The whisky world has lost one of its most distinctive and original voices as Dominic Roskrow died on Saturday 19 November at the age of 61. We pay tribute to a great whisky writer.
If you’re involved in whisky, then you probably knew Dominic Roskrow. He was always the most unforgettable character on press trips and whisky festivals. He even managed to make Zoom tastings fun. In a world that can be very conformist with nobody wanting to upset the big whisky money too much – you never know, there might be work in there somewhere – Roskrow stood out as someone genuinely disruptive.
World whisky pioneer
But even if you didn’t know Dominic personally, if you have tried whisky that isn’t Scottish or American, then you will have felt his influence. Long before the term ‘world whisky’ was coined, Dominic was visiting and writing about distilleries outside the whisky norm. As well as long being an enthusiast for Japanese and Irish whiskey before they became fashionable, Dominic was writing about European distilleries like Belgian Owl or recommending Australian whisky when the very idea of whisky made outside the heartlands was a joke. It took everyone a long time to catch up.
His writing was always distinctive and invigorating, full of passion and references to music and politics. His numerous books include Whisky Japan (2016), and an early look at the wide world of whisky, World Best Whiskies: 750 unmissable drams from Tain to Tokyo, which has been updated numerous times since. He also edited publications including Whisky Magazine, the Spirits Business and Whiskeria, and contributed to pretty much every newspaper and drinks magazine out there. In 2015 he won Drink Writer of the Year at the Fortnum & Mason awards. A few years ago, he launched a new magazine called Still Crazy, a place for individual and original whisky writing. In his career as a writer and editor, what stood out was the eagerness to promote new talent in whisky writing.
There was nobody quite like Dominic. Personally I’ll remember his excitement in Dublin when he realised that we were staying in the same hotel as the New Zealand rugby team. The next morning he was full of stories about staying up late chatting with the All Blacks who must not have realised what had hit them.
Industry pays tribute
“Dom stepped into my office nearly 20 years ago when I was looking for a new editor for Whisky Magazine: his contagious enthusiasm and sense of humour were immediately apparent. Dom worked tirelessly over the next two decades in a variety of creative roles, editing various magazines, writing excellent books and, in particular, championing new world whiskies. Whisky was one of many passions, from rock music to Leicester City and the New Zealand rugby team: he would hold forth animatedly and entertainingly on all of these subjects and many more besides. He travelled widely to further his knowledge and his affable, approachable, humble nature and generosity of spirit made the world of whisky more accessible and inclusive: little wonder he made many, many friends along the way. He will be missed by us all.” Marcin Miller, former editor of Whisky Magazine and co-founder of the Kyoto Distillery.
“I worked and travelled with Dom throughout his tenure as editor of Whisky Magazine. They were fun times. His enthusiasm for the subject and the possibilities of the magazine were infectious. We debated, argued, laughed, and plotted. There was never a quiet time when Dom was involved. It could be exasperating at times, I came to understand that all of that energy was driven by an unwavering belief in finding new ways to get the story and his love of whisky out to as many people as possible. He never lost that passion. I will miss him.” Dave Broom, whisky author.
“Dominic was one of the first whisky writers I worked with when I set up my agency, and was hugely supportive from the get go which I will forever be grateful for. He was a foundation of knowledge and industry insight which he proudly shared and will be greatly missed.” Jennifer Robertson, founder of PR agency SPEY.
“I was lucky enough to know Dom for almost twenty years and was deeply saddened to hear of his passing over the weekend. It does fill my heart that he has left so much behind for us all to enjoy and learn from, his standfast honesty, his prose, his sharp sense of humour, be it in person or on paper, he laid it all out there. His knowledge of and passion for the industry was second to none which for me made every vibrant conversation an absolute joy. Dom will be sadly missed and it is a huge loss to the wonderful world of whisk(e)y he held so dearly. Condolences go to his family and his swathes of whisky friends from across the globe. Slainte my friend….” Stewart Buchanan, global brand ambassador at Benriach
“When someone dies, you wish they could hear all the lovely things people write in tribute to them before they’ve gone so they knew how very much loved, appreciated & respected they were. RIP Dominic Roskrow, thanks for my very first and impromptu whisky tasting all those years ago.” Fiona Shoop, writer and presenter.
“I remember meeting him when I’d just started working in the whisky industry around 11 years ago. He was a lovely guy and was one of the first to introduce a whole array of interesting European whiskies to the UK market. Very sad to learn he has died.” Joe Ellis from Edrington UK.
“Dominic was always a huge supporter of Kat and me, when we were Whisky Discovery. He loved that we both ended up working in the industry, from our hobby. Dominic opened my eyes to the world of whisky. He introduced me to Australian Whisky. Tell everyone to play some Deep Purple loudly – so Dominic will hear it.” Dave Worthington from That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
“Dom was hugely kind to me when I first joined the drinks industry. Our love of live music meant we either agreed with enthusiastic nods or gently argued about bands whenever we saw one another. We laughed a lot whenever we met. Dom was my companion to my first memorable trip to Speyside to Glenrothes House. We worked as a team to cook breakfast, still in our pyjamas dancing to the radio while frying eggs. I commissioned him while I worked at the Morning Advertiser and then, later, he commissioned me. He was effusively genial. He felt all the highs and lows. He was all heart. Whatever Dom did, he did it with big emotions and awe-inspiring determination. He always wanted to push himself further and worked very hard. He has made a name for himself in whisky. But he has also left a mark on the hearts of so many of the people he met along the way who remember his kindness and his friendship and, because of that, he will stay in our memories forever.” Jessica Mason from the Drinks Business.
“Dom was a warm-hearted and passionate writer and editor, rightly proud of his professional journalistic skills, and eager to share his love of whisky, music (particularly Ritchie Blackmore) and sport (Leicester City and the All Blacks). He had a strong sense of right and wrong, and was never scared to call ‘wrong’ when he saw it, regardless of the consequences. His pioneering work in promoting whiskies from around the world, years before it was fashionable, should never be forgotten by those many distillers and retailers who have benefitted from his enthusiasms. His presence will be sorely missed.” Dr Nicholas Morgan, ex-Diageo man and Master of Malt contributor.
“Dominic was a cask-strength character and time spent in his company was always memorable. He will be remembered for his forceful personality and prolific contribution to whisky’s literature.” Ian Buxton, industry veteran and Master of Malt contributor.
Roskrow was admitted to hospital last week with a knee injury. Sadly complications from an undiagnosed ulcer led to his passing. RIP Dominic Roskrow 1961-2022. Our thoughts are with his family, his wife Sally and three children.