Authors’ Note: Mark lives and breathes WhiskyCast — he is passionate about whisky, telling stories, ethics, and those he loves. He punctuates his lifelong interests in IndyCar racing, photography, and news with daily dog-walking, cat wrangling (off his desk), and attempting to grow grass in the back yard. Since you get to hear from him each week on WhiskyCast and daily on whiskycast.com, we thought you should hear the back-story of WhiskyCast. The following is the story of WhiskyCast and a virtual “roast” of WhiskyCast’s founder and host, Mark Gillespie. Regardless of what he says, this is the true story of how WhiskyCast got started — we were there.
Most men buy a flaming red sports car for their mid-life crisis. Mark started a podcast.
A podcast on whisky — whisky, as he informed us, without the “e”.
All of us thought this was a good idea since Mark lived with three teenaged daughters, a wife and a gaggle of female pets. The man needed a hobby, and one involving tasting an adult beverage seemed well-suited to our goal of getting him to relax. And, it was sophisticated, we thought…a great euphemism for a graying gentleman.
We should have known that Mark would approach the podcast — now, dubbed, “WhiskyCast” — with the same gusto and curiosity which endears him to us each day. The premise was simple: he used his extensive broadcast journalism background to interview whisky legends such Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan and Heaven Hill’s Parker Beam, and learn the finer points of whisky. Each Saturday afternoon he usurped the dining room, crafted an internet radio show and posted it on iTunes. He’s cute, we thought…who wants to hear about whisky…and didn’t iTunes sell music?
The first package arrived a few weeks later on Christmas Eve. It was huge. While we were amazed at just how much bubble wrap can fit into a 2X4-foot box, Mark cooed and fawned as if he had just become a new father again. Tall, colored bottles encased in elegant boxes kept emerging onto our dining room table, and Mark’s eyes were beginning to glaze over. He looked flushed. He stammered a bit. He….giggled. Then, with his booty bundled in his arms, he hastily disappeared to “work on the podcast.”
Next, came the treks to Barnes & Noble for books on publishing a website and to audio stores for “better equipment.” Resourcefully, we created a voiceover booth — a tri-fold piece of three-foot tall cardboard with sound tiles hot-glued to it. We gave up eating in the dining room because it had devolved into cords and bottles and audio mixers and media kits and Glencairns –which, he rebuked one daughter, are NOT for drinking orange juice from and should not be referred to as “Dad’s sippy cups”. Mark, who has slept through earthquakes, a volcanic eruption, and many, many teenage boyfriend hysterias, was now stirring at 4:30 a.m. to do interviews with people in Scotland before leaving for work.
He learned to ‘nose’ whisky — primarily by raiding the spice rack, herb garden, and asking us bizarre questions while we ate dinner in the living room. “Mmmm, this guacamole is good — do I taste rosemary?” he inquired. Shoving glasses under our noses, he instructed us on the ‘notes’ of a fine whisky and how to properly taste and appreciate them. We all learned the difference between Scotch, Bourbon, and why something is called a single malt — a peculiar family bonding experience, but we’ve always believed that normal was overrated anyway. Hadn’t Mark learned the rules of field hockey and the distinct color difference between pink, rose, peach, and blush for us? But try as he might, sometimes a man is on his own. Mark’s attempts to indoctrinate us temporarily ended on Easter when the disgruntled 13-year old rolled her eyes and told him there was a huge difference between the smell of warm vanilla and lighter fluid.
By now, even the dogs found the deliveries of whisky samples mundane. Baptized by the girls as the “Whisky Fairies”, UPS, FedEx, and DHL delivery people stopped by a couple of times a week, petted the pups, and drove away leaving behind what we tagged “whisky porn” for Dad. Each evening, Mark faithfully opened the packages. He gleaned information from the media kits and research. He compiled dates and event information to create a calendar and planned out the show — and gleefully told us about the people he was interviewing.
In summer, with the contents of the dining room snowballing, Mark had his first audio recording faux pas. Each time Mark did an interview or recorded the show, everyone had to be quiet — the dishwasher disengaged, the television muted, the windows closed to muffle the airplanes and train. Haddonfield in July can be hot, and without the air conditioning running, Mark was conducting an interview when one of the dogs had a reverberating digestive issue. Poor puppy. Mark swore, emphatically and artistically. He could hear it in the audio, rendering that portion of it unusable. We voted WhiskyCast off the first floor into the only semi-empty space in the house — the basement. Mark was getting a Man Cave. WhiskyCast was getting a home.
It’s been more than ten years now, and Mark has produced more than 600 hours of WhiskyCast programming. We cannot say the process has been easy….or peaceful….but it has always been passionate. In WhiskyCast’s childhood, it was a hobby; mature, it is a business with a community at its heart. We are beholden to each of you who listen, contribute, and share our love of whisky.
In the end, Mark agrees with us on these two things: the red sports car would never have been as wild a ride as WhiskyCast — and we are profoundly grateful for his mid-life crisis.
(Mark’s one and only comment: I still want the red sports car.)