My Whisky Bookshelf
My book, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert must have struck a few chords. These days more people ask me about writing and publishing than do about whisky. I'm pleased, and hugely grateful. It seems a bit odd though. I did not set out to write a book. Rather, I simply began rooting out information about Canadian whisky that just was not available anywhere on the web or in print form. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became.Although I realized that no one had ever written a comprehensive book about Canadian whisky, it took some time before it dawned on me that maybe I should. It was at my daughter's suggestion that I began to see that my research notes might hold more than just personal interest.As a long-time critic of "cut-and-paste" whisky books - the same old information recycled, seemingly just to sell paper - it did not have appeal to me to write any old book. No, I enjoy original material and feel cheated when I buy a whisky book and find it's just more of the same.Whisky books in general are not money makers unless they have a lot of marketing muscle behind them. From what I can gather from the rather cryptic sales data I have seen, my book sells more to Canadiana and history buffs than to the whisky crowd. Still, it is a whisky book and includes lot of material that has not yet found its way into the mainstream whisky press.
While Canadian Whisky is the first book I have written on my own, it is not my first appearance between hard covers. That came in the fall of 2010 when Mitchell-Beazley published Dave Broom's World Atlas of Whisky. Dave's research into Canadian whisky had proven somewhat difficult, and with his deadline drawing near, he accepted my offer to write his Canadian whisky chapter. What an exhilerating challenge that was.Pages 268 to 277 include 1,800 of my words beautifully illustrated with a map, photos - including one or two of my own - and my tasting notes for a dozen Canadian whiskies. And Dave, generous friend who he is, acknowledged my contribution both at the beginning and end of the book. I had been publishing on the whisky web since 1998, and started my own blog early in 2010, and suddenly, twelve years after I began, my career as a professional whisky writer was underway. If you read this Dave, know that I will always remain grateful for your support, guidance and confidence.Perhaps I am biased but I still think that The World Atlas is the best guide to whisky, on the market today. It is comprehensive and authoritative while remaining engaging. For the whisky neophyte it is a most accessible read; for the long-timer its depth and its breadth make it an ideal reference. It's on my bookshelf and very highly recommended.
Once I committed myself to putting my notes into book form I became obsessed with the idea. Then, while I was beavering away at it, a message came from my friend and fellow whisky writer, Dominic Roskrow. He had been reading my website and wondered if I might be interested in contributing a Canadian chapter to his new mammoth book, 1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die.It was to be the twenty-somethingth volume in a successful series of 1001 things you must do before you die. A few e-mails later my participation was confirmed and I ended up contributing 45 pages featuring about 50 individual Canadian whiskies along with tasting notes for each. It was a proud day for me when this lavishly illustrated compendium arrived in the mail. Dominic, many thanks to you for including me in your one-of-a-kind whisky project.
1001 Whiskies turned out to be quite a success, and Dominic seemed genuinely happy with my contribution. When next we met, with great flourish he bought a copy of the book and autographed it with a dedication to me! I was stunned. Months before, not long after he had sent the manuscript for 1001 Whiskies off to the printer, Dominic had contacted me again to say that he and Gavin Smith had a new project on the go and would love to include me for the Canadian section. Wow! Hat trick!Dominic wanted The Whisky Opus to be fresh: New material with a new approach. He asked for in-depth profiles for a few top Canadian distilleries with shorter overviews of several others. With much of the research already completed for my own book, it was just a matter of a few interviews to add some details and anecdotes. And publishing processes being what the are, the Whisky Opus was written after but released a week before Canadian Whisky.In September of 2012, I walked into a bookstore in Taipei and found four whisky books on the shelf. Three of them included my chapters. The fourth was the seminal Malt Whisky Companion by Michael Jackson. That's pretty good company. Still, I am probably not the best person to tell others how to write or publish a whisky book. For me it seems to have just happened. But this is how Canadian Whisky came to be. This, and a whole lot of help from supportive others.
I am writing this in a hotel room in Paris, having just returned from the Gourmand Awards with a huge smile on my face. At the awards ceremony books from 171 countries competed in various categories to be named Best In The World. I will return to Canada with a bronze medal for Canadian Whisky. Third place - not too shabby.
So what is next you ask? Well yes, I do have another book in the works. It will be a few years in the making and once again will break new ground. Its subject? It's too soon to say publicly. But I am keen and excited that yet again I will be spending my idle hours in libraries, archives and distilleries.