Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved hearing my grandmother tell me stories of her life. She has this incredible memory and I’m always astounded by all the little things she recalls from decades past. When I go back to Canada now, it’s one of those things I look forward to – one of the things that echoes of home.
I think this experience of growing up around a true storyteller is what engrained the desire deep in me to hear other people’s stories. I can listen for hours, can ask questions, get involved, be inspired, laugh along and learn from the people I meet. It literally makes my chest buzz with adrenaline-fuelled excitement.
This too, I realise, is what pulled me ever deeper into whisky. While it was the beautiful golden liquid that initially captured me with all of its glowing charm, it was – I soon learned – an industry of characters. And they’re what got me – hook, line and sinker.
I relate this all to you now because I have recently had a whack of criticism directed my way due to an article I wrote on the life of Tom Bulleit. The harsh words came – for me – out of the blue. While I felt I was doing what I love – telling someone’s story – others suggested it was done for darker reasons, as an advertorial piece, as a way for me to ‘sell whisky’.
But here’s what actually happened: I spoke to Tom over the phone for nearly an hour and he frequently made me laugh, made me smile…and I desired to share that with you.
Now, I admit that I initially made a mistake in my copy, transcribing a question from our interview wrong in the piece I first posted online. These things happen. I fixed it. I am my own editor and sometimes I miss things. I’ve been working in journalism since I was 16. I’ve written hundreds, lord, probably thousands of articles. But most of those would have had a few sets of eyes look over them before they went out. I made the choice to run a blog and, therefore, need to accept it’s my responsibility to always get things right. But sometimes there will be mistakes. All I ask is that you speak to me, rather than jump to conclusions.
But this incident has made me realise maybe it’s important for me to spell out why I run this site, my own: Why I Blog piece, similar to what Oliver Klimek of Dramming.com did recently.
First off: it’s not for the money and those suggesting the piece on Tom was ‘placed’ should know that. Three years ago I quit my job so I could write about something I love. I’ve so far not taken advertising for the site. I’ve not been paid to ‘place’ any articles on here. I’ve put in hundreds of hours for free. But that’s my choice. I mention when I’ve received a sample, and I always give my honest opinion about it. I also am open about the fact I run tastings right now for companies such as The Balvenie (check out my About Me section) and will do in future if I run tastings for other companies. All this means is I now get to talk about whisky even more of the time. Which, to me, is absolutely brilliant.
So why do I run this site?
Because I love this industry and its characters.
It’s about Annabel Meikle‘s tales of camping on Islay and spotting a pod of dolphins just as she was drinking her Ardbeg 10.
About Mahesh Patel falling in love with idea of whisky at age 15 when he visited Glenfiddich on a family trip.
About Chip Tate relating tales of how his love of bread making led him to an interest in yeast, then brewing, then distilling.
About seeing the community spirit flowing through Aberlour Town Hall at the Spirit of Speyside festival as James Walker taught me to dance.
It’s about taking people behind the scenes at distilleries, about how one of the production team at Cardhu hides a stuffed lion around the distillery for his colleagues to find, about Brian at The Balvenie who – after working there for over 40 years – still comes back once a month post retirement to polish copper and catch up with old friends over a cuppa in the break room.
These are the people that enchant me, and I desire to share their stories with you.
Now, does this mean I can’t ask tough questions or have an opinion? Of course not. There’s room for those articles. And sometimes I’ll get geeky and lay on the production facts of distilleries because I’m also enamoured with fermentation and copper.
But this site will almost certainly be more about the people, the smells, the sights, the places and the emotions that surround and glue together the world of whisky. And if you have really tough questions that you think should be asked, that you’re angry aren’t being asked, then I think you should start your own blog, should sit down with Tom Bulleit and grill him. And when you do, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to read it.
And in the interim, I’ll do my best. I’ll keep trying to find those inspiring stories and keep aiming to make you smile and laugh at them. And maybe one day, I’ll share my stories with someone. But for now, I’ll respect those people who have dedicated their lives to this wonderful product that gets people impassioned around the world.
As my friend and blogging colleague Johanne McInnis of Whisky Lassie recently told me: “Let’s not ever forget the industry and #whiskyfabric is filled with positive people.”
Amen (and drams up) to that.
I hope you find some of the stories I relate inspiring. The people I get to meet do that for me everyday. And if that isn’t a happy thought, what is?