State of the Savage: February 2017

by Keith Savage · 8 comments

Freedom Is a Noble Thing - John Barbour

I hope you’ll excuse this detour from distillery month, but I felt the regularly scheduled State of the Savage was both timely and welcome for those not so interested in the ‘water of life.’ The big news is that I leave for Scotland on Friday! Over the last 10+ years of traveling in Scotland I’ve visited almost 50 distilleries, and it has long been a dream to work at one — even just for a short time — to learn the craft and capture a sense of the flow and camaraderie.

That dream becomes real next week.

Last November I spent a week in Perthshire exploring its autumn charms with the assistance of the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust, and among my many activities was a visit to probably the smallest distillery in Scotland: Strathearn Distillery. Tony and the guys there were so friendly and welcoming, and I loved the historical bend of their production choices and the care with which they approach the craft. As fate would have it, they offer a whisky making school where you get to become part of the Strathearn team for a week.

That means all next week I will be working at Strathearn Distillery and documenting it for an extended look at making whisky in Scotland to be published later in the year. Who knows, I might’ve just found the perfect companion job. Writing is the distillation of thought, after all.

What makes this trip even better is that I won’t be mashing and distilling alone. My good friend (and professional brewer no less) Jeff is joining me on this adventure. I have enjoyed traveling around Scotland on my own. Solo travel is a powerful crucible. It mutes all the unimportant detritus clogging up daily life and leaves only the crucial in the mindlight. By the same token, you feel their absence deeply. I am grateful to have had such experiences, and I will continue to travel solo around Scotland in the future, but I prefer to share my experiences in the moment, to reminisce at the end of the day over a whisky or beer. It’s a kind of ritual enshrinement that’s difficult to do alone.

We are staying in the Strathearn Valley of Perthshire, and I hope to wrap in other activities while we’re there: Another distillery visit, hikes, Rob Roy’s Grave, and perhaps a few ancient, mysterious sites among Perthshire’s vast hoard. I’m excited!

The trip comes at a somewhat unfortunate time in my book revisions. I am close to 60% done with my fourth draft, and I can feel the ball finally rolling downhill. Since the new year I’ve redoubled my efforts and made a lot of progress on edits that took me a few months to conceive. I remember feeling so good when I’d sent this draft to my alpha readers last May. I even started plotting the next book. That was optimistic. As the summer wore on I realized that the fourth draft was going to require larger edits — plot and character edits — than I had anticipated.

What do I know? I haven’t written a novel before. This deep into the revision, though, and I know I’m improving the story a lot. It feels good. And if I can stick to my schedule this draft should be done in May, just in time to hand it to beta readers and jet off to Norway, Spain, and Sweden. I’m hopeful that this will be the last major revision before I begin shopping it around to agents.

2017 could be a big year.

Next week I’ll have a dispatch from the road in the middle of my week at Strathearn, and then I’ll return to distillery month with posts about Edradour and Aberfeldy.


marge robertsonNo Gravatar February 23, 2017 at 8:37 AM

Keith – this is awesome! What is the longest period of time you have spent in Scotland? Do you ever dream of living there full time? If so – where would that be?
Thanks! x

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 23, 2017 at 8:41 AM

Hi Marge. My longest trip to Scotland was five weeks. I do think about living in Scotland, quite a bit, actually, but it wouldn’t be an easy decision nor would it be easy practically speaking to immigrate to the UK (though it’s looking more attractive by the day). I wouldn’t be picky about where in Scotland to live — it would depend on the nature of what brought me over — but I like the centrality of Perthshire.

Daniel GoodwinNo Gravatar February 23, 2017 at 7:58 AM

Have a great time! That sounds amazing, please spare no details when you get to describe it all to the rest of us!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 23, 2017 at 8:13 AM

I’ll be thorough!

AlisonNo Gravatar February 22, 2017 at 8:32 PM

Have a wonderful time Keith
Living your dream 😄
Counting down til it’s our turn !!!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 22, 2017 at 9:05 PM

Thanks, Alison. Your turn soon 🙂

Joanie MurrayNo Gravatar February 22, 2017 at 1:36 PM

You will have a fabulous time. Enjoy this wonderful opportunity! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 22, 2017 at 8:07 PM

Thanks Joanie!

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