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Issue 20 - Whisky and the written word

Whisky Magazine Issue 20
December 2001


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Whisky and the written word

Brian Hennigan examines the positive and often negative relationship between writers, their work and the water of life.

Often Daddy sat up very late working on a case of Scotch.” American humorist Robert Benchley – father of Jaws author Peter – is one of the many who could see the connection between writing and Scotland's national drink.

The relationship between writing and whisky is, in most respects, an easy and natural one. A good book is possibly the only accompaniment to whisky that is not likely to annoy the self-appointed zealots who guard the soul of the spirit. While water might be tolerated, ice frowned on and Coke reviled, a work of literature is a natural companion to this most introspective of drinks. A dark night, a roaring fire, a wee dram and a thick book form an idyllic picture of inner peace that few other libations can match. Therefore it is hardly surprising that, within the literary world, whisky has many fans. Kingsley Amis, creator of Lucky Jim and countless other comic masterpieces, was a well-known advocate of The Macallan. Ian Rankin, creator of the Inspector Rebus series (see Issue 15), is no slouch when it comes to identifying his drams. Stephen King even chose to describe Richard Bachman – the pseudonym under which King published all his pre-Carrie works – sitting at his Olivetti, glass of whisky by his side.

Side by side to this somewhat romanticised portrait of the writer at work is another, slightly edgier one. The image of the hard-drinking, hard-living writer is one of the most enduring in popular culture. Folklore would have it that much of such...

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