Meet the expert: Davin de Kergommeaux
Davin de Kergommeaux has been writing about whisky for over 20 years. He is the author of Canadian Whisky, The New Portable Expert, and, more recently, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Distilleries. In 2009, Davin founded the Canadian Whisky Awards, celebrating the very best in whisky from Canada.
In the second episode of our Still Life podcast, Davin discusses some of the common misconceptions about Canadian whisky. Here, we caught up with him to find how he discovered whisky and what a typical day in his job involves…
As a teenager, I experimented with my father’s liquor supply, mostly Johnnie Walker Red. Later, my doctor told me that small amounts of alcohol taken daily were good for my cardiovascular health and I began drinking single malts regularly. I am lucky in that I do not have an addictive personality so never had problems with over- or uncontrolled consumption.
I have been writing for publication since I was on my high school newspaper. I covered the music beat and got to meet and interview a lot of big pop stars. I wrote various lifestyle and opinion pieces for various papers.
My interest in whisky, beyond drinking it, began in 1998 when I visited the Malt Madness website and began corresponding with Johannes van den Heuval. I met Johannes in Amsterdam in 1999 and he asked if I was interested in being part of a group he was forming called the Malt Maniacs. We published an e-magazine which grew into an online phenomenon. I am proud now to be able to say I was published in Malt Maniacs very first e-zine.
Around 2010, I began writing about Canadian whisky and joined Whisky Magazine as a regular contributor and then contributing editor. Around the same time, I founded the Canadian Whisky Awards which has grown into far and away the most competitive awards program for Canadian whisky. No other comes even close in number of entries, and all judging is done blind by a large panel of experienced tasters.
Since my book, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert was published in 2012 I have been writing pretty much full time about Canadian whisky for a variety of whisky, spirits, and lifestyle magazines. I work full time researching, analysing, writing and talking about whisky, as an independent commentator.
A typical day? Wake up, taste and make jot notes on any new whisky samples, make coffee, read email, have breakfast, answer e-mails that require a longer response. Then across the day, work on stories and articles, read about whisky and spirits, read general interest, walk my dog, watch Netflix. I participate regularly in Zoom calls and live whisky events across North America and into the UK, where I make presentations and conduct masterclasses.
Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions
First whiskey you ever tasted?
Johnnie Walker Red.
Best whiskey you have ever tasted?
Black Bowmore first edition AND Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel.
Who is your ‘whiskey hero’?
Sam Bronfman of Seagram’s and Crown Royal fame.
Who would you most like to conduct a whisky tasting for, dead or alive?
Honestly, my mother, as I’d get to see her again nearly 40 years after she passed away. More interesting for your readers and listeners, probably Mr. Sam – Sam Bronfman.
Although largely unsung (or dismissed), he is likely the single most influential whisky maker in history and his story is still pretty much unknown or tarnished by other brands. His influence is still strong in many of the most prominent Scotch single malts and blends, it totally rules Canadian whisky – every maker wants to make the next Crown Royal – and is still firmly felt in American whisky, including bourbon, global rums and beyond.
Favourite distillery to visit?
Diamond Distillers in Guyana, the makers of El Dorado and other rums. An absolutely fascinating place that disrupts whatever notions we might have about how a distillery works, starting with its wooden stills.
Ultimate bottling for your collection?
My collection is a “working” collection, so no bottle lasts forever. I have had many great ones over the years. Gooderham 15 is a long-time favourite.
Favourite non-whisky drink?
1. Water. 2. Martini.
Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Lagavulin 16 and oysters.