Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Closing Shop

Though it wasn’t always the case, I am an early riser. As I have done on thousands of mornings, I am nursing my second cup of tea and have answered the most pressing emails before sunlight has even hit the roof. At this early hour, fifteen or twenty minutes might pass between each stray car and truck that trundles by our old California craftsman home. This quiet lull is my favorite part of the day. Even the cat can’t be bothered to get out of bed. Soon, though, when the New Yorkers wake, I’ll start putting in calls to the East Coast and begin the day in earnest.

Yet today is different. Today I’m throwing a tarp over the Whiskey Forge and closing up shop. Regular readers — bless you, every one — will not be surprised. You will have seen this coming. The posts have grown more sporadic than they’d ever been and, although I have plenty to write about, the time it takes to research, write, edit and put up good, original, quality content simply isn’t there. I will not write insipid posts about the top five drinks you simply must have in Brooklyn, fifteen things you didn’t know about absinthe, the seven best breakfasts in Palm Springs, America’s ten best microdstilleries, or other such noise blogs churn out when they’re clawing for attention — or circling the drain.

John Held Jr illustration for the 1930 book
The Saloon in the Home or A Garland of Rumblossoms

I’d love to tell you about the trips I’ve taken to Germany, to the UK, and around North America to bars, distilleries, and spirits and cocktail competitions. How awesome would it be to share news about great music, books, and films? Curated information about cool stuff from an actual curator! [Well, a retired one, anyway.] The food and drinks I’ve downed in the last six months alone are more than any person deserves.

But those will have to wait.

While I’ve had great success professionally, the last year has been trying personally. Several friends have died. One took a dive off a building and ate the sidewalk, leaving his widow bereft, his children fatherless, and me swirling in a stew of anger, contempt, and, ultimately, acceptance. Although much of my professional writing involves — and will continue to involve — alcohol, a gout diagnosis made me realize that my nights of excess that elide into morning are, for the most part, behind me. Not long ago, I participated in an intervention for someone I love very much. It remains a heartbreaking mystery to me how alcohol is an enjoyable pastime for most people while it lays waste to the lives of others.

Work continues. There are book chapters to write and edit for others. I’ve joined the editorial board of David Wondrich’s forthcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. I continue to write for magazines, give public talks, chime in on radio and television, and consult on the occasional script. Work travel over the next few months will take me around the United States and probably Scotland, Germany again, London, perhaps Cuba. Not sure about that one, but there will be distilleries nearly everywhere I go. An aggressive publishing schedule for a new book has put an end to most socializing. When I looked for things to cut from my schedule, movies and weeknight drinking were easy. Then dinners with friends got the axe, as did non-essential travel, video games, and writing in coffee shops (which is so often a writer’s dodge for doing actual work). Facebook? Yeah, you’ll find me there, but don't bother: in truth I barely engage. You might have better luck on Twitter where I am @mbrowley.

What was left to cut? The Whiskey Forge, of course.

At the end of the day, I’m an historian and writer, not a blogger. The Whiskey Forge has been a side project since 2008, but I’ve never accepted paid ads, never took money for writing about anything, never tried to monetize the thing in any way. All on purpose. By design, it is not a revenue stream. With no interns, no assistants, and no staff of any kind — not even a bar back — the blog needs to be put aside.

Not permanently, but — for now. I’ve spoken with colleagues about launching again once things get more settled. By the end of the year, there may well be a revitalized Whiskey Forge. But not today.

So. Not goodbye, but auf Wiedersehen. We'll meet again.