Photograph: Magnus

Interview with Mark Gillespie

This is the fourth inter view in a serie of interviews with people who love whisky. This time it’s Mark Gillespie, the author and producer of WhiskyCast, a website and podcasts purely about whisky. Last time I checked Mark had produced amazingly 275 podcast episodes! Mark is also a frequent user on Twitter, so if you serious about whisky, you should really check out his podcasts and tweets. Now put your hands together for Mark!

1. Tell me a little about yourself?

Mark Gillespie, Photo: Stephane OlivierI’ve been a journalist my entire adult life, and have worked all over the U.S. I’m married to a very patient woman, and we have three great daughters, two dogs, and a house full of cats (who try to sneak onto my whisky shelves from time to time).

2. How did it all started, what’s your first experience of whisky?

My first experience was like that of most people…doing shots of whisky in college, and not feeling very good about it afterward. It took a few years, but finally I decided to try whisky again during a trip to Florida in 1997. I was at a bar in Sarasota that was offering a single malt tasting flight, and decided that night that I needed to move beyond beer and wine, and told the bartender I was ready to learn and to please teach me what he knew. That same night, I bought some minis for my trip home, and my life has never been the same.

3. What’s your favourite and worst whisky experience and why?

My worst experience was doing those shots in college…didn’t like the taste or the way I felt afterward. My favorite experience was visiting all of the distilleries on Islay this year during the Feis Ile, sharing drams with new friends, and really becoming part of a community.

4.What’s your opinion on today’s whisky rating systems (1-10, 1-100, stars etc.)?

They’re a necessary evil, though I think have some validity. The problem is that since everyone has a different sense of taste and smell, what I get from a whisky may be completely different than what you get from it…and that makes all ratings systems problematic.

5. How do you taste whisky? Do you use water, and when?

I start off neat for a few sips when I’m evaluating, and then add a few drops of water to see what changes it makes in the whisky.

6. How is the whisky ‘climate’ (bars, clubs, events & magazines etc.) in your country?

There really is no “climate” in the U.S. as a whole, since many parts of the country don’t have great whisky bars or clubs. The major cities usually have good whisky bars, and clubs tend to be smaller groups of friends as opposed to large gatherings like they have in Europe.

7. What’s your opinion on different cask-finish expression?

They’re good to a point, but if I want something that tastes like wine, I’ll drink a glass of wine.

8. What is your opinion on the whisky snobbery that some are talking and writing about?

It’s the same as with any new trend. When wine became really popular 20-30 years ago, the snobs ruled. Same with the Internet…the geeks thought they were better than the rest of us. With whisky, there are people who brag about what they have in their collections, and how they only drink such and such. Personally, I think that’s bullshit. I know I’ve had the chance to taste some great whiskies only because I do a radio show on whisky, and that I still have a lot to learn about whisky. If I ever start to act like a snob, I hope someone will please call me on it.

9. Where in the world would you like to go to try whisky? Why, do you have a favourite place, distillery or country?

I don’t have a favorite distillery, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ll go anywhere in the world to try a good whisky. The world is full of interesting whiskies, and while I love Scotch, Irish, and bourbon whiskies…part of my education is trying all of the unusual whiskies out there.

10. What whisky trends are you seeing, how does the future look like?

I think you’ll see more creativity from the major distillers as they face competition from the growing number of craft distillers out there. Look at what happened to the beer industry in the 80′s when the craft brewing business took hold and forced major brewers to make their product better.


Did you enjoy the inter view? If you would like to be part of the serie or know some one else who would, please let me know.

  1. Inter view with Filip Ling
  2. Inter view with Gal Granov
  3. Inter view with Jörg Bechtold
  4. Inter view with Mark Gillespie
  5. Inter view with Thomas Maufer

September 9th, 2010

It would be great if the main distillers put out interesting bottles but as I mentioned on my blog there seems to be only interesting bottlings coming from independent bottlers these days.