Last week, I was up in Rothes, which is in the Northeast of Scotland. I flew to Aberdeen from Birmingham – with an unscheduled stopover in Edinburgh because Aberdeen airport was temporarily broken – and then took a 90 minute drive into the countryside and out to the river Spey.
I was there in my role as whisky blogger. The Glenrothes distillery is doing a competition starting in October for four people around the world to win a week working at the distillery, doing all of the things that go into making whisky from beginning to end – and soaking up the local culture.
Sometimes, whisky companies try and engage those of us who talk about this stuff on the internet – and so they cautiously give bloggers the kind of special treatment usually reserved for ‘proper journalists’. And in this instance, with Clutch out of the country, I got a taste of all that.
I got to make a barrel, tour the distillery, learn how to roll the barrels (not as easy as it sounds) and also stayed in Rothes house like a VIP and tasted some very good whiskies and ate some amazing food.
Also, I met my nemesis.
I posted something over three years ago on this very blog about a man named Dominic Roskrow.
He’s one of the world’s leading whisky writers, the former editor of Whisky Magazine… and, much longer ago, a New Zealand Herald and Auckland Star music critic, with whom I never, ever agreed – at first, as a matter of taste, and then, as time went on, as a matter of principle.
And this is what I wrote.
(L-R) Ronnie Cox, Dominic Roskrow and Marcin Miller.
Of course, when you write these things about people you never really anticipate meeting, you don’t actually anticipate meeting them (that’s sort of the point) – and you especially don’t anticipate them having read your blog post about them if you do.
So naturally, when I arrived at Rothes house, there was Dominic – and within the first couple of minutes, he’d put two and two together: “Hang on… I know you. You HATE me.”
Someone had sent Dominic the blog post a while back, and he’d read it. He’d never responded because – well, what would you say?
But the meeting wasn’t unnecessarily awkward – at least I hope he didn’t feel awkward about it. The blog post was, I like to think, fairly benign. If you actually read the post, you’ll figure out quite quickly it’s more about me as a teenager than it is about the calibre and taste of a journalist.
What’s interesting about it – at least from my perspective – is that that particular post was one of my favourite pieces of my writing as a blogger – a craft I like to approach from the point of view of storytelling.
I was quite pleased with the circularity of it, the theme of wanting to be good at something and quietly resenting the fact that there would always be someone who was better at it than I would ever be – and the irony of having it be the same man each time…
Dominic in the flesh
Of course, when you meet someone face to face who has the same interests as you (if not the same tastes), and many shared acquaintances and memories – it’s not a good basis for nemesiship (nemesissery?) – and before very long, Dominic and I got on very well together indeed… which is just as well, really – because on day two, they gave us weapons.
On Tuesday morning after breakfast (which is a story in itself – and one I’ll relate on the Dubber and Clutch blog), we were taken out for some outdoor pursuits up on the moors. I did clay pigeon shooting for the first time, a bit of archery, which I’d done before (very badly) and some target shooting with long range rifles with scopes.
I was better at it than I expected (and far better than anyone else expected), but nowhere near as good as my host, Marcin who is the PR for Glenrothes and who has no doubt taken many people on similar adventures in his time.
And then, over lunch, Dominic and I talked about New Zealand music – and I learned that we actually had significant areas of overlap. We’re both Shayne Carter fans for a start – and that’s always a sign of a cultured and right-thinking person.
I’m looking forward to meeting up again – partly to continue the conversation about music, but mostly because the man is very good company, and you can guarantee there’ll be some excellent whisky involved.
You can follow Dominic Roskrow on Twitter @WhiskyTasting.