By John Haydock

Haydock hits out

Some say ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going'. So John Haydock stays right where he is
Time, as the song says, has been on my side recently. Work had dried up - like whisky in an ageing cask I was left with the dregs, potentially invaluable but also somewhat unpalatable. So I was juggling with my last commission, tasting notes for a
particularly pleasing 10-year-old Dufftown-Glenlivet provided by an independent bottler of outstanding repute (naturally), when the 'phone rang, buried somewhere beneath piles of unpaid bills, unpublished manuscripts, and unread copies of the latest round of would-be-whisky-writers' feeble and fatuous scrawlings and scribblings on Scotch. It was my first call in a month - and it was my dear chum and bank-manager's occasional saviour Rupert, Keeper of the Quaich, doyen of the New Club bar, pillar of the Caledonian Club Admissions Committee, good shot, good rod, good chap and only occasional senior whisky industry executive, 'in a marketing sort of way', as he once confided in me. "Listen John, I need help. In fact it's not just me - its everyone in the industry. Since Michael Jackson apparently declared a fatwa on malt marketeers in Whisky Magazine we're afraid to go out. No projects, no product launches, no new work commissioned, nothing. It's a crisis. No one knows who might be first - who might be next. No more line-extensions, no more new expressions. Finishes finished. Whisky enthusiasts emasculated. Industry crippled, sales slump, distilleries closed, shares crash. What can we do?""Leave it with me - back in five minutes."Fifteen minutes later and I'd done the round up of my esteemed whisky-writing colleagues. Charlie Maclean - unusually not out to lunch, but out to sell the Big Issue in Edinburgh's Grassmarket. Dave 'Dave Hill' Broom back to selling second-hand 70s records in a market stall in Hove. Martine Nouet uncontactable - apparently flexing her culinary skills vending burgers to cars waiting to board the ferry at Port Ellen. Tom Bruce-Gardyne writing the astrology column for the Daily Telegraph. Ian Wisniewski authoring a page on Polish cookery tips for the East-European edition of Saga. Marcin Miller reduced to writing diary columns for Our Dogs. MJ was apparently confined to pulling pints at a pub in Hammersmith.Not for the first time I recognised my moment of destiny. This tectonic fissure in the morphology of malt needed to be healed. It was as if global warming had come to Speyside, transforming Archiestown to the Archipelago. The sub-text of King Lear had come to life, the natural order of things was inverted, the whisky-world had been turned upside down. Act III scene II, frail humanity's ineffectual rant in the face of the storm, like an internet bulletin-board's discursions on the role of salt in the taste of single malts. Someone, something was needed to heal the wound, breach the divide, untie the Gordian knot, and put simply, get some cheques into my bank account asa-bloody-p. I grasped the nettle."Listen Rupert", I explained, "You've got it all wrong. I know you don't even read Whisky Magazine, but whoever told you about the fatwa simply got it all wrong. It was a misunderstanding, a misreading of the runes, an erroneous estimate of the entrails. What he was saying is that malt marketing men like you need to give whisky writers like me fat-wads. Loads of money. It's simple. We're underpaid. For the value we bring to your business we should get twice as much - and more expenses too. More free trips, more lush hotels, more lunches. You shouldn't be hiding from us - we're mutually dependent. Like whisky and water, or gin and tonic. You should be out there getting the mills of commerce grinding, the tuns of trade mashing, and the stills of business boiling. And we are your workforce, the proletariat of premium spirits who can help you realise the true value of your capital, but only if we're paid a fair value for our labour, which is our only commodity … " I was interrupted, somewhat rudely I thought. "John, cut out all the Guardian bollocks. Are you saying that all this fuss is just because you hacks want more dosh? That we're not in fear of our lives from the sword-wielding savants of Scotch?" "Put simply Rupert" I replied, "a hole-in-one."And so dear reader, back in my busy office, where the 'phone now dances incessantly to the ring of the gay marketeer's tune, I leave you with this impassioned, highly polished and profoundly overpaid thought. "What words can possibly describe the aromas and flavours of this latest, outstanding and innovative release from this single-mindedly traditional, highly regarded, independent yet largely corporate, small but mainly large, hand-crafted automated pot-stilled single malt wood matured whisky? Limited yet plentiful, special but somehow movingly mundane, quite possibly the finest though if possible almost better than that; full, fruity, flavoursome, flirtatious, powerful, pungent, and persuasively peaty." And paid for - of course.