Friday, September 20, 2013

Whisky Writer's Circle - Profile: Discovery Road....

I've been a writer most of my life. My grade two teacher gave me a D on an essay I wrote because she didn't believe I had the knowledge or ability to write it but after a visit from my mother the grade was changed to an A.  I won several awards in high school for poetry and short stories and have been published several times.  All of it, non-whisky related and during what I lovingly call my BC period: Before Children.  It only seemed natural to me to start writing again after the girls left the nest a few years ago.  I became... a whisky blogger. Sometimes, I still think:  "What am I doing here?  There are 1000's of whisky blogs on the web! What could I possibly add?"  But I guess it ultimately comes down to being inspired to write about my whisky journey.

The most magical of whisky writers for me was always Michael Jackson.  I loved reading every single article, story or book that he worked on and when he died in 2007 I felt like we all lost something quite special.  For me, he was the ultimate whisky story weaver. I've been thinking alot about him lately and what I feel my potential is, not only as a blogger but someday as a respected whisky writer.  I am no Mr. Jackson!  I also know it's not the way I am going to become rich and famous but what pushes me forward with that dream is that I have a passion for writing as much as I have for whisky.  Luckily for me the two somehow combined and here I am...

So then the idea came to me to blog about some of my favorite whisky writers.  At first I thought I'd make it a tribute.  I would simply talk about each one in a blog and say why I felt inspired or why I loved reading what they write.  Then in a moment of utter madness I decided to do something crazy.  I contacted them all and asked if I could interview them.  One by one they said yes and I was over the moon.  Well, all but one...  Someone I highly respect.  He kindly contacted me & advised he doesn't grant interviews and his upcoming schedule is super busy so, I thanked him none the less and I look forward to the opportunity of meeting him someday soon.

My first installment will probably be the most controversial in nature because of who it's about. This writer is "larger" than life on all accounts.  He thinks big, he lives large and he is loud especially when it is something he's passionate about. If you follow him on twitter you will see what I mean. Brilliance is sometimes part of the madness and it takes a very strong person to come to terms with that.  He has had a long career in journalism & done it all... Or has he?   

Recently having found himself at a crossroads, everything he knew seemed turned upside down.  He has made no bones about it and has shared some of the bitter details publicly for all to see.  It takes an immense amount of courage and determination to keep moving in the face of negativity and what can seem like defeat, but I for one have no doubt he is rising yet again through the ashes of adversity like the golden phoenix he is.

Ladies & Gentlemen:  Dominic Roskrow - the first Whisky Writer Circle Profile.  (None of the following is edited...)

" Hi Johanne, firstly, I am happy to say on record a big thank you to you and the other people I don't really know but have been so important to me in recent months. For me the Twitter: good or bad?  debate ends right here. I could not have got through this year alone and without an outlet. I wear my heart on my sleeve - always have, and I divide people. I'm told I say too much in public, but I'm a trained journalist and I have always expected other people to go public often with stuff they would rather not share, so I take the view that I should apply the same rules to myself. I'm honest, a maverick, controversial and in the last three years through illness I got arrogant, aggressive and rude and hurtful. I regret that."

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

"No I wanted to be a vet. And from a young age I wanted to be a journalist. I started reading books about all the great journalists and I was drawn to the excitement, unpredictability and worthiness of unearthing stories. I know journalism is a very sullied profession these days but for me it has always been about telling the daily stories of normal people. I hated history because it was all about royalty and the rich, and normal people only made it into history if they did something wrong. Journalism is all about championing normal people, reflecting normal every day lives, and exposing the badness and evil of those with power, to stop them exploiting people. I never waived from that view and I still firmly believe that a few bad journalists do not reflect the 99 per cent of the profession who report births, deaths and marriages in communities across the world, and the 0.01 per cent who risk their lives and often give their lives to report back on major events such as chemical warfare in Syria.  I am mentioning all this now because I am reeling from the fact that my days as a print magazine Editor are almost certainly over and that's all I've ever known or done. 

This month has been very close to a knock out punch for me. But I have been so fortunate. I got to be a newspaper journalist and combined it with my love of music, writing for British music magazines and running the music pages on papers in England and New Zealand. The last time I lost a job for more than a day was in 1988 when the Auckland Sun shut. And three years later, when my dad's health started to decline and at 30 I thought I was too old to be a music journalist (!), I returned to Britain during a recession, eventually found a job. I did my last rock interview on my 30th birthday (Mick Hucknall of Simply Red) and started work on a trade paper serving the drinks industry. I've worked on various drinks titles since.  Whisky Magazine is published in Norwich, England, and that's where I live. So when the publisher needed a group Editor with drinks experience, I was well suited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

There 's a lot of fortune in that story."

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?

"Today, and in the circumstances, I honestly don't know. It's definitely vocational, and it certainly isn't about money. I guess I'm still driven by my old journalistic instincts. I love finding out things first and passing them on, I love doing something which has integrity - that is, writing about small distilleries across the world because they're good stories to tell. I'm trusted because I'm fair and honest, and that means masses to me. Normally I'd say I like the unpredictability of my life, but it's more of a love-hate relationship at the moment. Breaking the Gartbreck story at the weekend gave me 12 hours of utter contentment - I wasn't the only person with that information, but I lined up the perfect outlet to use the story, got all the pieces in place, and made sure that the parties in place were happy, and I reported the story first. But working like that is like taking drugs and the effects soon wear off and you're on to the next thing.  There's something very special about being part of the world whisky community, too. Whisky attracts special and sound people most of the time."

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

"The hardest thing I ever had to do was leave New Zealand, although that wasn't done as part of a major plan to get to here. That was done for personal reasons. I could have taken a different route at various times in my career and made a lot more money but I'm not sure if the decisions not to were really that tough. Recent events probably mean I won't ever edit a print magazine again and I'm very sad about that. But if that's the case I can honestly say I never compromised my principles, never lost my integrity and never sold out. I may have sacrificed an easier life and financial security and right now I'm wondering whether I was driven by selfishness and I've put my family through a lot of unnecessary hell. But did I really have any choice? I have to believe that I did not, and there was no tough decision to realistically make."

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

"Oh golly. I'm presuming you don't mean the names of all the Grand National winners between then and now, do you? This is hard to answer without it sounding conceited but it's me talking to me, so it's never going to sound great. But I'd tell me to take the same path as I took and do the same things. I'd tell him that now he's passed his NCTJ Proficiency test in journalism he's set for a lifetime career as a writer; that the new college band he discovered last year called REM would still be his favourite band in 2013, that the Rainbow concert he'll go to next year and the reformed Deep Purple one with Blackmore in 1987 would both be released on DVD in 2013 and he'd still want to watch them, that not only would he still be watching Leicester City but would be a season ticket holder, and he'd still be following The Dallas Cowboys. In other words, all the things he is and loves in 1984 he will be in 2013; at 23 he has shaped the life he is going to lead for the next 30 years. 

But I'd tell him that he can't and won't change the world and shouldn't try so hard to do so. He should lighten up a bit, stop feeling guilty for a privileged life, and instead just accept how fortunate he is and use it to good effect. I'd tell him that it's not a weakness to seek help when faced with problems, it's okay to be scared of The Blackness and not healthy to lock fears in dark rooms. And I'd tell him to resolve issues from the past that are not his fault - because otherwise those issues will slowly but very surely become a cancerous time bomb and will explode violently and without warning, destroying everyone and everything close to him.

I'd tell him all this in the hope he'd tell others who might benefit, those that can't afford expensive treatment and think they are alone slipping in to The Darkness. Maybe he can help them shine a light in to the dark rooms before alcohol and drugs cast them out of society. 

And I'd tell him who shot JR just so he didn't have to sit through all that nonsense for six months!"

Q5:  You are on the cusp of starting in a new direction, care to share what some of your upcoming plans are?

"I think it's pretty well known now that I have parted company with Whiskeria, the magazine of The Whisky Shop chain here in the United Kingdom. Suffice to say that it hit me very hard and it follows on from what has been a dreadful year where I've had to reduce my workload massively, have given up a lot of freelance work and had to organize my life so that there's a lot less whisky in it. In other words, my world has been turned upside down. But I'm continuing to write for The W Club online, and am still working with Whisky Advocate, which goes from strength to strength and is as good as it gets when it comes to whisky writing. My Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards are going well, and look like they're going to be much bigger than last year, and the Craft Distillers Alliance now has about 40 very classy members from across the world including virtually all of the best 'New World' distillers, so there's plenty going on there.

There are three other exciting developments which I'm really excited about. The first is the website, which I'm about to start doing properly. It's at and it's going to become a platform, as you know, for music and whisky reviews, contributions from selected contributors, and a general hub of fun and irreverence. 

As part of that I've launched a rolling event called TRIBE, which is a whisky and music festival to be held initially four times a year in different locations. The first one is in Leicester on November 9 and features five bands and a two hour whisky tasting festival. And I have just confirmed Norwich for the first week of March. Birmingham in May is also nearly confirmed." 

Major Announcement Coming Tomorrow…

DOM's BIG NEWS:  "The launch of his own New World independent whisky company

"Johanne, you are the first to be officially told that I am launching a range of whiskies under the name Discovery Road. The idea is to source casks from across the world, the weirder and wackier the better, and to bottle them in small batches of up to 300 bottles. I want to work with world distillers to help establish New World Whisky as a whisky category in its own right - as removed from Scotch as bourbon or Irish whiskey is. The more removed the better. 

I want to market them to a new and potentially younger whisky drinker through events such as my TRIBE Music and Whisky Festival. I believe that there are scores of people who think they don't like whisky because they don't like Scotch. Some of the whiskies I'm looking at taste nothing like Scotch and this is a good thing. For each release I'm finding three mixologists from the country of origin and asking them to create a new cocktail with the whisky. The whiskies won't be cheap but they will have a very classy label and no box, so that price is kept down bartenders can have them on the bar.

I am starting with two bottlings, Dutch and the other English. Both will be launched in London in early November.

The English one is called: Discovery Road Four Lions English Single Malt Whisky - Four mini casks perfectly married in to a unique limited edition whisky.

The Dutch whiskies will be called: Discovery Road Courage and the second Discovery Road Smile.  One is a single malt whereas the other may be a rye.

 Future bottlings include French, Welsh, New Zealander, Australian and South African whiskies. 

As you know I've specialized in this area for years and have great links with many world distillers. The time is right to do this now because there is a huge interest in craft and bespoke products and a big thirst for something new and different. I'm hoping that I'll be at the vanguard of a new wave of whisky that will present editorial and retail opportunities in the future. It's very exciting.

I'm hoping to have some samples of my whisky at the Craft Distillers' Village we're running at the Boutique Bar Show in London next week."


Wow?!  All of us go through periods of hardship, the difference is for most of us it's not lived out publicly.

As I stated, Dominic thinks BIG and lives LARGE. He never ceases to amaze me.  He fully admits that sometimes he's as controversial as they come and he pisses people off. It's why I admire him not only as a writer but as a person.  There is never any doubt what side of the bread he butters. What you see is ALWAYS what you get.  For me, that's the epitome of a good writer.  Thank you Dominic for sharing everything with me... us.  

The next chapter should be amazing as he embarks on Discovery Road and shares with the world his passion for whisky, yet once more.   I for one am quite excited to be along for the journey.
File:Winding road.gif

So here's to new beginnings!  We may not understand the winding roads we walk, but in the end we have to trust the journey is meant to me...  



No comments:

Post a Comment