are investing for the future, Waddington’s aims to make both selling and buying a rewarding and pleasurable experience.

Which lots from the upcoming auction do you think collectors should know about?

This auction explores the World of Whiskies. There is something for every drinker of spirits and every collector. Highlights include:

Lot 23 – Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Feis Ile 2002: Considering the success of Ardbeg today, it’s difficult to imagine that just a few decades ago this distillery was struggling to stay open. This single sherry butt was filled on 24th November 1976 and sat maturing for 25 years while the distillery closed for much of the 1980s. The distillery was revived just prior to the bottling on 27th April 2002. Of the 494 bottles created from butt #2390 this is bottle #10. Bottled for the famed Feis Ile 2002, a festival that celebrates Gaelic music and culture, this expression holds the distillery’s peated yet perfectly balanced scotch of which it is famous for. Its aromas and flavours exhibit smokiness, maritime and mineral, beef broth, leather, herbs, with oranges, spiced honey, and sherry. It finishes slowly with well defined flavours of Christmas spices, chocolate and dried black dates.

Lot 89 – Crown Royal Extra Rare Canadian Whisky: Seagram’s red box special comes from its closed Waterloo distillery and contains blends of its legendary pedigree no younger than 14 years. It is now over 20 years since its release, this very rare and hard to find Canadian expression of whisky should be tasted by anyone who imbibes blended rye.

Lot 172 – Midleton Very Rare Irish Blend Whiskey 2001: This famous blend of whiskies was produced by Jameson’s Master Distiller, Barry
Crockett, and has been released in very limited quantities on an annual basis since 1984. This triple distilled whiskey is aged somewhere between 12 and 25 years and matured solely in Bourbon casks. It is as complex as it is rare. Beginning with notes of cooked apples, ripe bananas and peach on the nose, the mouth brings lots of toffee and fudge intermingled with marzipan and nougat, candied oranges and zesty notes of lemon. And finally, a long creamy finish that brings cinnamon, ginger and liquorice.

Lot 274 – The Macallan Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky 18 years (1977): This well seasoned expression, exclusively from Sherry casks, is a collector’s dream come true. Crafted during the days of Golden Promise barley, the 70’s vintages tend towards a rich, chewy character on the palate, with sweet dried fruit, strong cigar leaf notes and exotic woods. With so few remaining, this is a very rare chance to experience one of history’s most famous single malt whiskies.

Lot 281 The Yamazaki Single Malt Japanese Whisky 2022 Limited Edition: From one of the oldest Japanese whisky makers on the market, this Yamazaki Limited Edition 2022 is a blend of selected Mizunara aged whiskies that have aged for at least 12 years. Focusing on its rich aroma, thick and creamy sweetness and lively fruity taste with a pleasant spicy finish. Limited to 1000 bottles.


About the auction 

Our Spring auction of Fine Spirits, held online from May 27 – June 4, 2024, includes three hundred lots including high demand Japanese expressions, American Bourbons and rare single malts. There is a vast selection of Arbegs, 18 year old Macallans, Pappy Van Winkles and interesting cognacs. Round out your collections with these special bottles.

Please contact us for more information.



Related News

Start Collecting

Everything you need to know to get you started bidding in our auctions at Waddington’s.

Learn More

How to Sell

Find out why selecting Waddington’s is the right choice for consigning your works of art, wine or specialty items.

Learn More

Become a Member

Sign up for your Waddington’s account to start bidding, manage your invoices, and track items you're interested in.

Sign Up