Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bringing whisky to book

It's a bizarre business, flogging a book you've published yourself. The act of paying for your own work to be printed is called, in some circumstances, vanity publishing, but private or self-publishing has a distinguised heritage in the annals of literature.

Not that Spirit of Adventure (15th anniversary edition)is exactly literature, or even close. It's a form of extreme journalism, undertaken when I was young, energetic and apparently impervious to alcohol, rain and motorcycles. And a journalist. It is, however, even though I say so myself, quite funny and reasonably informative.

Anyway, it's selling quite well on both Amazon and the North Atlantic Media site. The point being that it was published, in the end, as a form of calling card (printing books these days has never been cheaper), in order to kick-start once again my career as a whisky writer.

And it appears to have worked, too. I'm now whisky correspondent and columnist for The Scots Magazine, contributor to Scottish Life and various other publications, and I've had some free whisky sent to me. Well, two bottles. I've got invites to speak (and conduct tastings) at the Shetland Wordplay Festival, the Dufftown Whisky Festival, the Wigtown Book Festival and the Highland Businesswomen's Club. My nose is getting redder and redder.

Two really odd and awkward things have happened, though: First I've become less and less patient with the monolithic money-mongering of the whisky industry, which seems to become more and more manipulative and cynical by the day (hey, let's change the bottle shape and charge the bastards more for our luxury brand! Let's issue a 15, 16, 17 and 18 year old at ever-increasing cost! Matured in old Heinz Baked Beans tins!); and I'm pissed off at all these befuddled male mutterings about taste. Admit it, guys, you drink this stuff because it's alcoholic, first and foremost. That's the reason for its existence.

And it's the alcoholic nature of whisky that is causing me problems at the moment: I really don't want to consume befuddling spirits in large quantities. I can't get any work done if I do. So for me, like many a pro blender, so I believe, it's sniffing only for the moment, other than on special occasions.

Anyway, or the price of a good dram in a nice hotel, or a cheap bottle of supermarket blend, you can acquire Spirit of Adventure. It lasts longer than even the most gentlemanly of measures, and is guaranteed to increase in value. Maybe.


Anonymous said...

'Befuddled male mutterings about taste?' Shurely shome mishtake Tom! I'm on a learning curve about this but surely complexity of taste is the key to a good dram?
Or should we all just drink Grouse and let The Scots Magazine and Scottish Life in to the secret?

Tom Morton said...

Hey, bigrab...would any of us be as interested in whisky's complexity of taste, if it wasn't (very)alcoholic?

Actually, I think it's the simplicity of single malts, not their supposed complexity, that's the key to enjoying them. The complicating of enjoyment is a very male tendency. And the new fashion for cluttering the market with ever-more obscure expressions is just, in my view, a cynical search for profits.

Anonymous said...

Aye, marketing people have a lot to answer for and the gullible consumer is easy prey. I would say though that having joined a whisky club, learned a bit about the processes and products and recently been introduced to cask strength single malts, my appreciation and pleasure has been enhanced considerably.
As a simple bloke myself I'd have no wish to make the process more complicated and I'm wary of the pretentiousness surrounding the whole thing.
Oh aye, the alcohol - can't argue with you on that really!