Reading and writing are some of the most basic skills in life, and you learn them (hopefully) as soon as you go to school, or even earlier. but there is more to writing than just putting down sequences of letters, and there is more to reading than just deciphering words. This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it is not so easy as you may think. Non-literary writing is all about making the reader understand what you have in mind. And reading such texts requires you to grasp the meaning behind the words on screen or paper.
Sometimes this may even be the source of conflict, as I learned myself last week. I received quite a bashing from a few people for my blog post and forum contributions regarding the new Amrut Herald release. And in hindsight, sometimes reading and sometimes writing was to blame.
The way I expressed my subjective conclusion that Amrut seems unhappy with their short maturation times derived from a forum statement could well have been mistaken as a quote that the original poster was implying this unhappiness. Mea culpa from my side here. Of course this created a stir, and of course this also reinforced the opinion of those who have known for long that the blogosphere is full of self-proclaimed whisky experts who in reality don’t have much of a clue.
But the coin also has a flip side. My statement “it is very doubtful if the 18 additional months can have a real impact on the character of the whisky” was turned into a “claim that the maturation period is too short to have any effect” and called “plain wrong”. Yes I have doubts, and I have explained in quite some detail why I have them. But a doubt is not a claim. A doubt leaves room for being convinced that it may be different. A claim denies that. Also “stretching the concept” in regard to Helgoland being called an archipelago is not the same thing as a denial. It may be not incorrect, but it is at the far end of the scope of meanings for the word.
The conclusion can only be: As a writer, be extra careful how you put your words. Rest assured that I will. As a reader, think twice before using absolute terms like wrong or claim when criticizing a text. I will always be open to be corrected, if I make factual errors. But subjective opinions and notions like doubts or suspicions should not be mistaken for claims of facts. Many things can be seen from different angles, and especially with such complex issues as whisky maturation, the truth – if there is any – can only be found by comparing before-and-after casks samples.