With The GreatDrams of Scotland, my inaugural book, having finally been released, I have collated a bunch of answers that I have been asked about the journey to getting published, the pride of having written something that hopefully thousands of whisky lovers and learners the world over will enjoy and what’s next. I felt it only fitting that as well as these answers being published into magazines, newspapers and websites all over the place, that you, my faithful and loyal GreatDrams readers should get to read a bit more about the journey too.
How long have you been interested in whisky?
Since I was about 19, my father had just passed away and I knew he enjoyed the stuff so I set about discovering what I could about the drink and trying to find what flavour profile worked for me; he was very much a Bell’s, Johnnie Walker Black and Teacher’s drinker; I wanted to see what else was out there… but even now I still come back to a couple of his favourites from time to time.
What is it about Scotch in particular that appeals to you?
The people, the diversity of flavour and the legend around the drink; what other drink has so much storytelling and chat around it? I think you’d find it pretty hard to match whisky’s prowess in myth, legend and passion. The people are extraordinary; I used to work with design agencies on FMCG brands in the homeware, personal care and soft drinks categories… all owned by mega brands, and even the brands in whisky owned by the ‘big guys’ are still operated, produced, marketed and sold with a passion that smashes other categories out of the park.
Are you a fan of whisky books?
How did you want your book to differ from others?
I just want it to be enjoyed; it is not a tome to mark the nth degree of detail, neither is it so light-hearted it is flippant, it is something very personal to me as it collates my tales of enjoyment through understanding whisky and making pilgrimages to the various distilleries, and the brands that have made this spirit so great and so loved the world over.
Can you remember where you were /what you were doing at the moment you decided you wanted to write a book?
Are people as important as the liquid when it comes to whisky?
Massively; more in some cases as it is their passion that enables you to feel a dram, feel the sense of place, the provenance, the work, the longevity behind the process that you cannot just get from the liquid, the packaging or the website.
Is the published book the same as you originally to set out to write, or did you change your mind along the way?
Pretty much, although I originally had lofty thoughts and desires to cover all the distilleries in Scotland, then realised pretty sharpish that that was going to be way too much to keep the momentum, energy and attention of both myself and the reader going, so I selected a few brands and distilleries that meant a lot to me. And this way I might do a second edition with all new distilleries and brands… you never know.
Would you ever want to make whisky yourself?
How did you choose which brands to feature?
They have all either touched me through their storytelling, their people or I have had a genuine moment with them that has left a mark and reminded me why I love what I do and why I love this great drink.
How long from start to finish did it take to write and publish the book?
Hmmm, from first word to being in print it was about two years… the writing side was around six months of that though! Working with the publisher, RedDoor, and designing the book took much longer than anticipated, but for the right reasons. I’m incredibly proud of this piece of work and hope others enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What feedback did you receive from other whisky professionals and influencers while writing the book?
Mostly that it was a great thing to do and that it sounded like a great concept … which was nice, and kept me going!
How would you describe the written style of the book?
The stories are my experiences with, and interpretations of the brands’ hard work in creating amazing drinks for people the world over to enjoy so telling the stories honestly, hopefully interestingly and with some level of authority is what I was aiming for.
Are visuals a crucial aspect for your readers?
Definitely, they create that sense of place that I cannot do unless in front of people actually reading the book to them, each should tell a tale in its own right and aid understanding.
What was your travel schedule like?
Mental, in a word. In 2015 I visited 33 distilleries, 2016 I saw 28 I think, and thus far in 2017 (at time of writing, September) I’m up to 24 for the year, despite a two-month ‘grounding’ around my son’s due date and the weeks after Archie’s arrival, this year I have spent an average of two days per week travelling to distilleries and meetings for both writing missions and to see my consulting clients… busy times, and I would not have it any other way. I’m actually typing this at 30-thousand feet on my way to Toronto for the launch of the new Glenfiddich Experimental Batch #3, all about using otherwise ‘dead time’ to be productive… on this flight alone I have this to write / compile, two other articles to draft and fifteen YouTube videos, and to build propositions for two new NPD launches going into production in 2018 / 2019… it is NEVER dull at GreatDrams.
How challenging is it to write a book?
It had its moments; I find writing very therapeutic, but I have to be in the right headspace, and not have deadlines or the consulting side of the business on my mind… Per above, I actually wrote most of the book on trains and in the air (on planes) as they are the only real places I have no distractions from the vibrant world of the GreatDrams social media channels.
What is the most fun part of writing a book?
Speaking to the people behind some of my favourite whiskies, and visiting the places they are made too… that and hitting word count targets! When the word count, proofed, fact check spreadsheet showed all green cells indicating they were done and sorted, that was a nice feeling… then came editing, design, bottle shots, cover design and of course the nervous, yet super-exciting moment when I green-lit the printing process. Yikes.
Are all the whiskies in your book on your blog?
Nope, and that’s the beauty of it, it is a hybrid; many of the brands are covered on the site, but quite a few are ones I’ve not had the chance to spend time with before so this gave me the chance to get intimate with them in a different context.
Why did you want to go offline to write a book when your blog is such a successful award-winner?
To appeal to a different audience, to also be able to say ‘I did that’, and also to have created something physical from scratch, a real product, something I’ve wanted to do for years. Articles, PDFs and digital files only give you so much satisfaction after a while…
What is your next project going to look like and will there be another whisky book?
Yep! About 65% of the next book is written… and various other things I cannot talk about, but all very exciting (but I would say that, I try not to work on boring things). Oh and I have a limited edition whisky out too: