Friday, November 29, 2013

Whisky Writer Circle Profile - Davin de Kergommeaux, bird of a different feather...

Years ago I did a training session at work where we discovered what our conflict management style was. Any guesses as to what mine is? Well it wasn't the wise owl that's for sure.  It is the woodpecker... :/

Woodpecker: "They are clear on what needs to be done to resolve the situation, are not afraid to say so and will hammer away at their point until the other person agrees. They don't waste time on niceties and their main concern is getting the other party to at least see things their way." Pretty accurate, in the event you've never seen my passionate banters on twitter... So I'm considered a bit bold, in your face and not scared to say: Listen here A _ _ Hole, you are pissing me off. (Insert embarassed face here)

So in walks Davin into my life about 2 years ago: Calm, collected and cool as a cucumber. The wise "owl" that is spectacled, well dressed, verbally cunning and always tactful. What does he do, he befriends me. He sees the potential in me (somewhere) and provides much needed advice and guidance - not only on whisky related things. He is a life coach as well as fantastic mentor to me and I've never met anyone who emulates what the #whiskyfabric means as much as he does. 

A bit about Davin: He actually started his path as a trained wine sommelier, surprised?  Don't be, much of the same techniques are used when it comes to scents, flavours and appreciating the complexities. How did he fall into whisky, well let's just say he's been surrounded by Canadian whisky since birth albeit didn't taste any until well into his 20's. Davin's probably tasted & created 100's of Scotch notes over the years but his passion and love truly lie in all things Canadian Whisky. He owns and runs the only non-commercial website in our country that is dedicated to Canadian Whisky and has made it a mission to elevate our national treasure by sharing his knowledge and passion. 

What drove Davin to write a book about it? He saw the beauty in the story, the history and how it moulded our country as well as its people. If you don't believe me when I say Davin is passionate and loyal, let me add that he spent close to 8 years crawling through old dusty archive rooms, thousands of hours researching every distillery across Canada and endless days writing to create Canadian Whisky, the Portable Expert.
It has won several prestigicious awards and has elevated the portfolio of Canadian Whisky into the international limelight. On the side (hehe) he is the contributing Canadian editor for Whisky Magazine as well as a regular contributor to other publications.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present my next whisky writer:  Certified Malt Maniac, Canadian Whisky Expert, Mentor and best of all my friend:  Davin de Kergommeaux. 

 Thanks for including me in this series and sorry if I wrote more about others than I did myself. (My note: Davin at his core!)

Q1: So how did you get “here”? When you were a little boy, I’m sure you didn’t say: “When I grow up I want to be a whisky writer”?

"No, but I did always have a keen interest in writing. I had a regular column (pop music) in the high school newspaper, at different times edited two entertainment monthlies, took a journalism course as an adult, and have been publishing on the whisky web since 1998.

Honestly, most publishing opportunities have come to me. My great mentor (though he may cringe to hear it) is Dave Broom, who every now and then sends me an encouraging note. He was the first serious writer to take me seriously and he even acquiesced to having me write the Canada chapter in his World Atlas of Whisky. That is one of the most authoritative and engaging whisky books on the market today. Dave is not a hack and does not write cut-and paste-books, so his including me gave me a real confidence boost and real credibility. Dave is a brilliant writer who has chosen to write about whisky. Check out his piece in the Michael Jackson tribute book. It is a real lesson in descriptive prose.

Dominic Roskrow has also been a huge support. He and I were talking about an article for Whisky Magazine, then he left as editor, and the piece didn’t happen. Not long after he invited me to contribute to his 1001 Whiskies book. What an honour (and a challenge) that was. He was just super at guiding me through the process of writing a book. He taught me to work quickly, focus on key information and keep to a strict word count. He’s a real pro. I guess he liked my work because he came back to me when he was writing The Whisky Opus and asked if I could cover Canada for him. That was more fun and again, a great learning experience. I see both of my Dominic books in bookstores all over the world."

Q2: What motivates you to be in this part of the industry? Sometimes it can be quite unkind and very few can make a living doing this?

"I enjoy being part of the community. I have made so many friends and we talk about a lot more than just whisky. I say that the best part of whisky is the people we drink it with. It’s a really convivial crowd. However, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I will be writing – whisky or not. Still, whisky is so interesting and there is so much to learn and so many stories left to tell (and myths to bust)."

Q3: What sacrifices or tough decisions have you made to get to where you are now?

"The most important lesson I learned in grad school was to follow my nose. So, I really can’t call anything a sacrifice. If life hadn’t led me here, it would have led me somewhere else just as interesting. I will never be wealthy, but I don’t measure success in monetary terms. I try to take a positive attitude to life, I try to see the best in people, and that said, I do my best to avoid negative people and influences." 

Q4: If you could go back in time and talk to Davin de Kergommeaux in 1984, what would you want to tell him?

"Spend more time with your family."

Q5: Are you able to share some of your upcoming projects or plans with us?

"I have a new book in the works. I am very excited about it but it is premature to share the details. It is another piece that treads new ground and requires a lot of research, so it will be a few more years before it is finished."

Anything else you would like to share with everyone?

"I’ll end with my frequent advice to myself: Remember, it’s just whisky. Enjoy it and the people who you share it with. Don’t sweat it if you miss a great dram. There is always a better one coming. ALWAYS. Don’t let experts, self-proclaimed or otherwise, intimidate you. There is no correct way to taste or enjoy whisky. Or to put it the other way, there is no incorrect way to enjoy whisky, even if others might disagree. Question the received wisdom, it’s often wrong. Be open to new whisky experiences and don’t take your whisky or yourself too seriously."

End of interview...

One the things I've discovered about Davin as well as many of the other writers I admire is the way the handle the situations they are presented with. They are witty, smart and all have a sense of humor. I will certainly work on developing those characteristics. 

Davin recently appeared at our NB Spirits Festival and did a Master Class about World Whiskies: It was interesting, poignant and humorous.  A few participants told me afterwards it was one of the best classes they had ever attended and I know for a fact at least 5 of them went to buy the Red Breast 12 and Amrut Fusion he showcased. The man's got class, patience and carries a flask of Canadian whisky, what more could you really want in a mentor?

André Girard, myself & Davin = Canadian dream team #whiskyfabric

Our whisky roots and ancestors may come from Scotland, Ireland and England, but I assure you Canadian Whisky and Davin are quite unique and I for one am thankful for both.  

Tune into #DavinTT2 on Dec 1, 8, 15 and 22nd. Lots of fun, a grand prize and a chance to talk to Davin on Twitter.   

Cheers from the Canadian trail!


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