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The Odyssey Projects

Hope, anticipation, expertise, confidence. How quickly these disintegrated into mystification, disappointment and despondency. In January, I had a career to kick-start and three months’ playing Pied Piper in a Scotch whisky distillery could do just that. Sadly – and mystifyingly – my numerous applications to the biggest companies generated only one response, which was to say that they had no vacancies at this time. The rest may as well have vanished into an administrative abyss. Couldn’t someone recognise the initiative and consequent potential of a young man who had planned and pedalled his way around the Scotch whisky industry? For many months I was sceptical, until Inver House Distillers made a second unexpected and charming approach.

The Balblair distillery, Ross-shire. It will look better in July.

The Balblair distillery, Ross-shire. It will look better in July.

The abiding impression of the whisky world for me is that it exists thanks to countless resilient, interconnecting and genuine personal relationships. When Inver House invited me along with other bloggers to tour their leading single malt brands, I recognised this commendable way of conducting business through time spent with Cathy James in addition to Malcolm, John and Gordon, the distillery managers. Inver House and their exemplary personnel recognised the profound, obsessive enthusiasm of we amateur journalists and I like to think that this is why, following an unsuccessful response to a vacancy at Balblair in March, they offered me a week’s work experience instead.

Having John MacDonald phone up and regale me with tales of his appearance on the latest series of MasterChef, of Hollywood having moved in to Edderton to shoot a whisky-related film, and would I like to come up and potter about the place for a few days, astonished and delighted me. I rarely jump about the house whooping and cackling, but it seems the prospect of five days in one of the cutest and most picturesque distilleries I have come across – and not to mention one which produces a very delicious dram, too – has that effect on me. I agreed straight away.

I shall be shadowing the folk on the production side of things and getting my hand in with regards to the tourism operation. Balblair offer two tours daily, led by either Julie Ross or John himself. I hope to play my part in conveying the romance of the place – and shifting a few more units – during the week. As John assured me, ‘there’s always plenty to do.’

So, my encounters with whisky continue to evolve and move forward but what of last year? How am I making use of my experiences and memories? An on-going project of mine is the writing-up of my 2010 Odyssey into a continuous, comprehensive form. Progress is steady, but the process is highly rewarding. The twelve months of maturation my memories have undergone have done them a power of good – I could not have known how profoundly each of my journey’s moments had afixed themselves to the fabric of my mind. It is very special to sit down to write and to find myself gasping instead at what, with a little effort, I recollect. I shall let you know how all of this is getting along over the next few months.

Much to keep me busy and engaged, therefore, and plenty more to make its way onto the Scotch Odyssey Blog.

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