He’s only gone and got published, how about that campers? My ol’ chum Greg Dillon has distilled* all that fine knowledge from drinking whisky responsibly into one awesome book, The GreatDrams of Scotland Whisky book and it’s available to buy now through his website GreatDrams for £19.99. I caught up with the wizard himself for a quick chat and got him to spill his magic beans. (Oooh-er).
*pun intended, thank you.
What was the hardest thing about getting this book, The GreatDrams of Scotland Whisky book, off the ground?
Sounds cliche, but typing the first words… getting the time and the inclination to tackle something like this was actually quite daunting, so I headed to SMWS (The Scotch Malt Whisky Society) in Grenville Street, London, had a couple of single cask drams poured, connected the then-new Bluetooth keyboard to my iPad, opened Evernote and let rip.
From there is was just a matter of making sure I dedicated time to writing, re-writing, editing and finishing the book, which was mostly written on planes and trains as I travelled around for work over a seven month period.
Oh, then there’s the initial publisher negotiations before meeting the fine folk at RedDoor Publishing, but we can save that for a chat over a whisky another time…
How is this different from other whisky books and who is it for?
The GreatDrams of Scotland is a lot more relaxed, I would say, it is a collection of personal tales, brand stories and historical anecdotes that should take readers on a journey of ‘aha’ moments and smiles in equal measures.
This is for anyone remotely interested in whisky, and those looking to learn a bit more as it is written in a way that should convey the gravitas of these brands and distilleries, whilst at the same time explaining the brilliance of Scotch’s rich history.
Why did you focus on Scotch whisky for the book? And what are the main differences between Scotch and Irish whisky?
So this is part one in a series, I’m not allowed to say what the next one will be but it should be pretty obvious, and Scotch was chosen as I do a lot of work with Scotch brands to name products / brands, create new flavour profiles and products and to build / create their brands so I have a lot of experience in this market. Since writing the book I have now worked in a lot more whisk(e)y markets around the world and can start to utilise that knowledge too…
In simple terms, Irish is traditionally smoother (which actually means sweeter) due to being triple distilled and blended in different ways, whereas Scotch was historically more polarising due to its vast flavour profiles and double distillation. But the reality now is that both are playing big games and going after similar consumers so have to provide multiple styles and options so whilst Irish is still a tad sweeter, there is a whisky or whiskey out there for everyone.
The ‘e’ in Irish whiskey is probably one of the bigger differences… that and it is produced and matured and bottled in Ireland.
What’s been the most rewarding part of the writing process?
Seeing the final copy, holding it, smelling it – these were all big moments, but hearing someone who does not like whisky tell me how much it engaged them and caught their attention with both the conversational tone of voice and the visual storytelling was probably the most rewarding part.
What bottle would you take to a desert island?
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 005, and also either the Chivas 25 Year Old or The Dalmore King Alexander III… or maybe a 1982 St. Magdalene bottling as you cannot get those any more. In short, I would be an awkward bastard and take different bottles for different moods.
What is the most common question you get asked as a whisky connoisseur?
‘What’s the best whisky in the world?’ – all the time, that and ‘you look like you’ve got the best job in the world, can you send me free whisky?’… in terms of the best whisky in the world; it is all so subjective, my response above is a personal choice, and even if we sat down together and drank dram together we would experience it differently… then if we drank the same whisky on our own a couple of days later we would experience it differently again. That’s what makes whisky so special; it is a personal thing that is understood and enjoyed differently, that’s why I get to talk about it so much!
And the answer to the second question is, obviously, no… unless you enter one of the regular GreatDrams competitions on the site where you can win bottles of whisky.
Which bottle would you give to someone if they’ve never tried whisky before?
Brilliant question; Aberlour A’bunadh or Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster; both superb whiskies in completely different ways. Aberlour has a special place in my heart, not just because it was in their distillery where I wore my first kilt, but because the whisky is astonishingly good, and really fairly priced I believe.
Rock Oyster is one of my absolute favourites; salty, stunning maritime notes with a wisp of smoke and a depth of character far beyond its price point. I use this, along with Aberlour bottlings in most newbie whisky tastings I host.
Is it true you know how to say ‘Bottoms Up’ in 50 different languages?
What would be your desert island whisky? Do you have a favourite whisky book you’d like to recommend? Have your say in the comments below.