I just recently completed my 100th Whisky Fireside Chat episode on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel. Wow. That’s a lot of interviews, topics, debates… and whisky.
My initial reasoning behind starting the whisky chat series was to play around with the bewildering YouTube analytics and its mystic algorithm. I thought a consistent show of some sort would solve the puzzle. If I kept to more regular content, I would gain more subscribers. Keep it simple, I thought.
So, I started sitting beside a fire, poured a dram of whisky (whiskey), and either chatted with a guest or rambled on about some new piece of camp gear or the latest hot debate in the outdoor community.
The content was sporadic, at first. I interviewed regular campmates, debated with a drunken puppet named Gary, and gave advice on camping with dogs and dealing with black bears. I even had my mother on the show. We had an Irish whiskey to cheers my deceased father, and she went off on stories of my youth playing out in the woods all the time. It was fun—but not as consistent as I had planned for.
I did, however, manage to have some solid guests on in the early years, either because they were visiting me during their travels or I was visiting them during mine. Dee Whalen of 500 Days in The Wild fame stayed at my place while on her six-year journey across the 28,000-kilometre Trans Canada Trail, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans. I drank American bourbon with the James Raffan of the Canadian Canoe Museum beside a mock-campfire lit by a flickering red lightbulb. And there were also YouTube celebs that hadn’t hit the big time yet, like Joe Robinet (now 1.55 million subscribers), Jim Baird (winner of Alone) and the Northern Scavengers (now National Geographic adventures beyond measure) who all spent time with me chatting about outdoor life over a cheap blended malt. But it was still erratic and irregular.
The year 2020 was the year my chats around campfires with whisky grew exponentially. There’s no question 2020 brought some negative things: the mayhem of illness for some and high anxiety to us all and havoc to the wilderness as a result of stay-close-to-home restrictions. Park use quadrupled and quickly became overcrowded, campsites were left littered and there was an overall decrease in trail etiquette.
However, 2020 did have some good points; at least for me. But I’ve always been that person who looks at their glass half full rather than half empty.
I started doing more focused Zoom-style versions of whisky fireside chats. I had no true campfire. It was a plain beige wall. I had a print of Bill Mason’s iconic painting above me, the one with his red canoe beached along a campfire set up on the banks of the Petawawa River; and to my left was a classic blaze orange campfire campsite marker sign.
It seemed to the do the job, though. I did 25 in total, with approximately 48,000 views. Whisky companies even mailed me bottles of their best aged spirits. I was doing two the three shows a week and there were times I would succumb to the alcohol and just poor cold watered-down black tea in my whisky glass rather than true scotch, bourbon or rye. Nobody knew I was faking it.
Do I stop at 100?
After putting together a compilation of the best parts through 2016 and 2022 for the 100th, I pondered over stopping the chats altogether. I guess that happens with podcasters, morning shows, late night interviewers of all sorts. Is it possible to run out of good guests and things to talk about? Had I beaten a dead horse, so to speak? Was I running out of various spirits to sip on? Were all the camping debates settled and was it time to move on?
I don’t think so…
Check out my 100th Whisky Fireside Chat video on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel. And expect more to come.
Here’s a list of who I interviewed between 2016-2022 (in no particular order):
Northern Scavengers: Alex Traynor, Noah Booth
Gary the Puppet
Mike - Badger Paddles
Evelyn Callan (my mom)
Dee Whalen - 500 Days in the Wild
Justine Curgenven - Cackle TV
Zac Fiddis - Frontenac Outfitters
Nate Smith- Algonquin Outfitters
Jonathan Kelly - Lost Lakes
Patrick Kelly - Kelly Kettle
Jim Stevens - Eureka Canada
Canoe4Covid: Tim Mulligan, Cailan Robinson, Will Vyse, Jacob Heisey,
George Kirijian, Nolan Aziz
Bruce Watts - Campology
Teimojin Tan - Alone Season 9
Juan Pablo Quiñonez - winner of Alone Season 9
Sean Rowley and Derek Specht: Paddling Adventures Radio.
Adam Palmer & Don Froese, Deadman's Curse (History Channel)
I interviewed many legends in the outdoor community, including filmmakers Frank Wolf and Justine Curgenven; notable paddlers Becky Mason and Hap Wilson; musicians Jerry Vandiver and David Hadfield, and Ian Tamblyn; YouTube celebrities Joe Robinet and Jonathan Kelly; authors James Raffan Adam Shoalts, and Roy MacGregor; and UK canoeists Ray Goodwin and Colin Skeath.