Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lightly Peated

Whisky, Blabber 'n' Smoke


And Finally

I have written many, many more words about Jay Pomeroy than I would have thought possible. Now though, I have now come to the end of this long shaggy dog story and rather sadly the punch line seems to be the rather feeble: ‘Remember kids – don’t trust all you read in the papers!’. I didn’t want it to be the main conclusion but I think it is.

In all honesty I was a little bit shocked by how much I couldn’t trust the whisky literature. It even got to the point, after reading so often that Jay Pomeroy was jailed I started to question whether I had got it right, even though I had put in the hours in the archives and libraries chasing-up all the leads I could find. It was almost like the classic psychology test (the Asch Experiment) where many people, when faced with a simple task of matching the length of some lines would give the wrong answer if the rest of the group gave that answer. I kept scratching my head and wondering if I had missed something. I knew he couldn’t have gone to jail as a result of the tax case – it just wasn’t that sort of case – but had I missed something else? Had there been another transgression? Could I have been stupid and overlooked something obvious? With everything I do that is always a possibility but in this case I could find some extra reassurance. I could walk out of the first Ash Test room and sit with another group. The whisky writers might all have said one thing but the opera and music writers said something different. If he had gone to jail it would have been big news in that world.

In fact the clearest description of Jay’s whisky adventure comes from music writers. They knew it was about a tax loophole, for example this from Edmund Pirouet in his book about the London Philharmonic Orchestra¹:

“Pomeroy was a colourful character who enlivened the London musical scene for a time, his money was derived from an ingenious scheme which enabled Pomeroy and his associates to avoid Excess Profits Tax at 100%. The government and its tax inspectors were however more ingenious and when Parliament passed retrospective legislation to disallow the scheme, Pomeroy’s activities came under the microscope of the Inland Revenue. Despite a long battle through the courts the inevitable result was bankruptcy, abruptly terminating his artistic activities.”

How come they had a better grasp of what happened than the whisky writers? Perhaps because there was some fondness for the man and respect for what he achieved – and that could make a difference. In the whisky world he was seen as an interloper, part of a group of London carpetbaggers, and so it was always more willing to see the worst.

Me – I side with the world of opera. After all this time I have grown quite fond of the old rascal.

¹ Pirouet, Edmund. Heard Melodies Are Sweet : A History of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Lewes: Book Guild, 1998.


The Pomeroy Posts:

  1. An Introduction
  2. The Two Jays – how a novel can be used as a lens to compare characters.
  3. The Years of Obscurity – the first ¾ of his life.
  4. The Glory Years – His  years as an impresario.
  5. The Whisky Tax Case – the revenge of the Revenue
  6. Sam and Jay – There were some similarities between Sam Bronfman and Jay
  7. Chinese Whispers – how the whisky literature has misrepresented Jay Pomeroy
  8. McBain and Maclean – A source of some misunderstandings
  9. And Finally – at last
  10. Kritz not Pomeroy – Mistaken identity?


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