August 30, 2007

In Memoriam
Michael Jackson.

God we loved this guy.




Homages by the Malt Maniacs
Homages by other friends
If you'd like to add a few words to Michael, please just email them to me


The Malt Maniacs' Homages to Michael Jackson
9th September 2007
Farewell to my brother in drams
The news came like an electroshock on that Thursday morning, now the Black Thursday on my diary. Like the eclipse of the sun, the day got suddenly dark and so did my heart and my mind. Denial was my first reaction. It could not be possible. Michael could not have left us. He would have sent a mail to tell me… Then the wave of tributes which flooded my mailbox made it clear it was not a nightmare. It was reality.
And a strange thing happened. My mouse was frozen and so was my mind. I just could not write. Not a word. Deadlines were calling, emails piling up in box but the page stayed blank. Desperately blank. It was as if writing a tribute for Michael would be acknowledging what my heart refused to accept.
But I had to go back into work routine and had to pump up the fuel for feeding the writing flow. Now I am ready to pay homage to “emdjay” (MJ) as we call him.
My tribute will not scan his career nor the immense contribution he brought to the industry and all the whisky and beer lovers. That has been said with a lot of emotion by so many.
I prefer to recall the fun memories. I first met Michael 9 or 10 years ago. I had been invited by William Grant to a cask selection. I felt so honoured to join the big boys in this trip. So thrilling for an obscure French journalist to be part of a cask selection with “the” whisky writer who had, as for all of us, been the catalyst of my malt fever.
When I arrived in the airport lobby to join the band, Michael was reading his newspaper (he always carried 3 or 4 kg of dailies with him). He hardly raised his eyes above his tortoiseshell glasses, muttered a “nice to meet you”, then dived back into his reading. Classic star reaction, I thought.
We had a dinner at the Craigellachie, I was sitting far from him, so we did not have any chance to talk. The following morning, the earlybird that I am met another one. Michael was sitting at the breakfast table, already dissecting his newspaper. But this time, he talked ! In fact, our first conversation was not focused on whisky but on rum. I had a sample of a French rum with me. In his inimitable “sponge” way, Michael absorbed information about this spirit new to him, bombarding me with questions and painstakingly noting the answers in his pad.
So typical of Michael. I was astonished (and admiring) to see how meticulously he would listen to our guide and ask questions when we visited distilleries together – distilleries that he had been to so many times. He was always eager to grab something new to him, a detail that he had escaped him previously, whether it would come from a distillery manager, a worker or a whisky lover. He was interested in the dram but most of all in the life, behind and beyond. The essence of a true reporter. But also of a brilliant writer, as he could like no one sublimate the details he collected into gems, distilling a genuine literature.
I will miss our verbal joustings when we would teach each other French, Norman, Yiddish or old English. I will miss his encouragements to experiment daring matchings, I will miss his enlightenment on literature, jazz music or even treize, his favourite game of rugby. And I will miss my partner-in-tasting, my brother in arms or should I say, my brother in drams. And a dear buddy. Truly missed but never forgotten.
So, Michael, I’ll toast you with a dram we both enjoyed on Islay, on a sunny morning of may a few years ago. A Laphroaig 10 year old, a wee flask of which I had slipped into my rucksack as we decided to stroll the Big Strand. The roaring of the Atlantic, the marine-scented breeze, the peace and loneliness of the place and the happy burst of our laughter made it a very special dram that day.
I know you have still much to teach me. And I’ll try not to disappoint you. Rely on me to keep the legend alive. And to remind those who would tend to forget it that there is only one Michael Jackson, the real Mc Coy and no one to rank with the Whisky Chaser and the Beerhunter. Lucky angels, they can enjoy your marvellous digressions. I am sure they will help whisky mature better when they hover over the warehouses. And sure they will love you as much as we do. - Martine Nouet

This is hard. Summing up the feelings at the loss of a friend because that, above all, was what Michael was. He was also my mentor, the first person to give me real encouragement in this game called whisky writing. He stood by me, he still hovers above me. I can hear that lugubrious Yorkshire voice in my ear as I write this, steering me away from the cliche, tutting if any maudlin sentimentality begins to intrude.
As other have eloquently said, he started it all. He created the template, but he did so not because he saw whisky writing as a cold commercial opportunity (MJ and money never got on well together), but because he had a passion for this stuff called whisky. In any case, he wasn’t a whisky writer, he was a whisky journalist and in his ink-filled blood he knew there were stories here, endless stories about something he truly, deeply, loved.
It’s only with this sudden, painful hindsight that I realise how his life was about celebrating the underdog: malt whisky when few drinkers had heard of it and fewer distillers were bothered about it; speciality beers when big brewers were flooding the world with fizzy pap; jazz as it became a minority music; rugby league.
He was stubborn, he was generous, he was honest and open, he had no side to him, he had time endless time for others who shared his love of the malt and who wanted to know more. He had a wonderful twinkle in his eye for the ladies he liked. He was funny.
“People think I’m miserable,” he said to me once. “I’m not, it’s just the accent.. and the face,” this said with the droll delivery of a true raconteur. I was proud to carry his books -- literally as I struggled through airports and Japanese stations with bags full of them and metaphorically as they are beside me, guiding me.
I urge you to re-read his columns in Whisky Mag and more importantly his writings in ‘Slow’ where his late style flowered as he crafted evocative reminiscences of his childhood. They were criticised by some who felt that they weren’t “whisky writing.” They were, because they showed how the man was formed, his influences and how this subject, his subject, is as huge as the planet he endlessly toured, is filled with the stories of places and people he had quizzed: taxi drivers, bartenders, drinkers. The ‘ordinary’ people who were in fact extraordinary. I will miss him hugely, more than you can ever imagine. - Dave Broom

When I was on my first trip to Islay in april 2000, I bought Michael Jackson's first whisky companion in the Old Kiln-shop at Ardbeg. For me, it was the opening of a new world, my first stepstone on the ladder of the World of Whisky. It was in those days my definite guide next to any whisky I tasted.
Now, my first stepstone has passed away ... rest in peace Michael, we won't forget what you gave us.- Bert Bruyneel

February 26th 1998.....my 30th Anniversary, I remember it like it was yesterday....I was just getting started, after a holiday in November 1997 in England, to discover the exciting world of whiskies....my surprise was big at my holiday party to get my first whiskybook, The Malt Whisky Companion. Bigger was my surprise even to discover this vast selection of whiskies, to explore the notes of Michael, the background information on every distillery....this book was in these days my companion in my search and continuous discovery for new and existing whiskies....it will remain etched in my memories forever. Michael, you will go in history as thé man who introduced us all to the precious nectar. Thanks and rest in peace. Slainte ! - Luc Timmermans

Yesterday was our monthly whisky club meeting. In the afternoon I had read some pages of Michael's WHISKY, at the meeting one of our members arrived with his copy of the COMPANION (as he does at every meeting) and by strange coincidence one of the two malts on the agenda was a Macallan 12yo.
He will always be with us. - Joe Barry

Michael, So many of us entered the world of single malt scotch thru your writings. We learned about distilleries nobody outside Scotland ever heard of. You coined the language we use to describe single malt scotch. We probably think of malts the way we do because of you. You were with us as we enjoyed each dram. We will always be grateful to you, and we will miss you. - Louis Perlman

I have no words to say. I bought my first whisky book of MJ on the battle fields north of Inverness at Colleden and like many other malt enthusiasts learned a lot from his writings. I do not know what to say, may be we can do some special event in his honour. As they say in India- the Spirit lives on for ever and MJ is always there. - Krishna Nukala

I only had the pleasure of meeting Michael twice…the first time was at Whisky Live New York for a few minutes in the spring of 2006. It was during that trip to New York that he appeared on Conan O'Brien's show…the one in which the world saw the extent of Michael’'s two-decade fight with Parkinson's Disease. A few months later, he told us about that battle in his columns for Whisky Magazine and Malt Advocate. Michael fought a brave fight against Parkinson's and his other health problems, and when we sat down for a brief interview this past spring, he looked much healthier and stronger than he had the previous year. When the red light on my Blackberry started flashing this morning, the last thing I expected to see was the news of his passing.
Like many whisky lovers, Michael's writings helped me learn develop my passion. He had a knack for making the mysteries of whisky accessible to the common man, and a sense of humor that never failed to make me smile when reading his work. With the graying hair and beard, he reminded me of a wizard…with a twinkle in his eye and a way of working magic with his words.
Michael, may you always be first in line for the angel’'s share! - Mark Gillespie

What a life well lived, to leave behind a such legacy. Jackson, you started it, and I, thank heavens, caught it from you: my thirst for whisky knowledge and the fountain of words with which you slaked it. Your first Companion, 1989; your second, 1990; 1994 the third; then 1999 the fourth, expanded as the cult of single malts had expanded under your tutelage. And finally, in 2004, your fifth and sadly, final Malt Whisky Companion. You wrote others, my favourite, The Definitive World Guide, but The Companion was MY companion on my malt whisky journey, and so, in words, were you. Thank you Michael! Now you drink the angel's share, so Slainte dear companion, slainte! - Davin de Kergommeaux

Michael's passing today is terribly sad, although not unexpected.
His contribution to all of our understanding and appreciation of whisky is unprecedented. He developed the idea of regional classifications. He wrote the first full exposition (and celebration) of individual malt whisky distilleries. He opened the eyes (or the noses and taste-buds) of the whole world to 'the most complex spirit known to man'. He is the first 'modern' whisky writer, breaking the mould of what came before, leading the way for us writers who follow. (He once, graciously, wrote of one of my books that "whisky writers leap-frog each other. Each book adding to the overall knowledge of the subject")
That small quote stands witness to his generosity, his openness and preparedness to share knowledge.
In the canon of whisky writing, he was a giant. His constantly up-dated 'Malt Whisky Companion' is the best guide to available expressions, and I have always found his tasting notes to be reliable (unlike another, more presumptuous writer, whose name I need not mention!). The first edition (1989) provides tasting notes for 234 malts (about a third of them from G&M!). In his introduction to 'Whisky: the Definitive World Guide' (2005), he remarks: "Distilleries that one bottled two or three expressions now offer 20 or 30. Macallan, at one stage had more than 100 expressions". QED. The truth is that he was very largely responsible for this - by opening the eyes of the consumer to the joys of malt whisky, and of the industry to the potential sales to be found out there.
I first met Michael in Edinburgh's Bow Bar in 1987. I was negotiating the contract for my first book about whisky, and asked his advice about this. He was doing beer research (and I was happy to help him!). As always he was open, encouraging, helpful. This was also my first exposure to his deep and entertaining fund of stories about whisky people, which was expanded upon with generosity and humour over the subsequent years, when we met at whisky events across the world.
Dear Michael. I will miss him, as we all will. A hunched giant in our small world of whisky.
God bless him. God bless us all. - Charlie MacLean

My two greatest interests in life were set afire by you Michael.
Whisky and beer. Your 'companion' has served me on many many sessions and sparked discussions of almost legendary fervor. Although I never met you in person I owe you so much, you have made my life richer and ultimately it is you I have to thank for meeting so many wonderful people who share this passion. I raise my glass for you tonight, may the angels share their share generously with you for time eternal.. - Robert Karlsson

Michael was one of the gentlest and most generous whisky persons I ever met. The depth of his whisky wisdom and knowledge was un-phantomable. His willingness to share and masterly tutor his lifelong accumulated whisky insight was unparalleled. Many of us enthusiasts, traveling along various paths to the realm of whisky, used his fascinating books and articles as guiding lights.
Beside whisky, kindness remained Michael’s religion. Although he was not one to attend synagogue regularly, he worshipped, as a fellow so well put it, honesty, honor, loyalty and integrity.
Upon learning of his death I was entering a state described only as a permeate sadness. Sadness that still hangs, and that surely is shared by all those who knew and loved him.
I am going to hail the man by having a MacAllan 1946, the one he became infatuated by at my vertical in April 2002. - Ulf Buxrud

I am very sad that I never had the chance to meet Michael Jackson in real life... I knew him only from 2 of his Books ("The Malt Whisky Conpanion" and "Scotland and its Whiskies") and from many Videos. Michael, was for me the Spiritual Companion into the World of Single Malts, I remember my whisky beginnings, the many nights where I read his Whisky Companion, all that information and history about Malts and Distilleries. I have in my mind his words from one of his interviews : "when I am abroad, at the evening I will drink a whisky, probably a Single Malt and probably it will be one from Islay". That’ss is exactly what I will do tonight Michael, I will raise a glass of Caol Ila 36yo 1966 and drink this dram to your Memory.
Michael, thank you for all you have done for me, (even if we never met), rest in peace... - Konstantin Grigoriadis

I am in a very sad mood to hear the news. Although I've only met Michael once, I seems to know him very well from what he wrote in the books. Having spend almost one year to translate his book into Chinese, I have regard Michael as my best friend. I even told the publisher that they'll need to invite Michael to come to Taiwan for this the launch of the Chinese edition of "Whisky" in Oct. Very sad that we won't be able to have him witness it. I am now pour a dram of Ardbeg C#4703 to Michael. For what he has done to every malt lovers in the world. - Ho-cheng Yao

I purchased my first Michael Jackson Malt Companion in the mid 1990’s. I did find that it was one of the most helpful publication on whisky as I was starting to learn more about Single Malt Scotch Whisky. His laid back style and good coverage of all the distilleries really helped me in tasting/buying whisky. The first time I entered Loch Fyne Whisky shop, I had the Companion under my arm! I only met Michael Jackson once, during a private party on Islay in 2002, and I deeply regret not having been able to see him since. MJ will be remembered thanks to his contribution to the whisky world. I’ll raise my glass to his memory. - Olivier Humbrecht

With Michael Jackson - although I have met him in person only once - I have spent quite some time of my life. His 'Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch' was my first whisky book from which I learned a lot. It cleared the jungle for a beginner in whisky...this was the real Whisky Bible. In uncounted tasting sessions we dicussed his words and ratings, agreeing and disagreeing.
Michael, you lit a fire of interest in me for this wonderful golden stuff from Scotland. I would like to thank you for that. May you be embraced by the great distiller and brewer in the sky! - Peter Krause

I remember well, in 1998, two years after my first conscious sip of single malt, a good friend wanted to buy me a bottle of malt. He offerd me the Companion and let me choose a bottle mentioned in the guide, it turned to be a Springbank. The Companion was never returned for I spent hours and hours reading notes, staring at labels and ultimately wondering how it was possible that I never got a clue of that vast galaxy we know as Single Malt Whisky.
As I'm writing this I'm doing a carré of Macallan in your memory, the least I can do is to thank you for showing me the way. - Michel van Meersbergen

Very sad news. I only met Michael once in Adelaide in 1993. I remember that he was totally gobsmacked that we smoked at whisky tastings. I guess he must have thought us colonials totally unsophisticated. Incidentally 1993 was the year I gave up smoking.
Vale Michael.
Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion (2nd Edition) was my very first whisky book and it became the subject of one of my very first e-conversations with Johannes - MJ's overrated and underrated whiskies. So Michael Jackson's scores became the currency of exchange and heralded my becoming a Malt Maniac. I for one am truly glad that he decided to score whiskies rather than just provide nice words as his pioneering scoring brought Johannes and me together across the 10,000 miles between Adelaide and Amsterdam. Michael was my silent and reliable guide for my first three years as a malt lover and made me comfortable with scoring whiskies. Thanks for the book and thanks for scoring whiskies.
I'm raising a Gordon & MacPhail Brora D1982, B2006 Score 88/100 in his honour. I'd raise a Macallan but I don't have one good enough handy. - Craig Daniels

My very first steps in the world of malt whisky were taken with a copy of the “Malt Whisky Companion” in my hand. After being introduced to single malt whisky (Lagavulin 16 y.o.) by a friend of mine, Michael’s book was my first guide to the malt whisky distilleries of Scotland and their whiskies.
Michael, thank you for introducing me to this wonderful world, to many years of enjoyment and to meeting like-minded friends all over the world. I raise a glass to you, may you rest in peace. - Lex Kraaijeveld

Not long after my 'amazing discovery' of single malt whisky in the early 1990's I made another amazing discovery - Michael Jackson's Single Malt Whisky Companion. It was my very first book on whisky and it transformed my keen interest in single malts into a genuine passion. I doubt I would ever have found the courage to publish my musings on the world wide web if Michael's lyrical whisky writings hadn't given me the courage to do so. After launching the Malt Madness website I discovered many more whisky writers and good whisky books, but I still feel that Michael wrote 'the ultimate whisky book' with his Malt Whisky Companion - at least for me.
Michael's scores also inspired some of the malt maniacs to start work on the matrix (and later the monitor). The first version of the matrix was nothing more that a comparison of the 'benchmark' scores of Michael Jackson and those of three or four maniacs. Unfortunately, I only met Michael a few times in real life. The last time I saw him was in May at the re-opening of the Kilbeggan distillery in Ireland. It was clear that he wasn't in perfect health, but he told me he enjoyed himself tremendously inside the old and unique distillery buildings. I guess that is what made Michael Jackson a 'guru' for many of the other malt maniacs as well - the passion for single malt whisky we shared.
I will crack open a very special bottle from my 'reserve stock' tonight and think some spiritual thoughts... - Johannes van den Heuvel

Michael Jackson is (it's hard to write was) the man who made me discover that Macallan was usually better than Ladyburn, via his invaluable ‘MJ companion’ of which I have kept the 1989 edition as a treasure. I also found out, last time I met him in Paris three or four years ago, that he was a true jazz aficionado as well. A multifaceted man, all facets being of the highest grade and brilliance. What a huge loss for the whisky world. - Serge Valentin

The first time I ever heard of Michael Jackson was around 1997-1998, I believe, and it was the origin of a misunderstanding which lasted quite a while for me… On an Italian newspaper I read an article about a local microbrewery which had recently started its business and which had immediately met with great critical acclaim (Baladin). At the time I was an avid beer drinker and I had never had a single malt except Glen Grant 5yo (of course), so this article caught my attention. The last lines of the article were very quite puzzling to me: they said that one of these beers was especially appreciated by Michael Jackson. How could that be? That a renowned pop-star, author of mediocre pop songs and known for his maniacally healthy diet, was a connoisseur of fine beers? That doubt remained with me for some years, although I tried that beer and yes, it was excellent.
It was only several years later, that by chance I started getting interested into single malts. First a Talisker, then an Oban, then an Ardbeg… I was desperately looking for info on the Internet, but I was finding very little (I hadn't stumbled on Malt Maniacs yet). And then, that name again came to my eyes: Michael Jackson's tasting notes on Whisky Magazine. Some further research, and I blushed: it was not the (dis)coloured American pop star, but a guy with authoritative looks which reminded me a bit of the great Stanley Kubrick (another great loss of past years). And his words were authoritative too: interesting to read, compelling… not too many words, but very striking, often exotic, making my mouth water in anticipation… making me understand that there was much more to discover in the world of malts than I had initially thought of.
And so I bought his Malt Whisky Companion, the last edition, and lost myself reading all those info I was craving for, dreaming of Scottish distilleries in remote places, getting acknowledged into new terms like “terroir”, “sherry cask”, “independent bottler” and discovering distillers I had not even remotely heard of. And so my quest for bottles began: sometimes I agreed with Michael Jackson's notes and scores, more often not (after all, we all have our tastes, don't we), but it was always an interesting reading. His book’'s pages were intriguing, a spur to go on and on tasting, experimenting, discovering. The tasting notes were so many and so fascinating that I was almost scared by the world that opened itself before my eyes. And so I have to thank Micheal for giving initial fuel and spark to my passion: without his book, it probably wouldn’t have been the same.
I will never be able to say “thanks” in person to Michael for what he has given me (and it is much), but I certainly can give him a last farewell by having a toast in his memory with a dram of a malt from what certainly was one of his favourite distilleries: a Macallan 18yo from 1967. I am sure he would have appreciated it, as we have appreciated his work, his passion and his personality throughout these years. - Luca Chichizola


Other Friends' Homages to Michael Jackson

I can't add anything that it hasn't been said on these pages.... Just a big "thank you" to Michael for his guidance introducing us to the world of malt whisky. His malt whisky books were real companions indeed!
- Joan from Barcelona

Great guy!
I´m sure he´ll be dramming from the angel´s share from now on!
God bless him!
- Ricardo Dias from Portugal

I only met Michael twice and in fact both times in the same week, after 20 + years of reading your books I was chuffed to at last shake your hand.
We discussed the possibility of you visiting us in New Zealand, well I guess we will join you one day for a dram of the Angels Share which I am sure you will have notes.
A whisky hero, who will be missed.
- Michael Fraser Milne

- Frans, Netherlands.

I took my first step thru the door into the world of Whisky in 1989. I came back from a trip to Scotland and realised I had to buy my dad a souveneer... On the boat home, I bought him a bottle of Cardhu Single Malt. When we cracked it open it was as if lightning struck. This was something else! Almost immediatly I went out to look for more of this strange drink called Single Malt.In the whole of Belgium there were no more than 6 or 7 different malts available (Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Fettercairn, Edradour and Knockando). Once I had these, and found how different they were from each other, i decided to learn more about the subject and bought a book about whisky.
It was the only one available. Michael Jackson's Whisky Companion... A virus had entered my mind. It would never let go again. Michael's tasting notes were like a magnet... So many aroma's, so many secrets waiting to be discovered! I had to try and find these "Rolls Royces" and "Premier grand Cru's"! I did, and Michael was my guide. He brought light into my darkness. To show his importance: Over the years I have amassed about 70 different books about whisky...10 of these are written by Michael Jackson... More than twice as much as any other whiskywriter in this "collection"! I have met Michael several times at various festivals since 1994, and he was always friendly, kind, witty and helpfull. His masterclasses were always exactly that: Master-classes!
I will defenitely miss seeing him again!
Michael, thanks for your guidance, and I expect the angels will now finally learn the value of what we are sharing.. - Paul Dejong

Knowing, working, bridging cultures and laughs with Michael - honour from years with Suntory. Sleep well my dear witty pal. - Shuna

The Big Toast – malts-L's tribute to Michael Jackson

Like everyone else in the whisky (and beer) world, malts-L members were shocked and saddened to hear of the passing-away of Michael Jackson. For many, his Malt Whisky Companion was a companion in the true sense of the world when taking the first steps in whisky-dom.
Malts-L felt that the best way to pay homage to the contribution that Michael made to the enjoyment of malt whisky was to raise a collective glass to the man. So which bottles were opened worldwide, which drams were raised in his honour?
No surprise that the distillery which featured prominently among the raised drams was Macallan. 26 Macallans were poured, about half of all the toasts. And which Macallans where they? A 1946, a 1958, an 18 y.o. from 1968, from 1971 and (twice) from 1972, another 18 y.o. without vintage and of course 18 y.o. 'Gran Reservas' (1979 and 1980). Further OBs were a 7 y.o., twice a 10 y.o. 'Full Proof', a 12 y.o. 'Elegancia', two 25 y.o. 'Anniversary's, a 'Twenties', a 'Thirties', a '1874' and a '1851'. Indie bottlings included a 1968 – 34 y.o. from Murray McDavid, a 1980 – 20 y.o. Macallan-Glenlivet from Kingsbury's, a 1987 from Signatory, a 1989 from Dewar Rattray, a 21 y.o. from Scott's Selection and finally two Adelphi's: 16 y.o. and 30 y.o.
Of course, plenty of Islays! An Ardbeg Mor ("a huge bottle for a huge man", an Ardbeg 1975, an Ardbeg 1978 ("plus Thomas Hardy Ale 1996") and an Ardbeg Uigeadail. Two Bowmores: a 1972 from Signatory and a 33 y.o. from Duncan Taylor. Also two Laphroaigs: a 10 y.o. 'Green Stripe' and a 'Quarter Cask'. Finally a Caol Ila 1966 – 36 y.o. and, of course, a Lagavulin 16 y.o.
More island toasts in the form of a Talisker '175th Anniversary' and an Isle of Jura 10 y.o. Campbeltown whiskies were represented by a 15 y.o. Springbank and a 11 y.o. Longrow from Cadenhead. There was a 1982 – 24 y.o. Brora from Gordon & MacPhail to keep up the peat levels.
And then a smattering of other malt whiskies: a 30 y.o. Glenmorangie, a 1988 – 10 y.o. Linkwood from Wilson & Morgan, a 1976 Strathisla from Samaroli, a 14 y.o. Mannochmore from Cadenhead, a 1972 Glenlivet and a 21 y.o. Glenlivet ("plus a glass of a great Belgian beer to wash it down"). And a 1992 Bladnoch from Signatory.
A couple of other whiskies: a Power's Pure Pot Still, distilled in the 1960s, a Highland Queen, bottled in 1964 and a 5 y.o. White Heather.
Several specifically washed down their malt with some great beer and two beers were raised on their own: a Duncan Taylor Whisky Ales spiked with Bowmore 16 y.o. and an Affligem
Michael, we hope you got a bit of a nose from this global glass raised to you. We won't begrudge the angles their share as much anymore now. Thank you for all you have done; rest in peace.

- Lex Kraaijeveld, on behalf of malts-L

I have knowm Michael for many years, and it is with deep sadness to hear he has passed away .
When I was doing my first Bowmore Masterclass at Whisky Live, Michael introduced me. He made a point beforehand to learn about my time in the industry, and where my passion from whisky had come from. He was always on hand when I needed advice, and to give his own inimatable slant on current news . He was a true disciple and a inspiration for me and, I know many others. I will miss him, and his books will be a constant source of information for the future for me. He will be able to give the angels a share now. - Colin Dunn

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire


Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares


Please remember me
Please remember me, ...

- Niels

Michael travelled to South Africa in 2004 for whisky live, it would be the second time I would meet him. The first being in 1994 in a rather trendy Club in London I think he was promoting his Cocktail Book. He was a giver that is what I remember most, regardsless of how many times he was asked the same question he remained enthused and informative in his response. Eventually he sat down to a beer and we joined him after 2 really great hours of sharing we had to leave for a previous engagement.
His sense of humour and passion for life were evident in abundance and his knowledge of all things malt and jazz were mesmerising.
We will miss you, you are a legend and will thankfully through your work live on.
Thank you Michael and Slainthe. - Hector Mc Beth, Cape Town, South Africa

We all but shared a birthday, and often all but shared a malt, for Michael’s words were usually somewhere in the tasting notes I often put together. My favourite phrase remains “A fine restorative after a brisk walk in the hills”. We met very infrequently, but those occasional meetings at a show or a dinner usually included reminiscence on another shared experience, that of advertising, for back in the 60s, before he took so memorably (and metaphorically) to drink, Michael was, I think, launch editor of Campaign magazine, the advertising industry weekly. Like his better-known more recent work it, too, survives him. He was a delightful companion, and I’ll miss those moments, as well as much more. - Ian Crammond

The angels will have to account for their share and hopefully have been keeping notes as a great whisky man has entered the still house in the sky.
Will be sorely missed by all who love the greatest spirit in the world.
Slainte - Bobby

When I received a copy of your "Companion" for christmas of 2005, I was just curious about whisky. After I had read a few pages, written in your own particular style (both complete in knowledge & skills and accessible to all) I already knew I had been hooked : whisky had just became a real passion. You had just set afire a thirst that will not be extinguished...
Your passion had passed on to me, as well as to so many other afficionados all over the world.
We owe you so much Michael !
The news of your passing leaves us in a very sad mood, but don't worry : your contribution to the world of whisky lovers is so great that you'll never be forgotten. All of us, your followers, will keep you in mind and heart as long as we live.
Now you've joined the angels and I only wish you your rightful share of the spirit we love so much, thanks to your work.
Slainthe Math dear Friend ! - Guillaume Laudic

As many fellow whisky lovers on these pages, I started my discovery in the companion of Michaels books. His books guided me in my period of unknowingness. Every word in the books learned me something new and gave insight in the wonderful world of flavor and odor. My personnel whisky library contains not only whisky books of Michael’s hand, but also a lot of books about beer. This man has been the guide for so many people around the world that he actually should receive a statue in his Honor.
Thanks Michael for your expertise and the willingness to share it with us…
- Carlos (The Wee Dram Whisky Society)

A Taste of Sadness

On August 30, 2007 the beer and whisky world lost its largest icon.

Michael Jackson died in his house in London, at the age of 65.
The man who shared his name with a celebrity in show-bizz, once said about that coincidence: "I am the one who doesn't dance, sing or drink coca cola." Instead he taught hundreds of thousands of people all over the world how to enjoy their dram. Without any exaggeration, since Michael's Malt Whisky Companion sold more than 800,000 copies.
Michael was ill, suffering from Parkinson's disease, and he knew it. Roughly a year ago we discussed this rather sensitive topic and I advised him to start writing about it, so that people would understand. Gradually he started doing so and we were thankful for it since many people often mistook the Parkinson symptoms for his being drunk, which Michael hardly ever was.

"At school I excelled in English. Latin wasn't too difficult either, but the rest was crap. That's why I decided to become a Great Writer, so I looked for a similarity among successful authors and quickly found one: "Booze!"
My English teacher at high school let me listen to a recording of Dylan. I mean Dylan Thomas, the English poet and writer of short stories, whose name would later be used by Bob Dylan as his artist's name.
His works are extraordinarily good, but so were his drinking habits. In 1953 he died in New York after having downed no less than 18 glasses of whisky. What an example.
When I reached the age of 16 I left high school to work at a local newspaper in Yorkshire and was already used to drinking reasonable quantities of beer. When I turned 18 I moved to Edinburgh having been offered a job at a Scottish daily newspaper. One of my new colleagues was Willy McGuid. Many, many hours I spent with him in the pubs in Edinburgh, but he always complained about my drinking habits. When I asked him which type of beer I should drink according to him, he shook his head and explained that it wasn't the beer, but the nips in between.
"I don't like whisky" I reacted to Willy. Where I got that nonsense from, I still don't know. For a Scot who has just been insulted about his national drink, Willy stayed very quiet. He tried to explain to me what a single malt was and offered me a Glen Grant. I instantly revised my opinion. It was the starting point of my lifelong journey along the beers and whiskies of the world."

That's what Michael answered me, years ago, when we first met in the Craigellachie Hotel in Scotland, and I asked him why he had become a writer.
It's Michael to a T. He never answered with words, but always with stories. As so many whisky lovers I grew up with his books, specifically The World Guide to Beer (1977), The World Guide to Whisky (1987) and The Malt Whisky Companion (1989).
When I started my own whisky quest in 1974 I could not even dream that I would translate the fifth edition of the Malt Whisky Companion into Dutch nearly 30 years later. During that process my mentor for years became my best friend in the whisky world. We contacted each other a lot, everywhere in the world. And we had fun, lots of fun.
Sometimes we would help each other out with difficult deadlines. "Hans, can you write a short article about you-know-what for that German magazine we talked about some time ago?"
One or two days later it was in his email box and he only had to edit it and send it to the publisher.
"Michael, I dearly need a couple of tasting notes on those new single malts, but I haven't tasted them myself yet." They would appear in my mailbox shortly thereafter so that I could publish Michael's findings the next day.

By the way, deadlines weren't exactly Michael's forte.
A couple of months ago Becky and I were in London to brief him on our new book A Taste of Whisky, for which he agreed to write the foreword. "Meet me at 4 pm in my office", he said over the phone. When we arrived spot on, he was still typing away on his I-book, but immediately stopped and said: "Let's go out, let's have some fun. To the pub." And hop we went. About 45 minutes later Michael's cell phone rang. "It's Glenfiddich, they need the tasting notes on their soon-to-be-released 40-year old". Michael whispered, covering the phone with one hand, while removing a sample bottle out of his pocket with the other one. "You'll have it tomorrow", he ended the call.
"I should have sent them the note three weeks ago". His hand went into his pocket again and returned with a tasting glass. Together we wrote a tasting note. It would be the last thing we wrote together.
Last week Michael emailed me the foreword, about one-and-a-half months past the deadline. An hour later he was on the phone and wanted to know whether I liked it. "A bit late, but very beautiful. Thank you."
He laughed and told me he was on new medication and felt slightly better.
"Five more years, that should be possible, Hans."
It turned out to be five days.
The Grand Old Man of Whisky is no more. His death leaves a void for many, many people. Becky and I lost a very dear friend. A friend who, above all, was a fellow writer, with whom I could share so many things, also outside the whisky world.

"I prefer to be called a whisky writer instead of an expert. Although most distilleries consult me as an expert, first and foremost I am a writer."

Another quote of his, one that keeps lingering in my mind. To me it would be the perfect epitaph for Michael.
Although he will not witness the launch of A Taste of Whisky at the end of September, Michael will be there in the spirit and we'll drink to him, albeit it with a taste of sadness.

Rest in peace, dear friend. We will miss you every day.

- Hans & Becky

Michael’s “Malt Whisky Companion” was for me, as for many, the first true source of information about the nectar I dearly love.
As a Belgian I will also miss him as ‘the’ spokesman for our national pride: beer.
Michael’s “The great beers of Belgium” is in my opinion a real passionate work about a subject he loved and enjoyed.
In november we’ve planned a Speyside themed clubtasting including a Macallan 18 from 1967 which he particulary enjoyed. All clubmembers will raise their glasses to his memory.
Michael, may you be the first angel to take your share.
- Jürgen Vromans (President Cask Six Whiskyclub Belgium)

Michael R.I.P - Martin Bo Petersen

Michael is going to be sadly missed by all of us who love whisky, over the coming years. His kindness, knowledge and devotion in his beliefs is remarkable. I am another example of someone who loved whisky and Scotland through Michael's books. But meeting him - a great honour- changed everything. I believe he is the father of a lot of whisky lovers. I dedicate the following poem to him by his favourite Dylan Thomas:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas
Dedicated to Michael Jackson (27-3-1947, 30-8-2007)

- Dr Theo Empeslidis Vintage Whisky Shop Greece

Michael Jackson inspired many of the beer appreciation classes offered at hotel schools around the world, and indeed, it was the Beer & Wine Appreciation class at Syracuse University that awaked me to the fact that beer could be far more than just something to get you drunk at college parties. Hundreds of brewery and distillery tours and tastings later, I am thankful to Mr. Jackson for introducing me, and many others in my generation, to a whole new avenue of life's pleasures.. - John Maly, Colorado, USA

Listening to Michael speak would lead you to believe that writing was an effortless pass-time to him but in reality I know that despite both his natural flair and professional abilities he agonised to encapsulate and bring alive the people, the places and the products we have come to know so much better through his books and articles. He was a perfectionist.
I think we have been very fortunate that such a special writer's talents landed, as a butterfly might, upon our beer and whisky flowers. Michael could have written majestically about a great number of subjects and all would have been far richer for his observations and miraculously elegant style.
Michael inspired so many, educated so many and was open and warm to so many people around the world. He was truly unique and will be greatly missed. - Doug McIvor

The first time I met Michael Jackson was in 1996 during a beer tasting. At that time he was a real myth to me. I then had the opportunity to meet him almost every year during various tastings and Whisky Lives all over the world. More than his knowledge and passion for beer and whisky I will always remember his unique sense of humour. Whisky Magazine readers understand what I mean. He told me one day very abruptly that my father remembered him of Humphrey Boggart ! He was for sure a great personnality. All his friends and the whisky industry will miss him. - Thierry Bénitah, La Maison du Whisky

Michael brought an understanding of Malt Whisky to the people. His sense of fun, scholarly writings and his anecdotes sprinkled with classic wit remain, for many of us, in fond, vivid, memory and for others, in text, as testament to his passion for and knowledge of this subject. He loved, mischievously, poking fun at marketing nonsense but encouraged real thinking and understanding from tasting, more than any other of his time. We all in the Industry has so much to thank Michael for. In his modest way he taught us to value and really appreciate Scotch Whisky and, especially, Single Malts.
His presence at any Whisky Event was re-assuring and a delight; his absence, always disappointing. Now that he's gone we'll feel his absence more than ever. Those of us lucky enough to have known him thank him for his enormous and life-long contribution to our whisky world. We salute you, Pioneer of Single Malt understanding. - Ronnie Cox, BB&R Spirits Limited

I never had the pleasure or privledge of meeting Michael in person, but his book, or should I say the bible of malt whisky is one of the things that inspired me and spurred my interest even more. It is in part due to the The Malt Whisky Companion that I continue to explore new malts. In truth I use it to compare,to argue or even just to brush up on my limited knowledge.I am sure there are countless Malt Whisky lovers the world over that owe so much to this man and feel the way I do.
The malt whisky world is a poorer place without you Michael. - Larry Aronson, South Africa

Wow! What a shock.
A local restaurant here in Minneapolis Minnesota hosted yearly scotch tastings and featured Michael as a speaker during these events. I had the pleasure of listening to these talks four times. This was the start of my interest in single malts and I thank him for that. I always found him to be a interesting and informative speaker and very cordial during the book signings afterwards. He seemed genuinely interested in the opinions of the enthusiasts around him and was very approachable. I will have a dram of Talisker in his honor since I have heard him say that this was one of his favorites. Rest in peace Michael, and enjoy the Angel's Share.. - Pat Carver

What a sad day. Michael Jackson for me was something like the godfather of Scotch Whisky. When I built up my website whisky-guide.de I first used my own experiences and then I checked his ratings - and yes, sometimes I then changed my mind. Michael was a great ambassador for a great drink. We should raise a glass to Michael. Slainte! - Andreas Gugau (www.whisky-guide.de)

I'm sad, to lose a malt companion. I've never met him but it's was a pleasure for me to see every wrinting he had done.
I expect Paris WhiskyLive to respect one minute of silence each day of this event. - Xavier Rouard

Many years ago, when I knew no more about whisky than that I quite liked single malts, I clearly remember finding Aberlour 10 YO at a special Christmas price in my local supermarket. In fact the price was so tempting that I bought the whisky anyway, but then found myself wondering whether or not my purchase was actually any good? I found the answer to that question in Michael Jackson's 'Malt Whisky Companion' and from that moment onwards I never looked back - I was immediately captivated by the tasting notes and set about trying to sample every whisky that sounded worth the effort of finding! It's no exaggeration to say that by awakening this interest he changed my life, which is something that I shall forever be grateful for. Michael Jackson RIP. - Ian Baker

Michael Jackson died, and I am taken aback by how sad I am. I suppose he was a constant companion of sorts; I've known him via his books since 1989, that's a long time for someone with such a disjointed existence. Anyways, I'll raise a glass in his honor tonight.
Michael Jackson is the one who put single malts on the map; he is truly a pioneer. People in the industry all owe a debt of gratitude that most cannot begin to conceive of.

So, thanks Michael, for you wit, your style and eloquence, and for introducing me and countless others to the joys Single Malt Scotch. I shall miss you. - Oliver (Maltresistance.blogspot.com)

The best way to start your adventure in SMSW is buying some bottles, opening them and trying them (in good company), comparing them. Then you’ll buy some more, but you’ll feel lost in the whisky jungle.You need a guide. Even though many times copied, Michael’s companion is the best way to find your way. You’re better off buying this book, than an eleventh bottle (which will be bought soon after).Some years later, when you have bought a lot of books, (and a lot of bottles), you’ll find out, that every book Michael published is an unique piece of work, filled with love for the subject, the people who make it and the land it comes from. Just have a look.
Now Michael has left the warehouse. Bugger ! Every time it’s unbelievable. Here today, gone tomorrow. I hate that. We all lost a great man. I regret not having met him, but I’m happy to have read him. I regret I will never have the chance, on this earth at least, to ask him, why he rated the rare malts St. Magdalene 19yo so low… Thanks Michael, for all you gave us and teached us. Thanks for the genuinity (yes it’s really a word) of your work. What would your next book have been?
Earlier today I raised my glass to Michael (several times actually). I wondered what should I take. Open something special, something rare? Instead I first chose the greatest all-rounder in the world and after that one of his beloved Macallans (cask strength, I needed that !). My thoughts go out to his relatives and best friends.
Michael is sipping his angels share now and I wonder did all good whisky went to heaven? - Alexander van der Veer, ex-Maniac

Michael Jackson, as he never failed to remind me almost every time we met, was the first person to write seriously about single malt Scotch whisky, which I suppose, aside from a handful of earlier pioneers, was true. He certainly opened the doors of the world of malt whisky to many consumers and would-be enthusiasts, just at a time when distillers and bottlers were also feeling their way into the category. For this we all owe him a huge debt. Although he had a few blind spots, he always spoke his own mind and was very much his own man sometimes, I imagine, to his cost. If you don't know, he could be a nightmare to work with (as others will attest) deadline was a word that appeared to have very little meaning as far as he was concerned. But he was a man of passions: whisky, beer, rugby league and jazz being but four. Most of all he was fiercely passionate, or so it seemed to me from some memorable conversations we had, about writing. He despised bad or lazy writing and admired good work, which he was always ready to point out from the pile of newspapers he used to carry around with him. And he was, I think, sometimes frustrated that his writing wasn't taken as seriously as it should have been, for first and foremost he was a journalist, and a writer, and it is for this that he should be remembered. - Nick Morgan, Diageo

I just logged into the whisky magazine site and saw this. A real sad loss to the world of whisky and beer. I have nearly all his books including the whisky and Belgian beer books. His books were always the ones I thumbed through when I bought a new beer or whisky. My heart felt condolences to all his family and friends. A real sad loss to the world of drinks journalism. Rest in peace and I hope you are enjoying plenty of celestial malt and monastic brews. - J.Holdsworth

How sad it is I lost the man you open me the world of Whisky, I never met him but his Book "The Malt Whisky Companion" was a fantastic friend and teacher who greatly improved end expanded my whisky horizon. So it's with a tremendous sadness that I learn his death. Now His book will be even more important.
Thank you a lot Mister Jackson for your unvaluable help. - Patrick de Schulthess

It was with sadness I recieved the news about Michael Jackson had passed away. He was for many years a good friend. First when I was in the Master of Malt final and he was one of the judges, later when he traveled to Highland Park with me to spend a couple of days......some days we had. Later again as The writer visiting Craigellachie Hotel and The Quaich Bar. I was there as whisky manager and Michael always entertained people when he was there......Latest i met him again in my work as Brand Ambassador for Edrington Group, he was happy for me who reached my goals with whisky.....and thanks to him, I did.
I will raise my glass.......the whisky will be Macallan as Michael always loved that dram.......Michael....where ever you are......take a dram......angels share will come to you.... - Martin Markvardsen, Brand Ambassador, Edrington Group

It is a real shock to learn that suddenly Michael is no more with us. This is so sad and so difficult to admit. I will in particular always remember the first time I met him, on a boat on the river Seine in Paris when Martine Nouet introduced me to him, quite a few years ago already. I was so surprised by how affable and accessible the whisky "Guru" was, and could I talk with him at length, spending a most enjoyable and interesting moment in his company.
His "Malt Whisky Companion" has always been an invaluable source of reference and a reliable guide since my very first steps into the world of whisky.
Michael was not only the whisky "Guru" everyone knows, he was also the nicest person you could imagine and a genuine poet.
Thank you Michael for all what you have brought us, and rest assured that you will never be forgotten. - Jean Donnay (Celtique Whisky Compagnie)

It is very painfull to learn that Mike passed away, he was the man that gave me the inspiration for Wilson & Morgan after I read his first book more than fifteen years ago.
I had the honour to meet him in my little town Treviso, I still remenber that winter night with pasta, truffles and barolo, he was enthusiastic...

I invited some friends whisky lovers to share the precious gift of his visit to me.
We spoke a little about whisky, we spoke about life, music, and wine.
I will raise a glass to you Mike, rest in peace. - Fabio Rossi (Wilson & Morgan)

This is sad news indeed. I met Michael on the first day of 2005 Speyside Whisky festival. We were the only two at the Quaich bar in the Craigellachie Hotel at the time and he and I chatted for about 30 minutes about my favorite malts. The thing that struck me at the time was his interest in the things that I liked about the malt. He wanted to know the intricacies of the things that I tasted. What i thought the "mouth feel" was. What other malts I like. That sort of thing. He was more interested in my opinion rathar than telling me what I should like.
He will be missed. - William Bryant (a Malt Maniac in training)

Sad news, indeed. I too will raise my glass to the man this evening. I have 3 or 4 of his books, including the World Guide to Whisky. That man could write! A great way with words . . . He will be sorely missed (none of my other books on malt come anywhere near his, for either style or content). - Rick Rand