Monday, August 12, 2013
Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths by Rob Gard
After being dumped by the woman he thought he would marry, Rob Gard left the glamor and glitz of his LA media consulting job and the Hollywood nightlife for the frigid ruggedness of Isaly and a sort of work-study program at the Bruichladdich Distillery. He went to Islay searching for himself as much as running from his past, and what he finds in the isolation of winter on Scotch Whisky's most famous island is that the whisky making process is a metaphor for both his own journey and the universal journey on which boys become men. Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths is his story.
Despite its use as primarily a literary device, the whisky making process is lovingly described and the distillery workers come alive. One of the workers says little more than "aye" for days on end, while another mumbles nearly constantly. Almost none of them actually drink whisky.
Gard's own persona is the lovable loser with a mix of self-loathing, part Woody Allen, part Jeff Portnoy transplanted to a distillery in Scotland. At the end, he has his expected realization, but you're never sure if this will change his life or if he will again sink into neurosis when he returns to the U.S.
A few of the literary devices are overdone. Sometimes Gard hits you over the head with the metaphor, and sometimes the connections between the distilling process and his memories of life in LA or his troubled childhood in Wisconsin seem forced, as if every grain of barley has a direct connection to a particularly awkward moment from his past.
Overall though, Gard is an engaging writer and, as can be expected from a journalist, excels at the art of description. I've never been to Islay, but after reading Distilling Rob, I feel like I could walk into the Bruichladdich Distillery or one of the local pubs and know exactly what they would look like, smell like and how the locals would react to me.
Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths is available in paperback for $12 or a mere $4 on Kindle. It's definitely worth a read!