Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Writing About Whisky, Writing For Yourself, While Writing For Others

D.T.W.C. 'Australia's Premier Whisky Club' or at least how we like to see ourselves
Quite recently I was asked again how do I write reviews for whisky. My answer always is "Writing about whisky is simply putting your experience into words that others can relate to". Unfortunately it is not that easy and not really the answer anyone is looking for. What the question really implies is how to I translate sensation into words and what methods do I use to do this. With a few new members to D.T.W.C. 'Australia's Premier Whisky Club', as The Colonel-in-Chief always puts it, I thought it time I shared my take on how I write my reviews so help inspire those yet to post. So this is how I do it…

It is good to note at this stage that I have a problem reading and writing and it has impaired my development since a very young age. Though this low level dyslexia is real it has never impaired me so badly from running my own business and communicating with others on a daily basis. Writing for me though is a struggle and setting some base rules has allowed me to contribute quite readily to our little forum. Noting that, it is also good to remember that none of us in the club are professional writers in any sense. We contribute to this blog as an extension of D.T.W.C. 'Australia's Premier Whisky Club', so that anything we experience, buy, given, taste, and so on will give other members knowledge to influence their own next purchase. We all know each other and how each of us describes and talks about whisky, so why should your writing be any different.

For me my writing style falls into a category often classed as Free Writing or Writing From The Mind. It is a method of writing without taking into consideration grammar, spelling and structure in order to evoke some very raw, rich, and sometimes incoherent sentences. From there you can break up and structure much of what your have said and strip out what is useless. This is how I was able to break through my reading and writing issues since I was very young though I never knew until recent years what the method was ever called. Though it is my way of compensating I find it an excellent method especially for writing whisky tasting notes. I know The Diplomat is freaking out at this stage even thinking about how I write.

Write For Yourself


Be yourself and describe things as you see them. If you feel the whisky is over priced then tell us. So what if you smell sulphur but the notes say otherwise as this is what contributes to your experience. This is your experience and we want to taste it. Don't think about if you make too much sense or even what others may say. As The Diplomat said to me recently when we were discussing responses we get to our posts and writing for the blog in general, "Stay True To The Blog".

Experience


Your first experience is often the best. Create your tasting notes as you taste the whisky (try free writing it) in exactly the same process. Do not to linger on being too expressive and describe those sensations as they appear to you. Shoot from the hip so to speak and try not to refine or filter too much too soon. If you want to return to a whisky and write your notes agin by all means do so but keep those initial notes as they should bring back that experience in its purest form.

Descriptors


Descriptors are important as they give currency to what it is you experience but ensure they are coherent to others. All too other people allow pre-written descriptors influence there own senses. I make a point of not reading the packaging or others notes prior or during a tasting so I formulate my own interpretation. try using the Whisky Tasting Wheel if you need help.

Structure


Lastly structure can be most important and will set a useful guide each time you write. I take the following structural approach.
  1. Take a photo of the bottle. No really this helps to no end.
  2. An intro paragraph describing why you are writing the post and introduce the subject matter/ whisky. What influences allowed for your choice? What inspired you to tell others about it?
  3. Include some brief but relative and interesting information on the distillery and whisky. Where did it come from? Why it is called that name? Who distilled it? What sets it apart from other whiskies? Does it belong to a family or group of whiskies? Have you tried these other whiskies in comparison? 
  4. Deliver a short profile on the whisky for quick review. Name, Distillery, Style, Region, Alcohol, bottle or batch number (if it has one). Though you may not find it relevant now anyone retiring to your post to get some details so they may go buy that whisky should not have to sift though the entire post to extrapolate a few details.
  5. Profile your whisky in 5 main ordered steps: Colour, Nose, Taste, Finish, Balance. You may choose to use all or some of these steps but you will find without Nose, Taste, Finish your review is incomplete to most whisky appreciators.
  6. Deliver an overall synopsis of your experience and closing statement. Rate your whisky on a scale others can relate too. We use a scale of 1 to 7. Include what were the stand out points, why you liked it, why you did not, and would you buy it again.
For those first time writers these links should be helpful:
So in a nut shell that is how I, The Baron, write to contribute to our blog. As you see I am no literary genius and struggle to even read and write on a daily basis but it does not stop me contributing. For those members yet to contribute I hope this helps and for those that may be thinking to create their own whisky blog maybe there is something that can be taken from this post.

The Baron