Writing and whisky. They seem to fit together like hand and glove. Foot and sock. Glencairn glass and mouth.
I’ve written about everything imaginable. There must be 3,000 articles with my byline floating around the writing ether. I’ve covered politicians and criminals – sometimes in the same story; actors and athletes; ordinary people with extraordinary stories; billionaires and bums; meetings and openings; parties and tragedies. Paragraphs and pages devoted to wine, rum, beer and tequila.
I didn’t find my writing passion, however, until I started writing about whisky.
Something about whisky touched me. It was an outsider. Elite society could effuse about wine in an exclusionary manner. Popular people in their designer jeans and little black dresses could flit about Hollywood parties with their various vodka concoctions and vacant conversations. Working folks had their beer, and then another, and another, while watching elite athletes on TV or reading popular People. Whisky, on the other hand, was a mysterious drink. That kid in class who always seems like he has a secret, but no one talks to him to find out what it is.
Bogart drank whisky when the clues in the case seemed just out of reach and the woman he wanted even further away. Robert Johnson wrote the blues late at night with a bottle by his side. Writers and whisky, the list is endless. Wine begs for conversation, vodka for parties, and beer for sports. Whisky…well, whisky asks you to stay home within yourself, to look at where you are and figure out how you ended up here.
Beauty is found in the simplicity of the whisky making process – a process that relies upon countless nuances to create something complex. And I think that’s where the connection between whisky and writing is made: the endless possibilities in the details.
There is a world of opportunity when it comes to writing about whisky – whether describing the drink in a review or incorporating a dram into a fictional story. Whisky is egalitarian. A multi-national corporation makes it using the latest in scientific approaches and marketing blitzes. My great-grandfather made it in his barnyard shed.
Great characters are found throughout the whisky industry, and their product makes it into the hands of some great characters in literature. Whisky sits in that misty grey world between reality and vision. Born from manual labor; questing for spiritual elevation. Maybe that’s what the monks who invented it intended all along. After all, they were the scribes of their day.