In 2005, Mark Gillespie, BA’84, seized onto two trends at just the right time: whiskey, which was gaining renewed international popularity, and a new media technology called podcasting.
After 15 years, whiskey and podcasts remain firmly entrenched in mainstream culture. And Gillespie’s “Whiskycast” — featuring industry news, in-depth interviews, event notices and tasting notes — is the longest-running podcast on whiskey.
In his early career, Gillespie was an award-winning broadcast news reporter, reporting for local stations in Texas and Alaska, as well as MSNBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal Radio Network and Bloomberg News. But he’s always been a whiskey fan.
“While I was still up in Alaska just to learn (about whiskey) as a connoisseur, there were so many great stories about whiskey,” Gillespie said. “I wanted to tell those stories. I wanted to learn from them.”
After experiencing surges in popularity in the 1970s and 1990s, whiskey was coming back into fashion in 2005. So Gillespie began telling whiskey stories on the side – not just on his podcast, but also as a freelancer for Whisky Magazine. He also furthered his knowledge as a judge for the annual World Whiskies Awards and the Icons of Whisky awards.
Podcasts were a new form of media in 2005, and Gillespie wanted to try it out. He used the writing, producing and editing skills he developed during his journalism career to launch the podcast. He shared his first episode on whiskey message boards and received positive feedback.
What started out as a hobby turned into a full-time job within five years – for both Gillespie and his wife, Christina.
“I was handling it all by myself. I was doing the ad sales, producing it, reaching out to potential clients,” Gillespie said. “You keep doing the content but you have to let (Christina) run the business.”
“Whiskycast” has amassed over 800 episodes, airing every Sunday night — with only one exception in the last 15 years. This year, it won the Spirited Award by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation for “Best Broadcast, Podcast, or Online Video Series.”
Through the company he formed to produce “Whiskycast” — CaskStrength Media — Gillespie also provides media production and consulting services to clients for podcasting, social media and even media training.
Gillespie encourages students interested in podcasting to just get started.
“If you got something to say, a podcast is a good way to say it,” Gillespie said.