Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser
Introduction by Ian Buxton
|De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.|
Chilon of Sparta
In retrospect, it was a curious conversation: typical of Michael
in its elliptical form, rambling, diffuse but warm and deeply
humane, always illuminated by his abiding interest in people and
his restless curiosity. Yet even at the time it struck me as having an
elegiac quality and afterwards I was vaguely troubled by his apparently
effortless recall of distant, trivial events.
So news of his death was a shock, but not a surprise. Within
an hour the plan for this book had formed, yet I did not act for
some while on the initial impulse. There were others more
qualified, I reasoned, others who knew Michael better, others
with greater resources. I knew also that there would be other
plans: a Memorial Service, perhaps, and commemorative bottling
of his favourite beers or whiskies. It seemed crass and, even in
some ill-defined way, opportunistic to push the merits of this
|The news of Michael Jackson's untimely death spread rapidly
through the worlds of whisky and beer. Amongst those who knew
him there was a sense of shock, but scarcely of surprise: his illness,
borne with stoic dignity for so long, had visibly progressed. The
deterioration of his health was painfully obvious and, on several
occasions prior to his death, he had seemed gravely ill.
I first met Michael in February 1984 when we spent a week
touring Czech breweries. For more than 20 years we met intermittently
at whisky events " conferences, tastings and distillery
and industry functions. Our last encounter was memorable even
before its significance became clear. In the course of a long
conversation at Craigellachie's Highlander Inn during the 2007
Speyside Whisky Festival, he chose to reminisce about that trip
behind the Iron Curtain, recalling with astonishing clarity
incidents and fellow travellers that I had long forgotten. Later he
spoke of moving to the United States; of making Ďa fresh start' "
from what, I could not discern.
So it seemed most appropriate to remember him with words.
But not, I reasoned, a collection of personal essays on what
Michael meant to various luminaries. This seemed to me likely to
pall very rapidly, to become repetitive and, possibly a worse
horror for a Yorkshireman, to descend into the sentimental and
maudlin. Moreover, anyone buying this book would, in all probability,
have their own memories of Michael Jackson, their own
stories, their own tributes. Yet, whatever their merit or personal
significance, not all of these stories can be told whilst the process
of selection itself seemed to me demeaning, implying greater
worth or interest in one memory over another.
What is more, given the inevitable delay in compiling, editing
and printing a volume such as this, it seemed better to honour his
name by looking forward rather than with recollection. The time
for obituaries is now past, I argued, and those who walk in
Michael's shadow should attempt something that would have
engaged and intrigued him, not simply an exercise in selfindulgent
and morbid flattery. Let us honour Michael with words,
fresh and new writing on beer and whisky that he would have
enjoyed reading; that he would have respected; that he might even
have wished to have written himself.
||But though other projects crowded forward I remained
convinced that something permanent was required. A Memorial
Service is ephemeral and reaches only a limited audience, however
satisfying for the participants (and I do not mean to decry its
importance). By its very nature it excludes many and the memory
of it inevitably fades with time. So too, with the finest of
commemorative bottles (and again I applaud the initiative): once
opened and drunk their glories are fleeting and transitory, yet
Michael would hardly have welcomed them becoming mere
trophies for collectors. And Michael was not a brewer or distiller. He was a journalist
and writer. Above all, what he stood for and cared about, even
more passionately than rugby league or jazz or, yes, whisky or beer
(and he cared deeply about these fine and worthy things) was
Or so I argued to a small group of other beer and whisky
writers. And, to my considerable surprise and even more considerable
pleasure, it seemed they agreed. I determined that this
collection of essays should be evenly balanced: six of the best
writers on each subject would be recruited to contribute a new
essay, on a subject of their choosing.
I made only two stipulations: there were to be no personal
reminiscences or anecdotes about Michael, for the reasons
outlined above; and the material was to be new. And a third, final
but critical thing: the author was to be proud of what they had
written. (Oh, and there was no fee!).
|Proceeds from the publication of Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser will be donated to the Parkinsonís Disease Society of the UK.
Visit classicexpressions.co.uk to purchase a copy at £12.99||