This handsome volume by the Irish researcher/academic, Fionnan O’Connor, quite rightly gives equal billing to the photographer, Ove Grunner.
The subtitle – “a complete guide to the profiles, production, history, and revival of Irish pot still whiskey” – says it all. That assertion is backed up by excellent and imaginative photography in what must surely become a classic work on what is, in terms of whiskey literature, a much under- represented subject. Yet Ireland is the original home of whiskey and it is encouraging that production there is booming and the corresponding coverage of this re-emergence in books and the media is to be welcomed.
Whilst the author – and the photographer – are to be recognised for the quality of their output, the small-scale Australian publisher, Images Publishing of Melbourne, are also to be congratulated for their initiative in producing such a remarkable volume. I am only sorry that it has taken me so long to discover this lovely book which only came to my notice when reading an excellent article by Fionnan in “Whisky Magazine”.
The book is an absolute treasure trove of information, anecdotes and quotes relevant to the history of this magical product. It is interesting that the author has managed to access so much information and intelligence on the early years of production, when so many distilleries simply folded and disappeared with most of their records dumped. He quite rightly gives due prominence to Alfred Barnard’s visits to the Irish distilleries in the 1880’s – all 28 of them, as featured in The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom of 1887. By contrast, when I did my rewrite of the Barnard book 100 years later [The Whisky Distilleries of Scotland and Ireland], there were only two operating distilleries left in Ireland – Bushmills and Midleton. Today there are more than twenty. On a point of detail, Fionann speculates that Avoniel Distillery in Dublin “.. was the only distillery in the United Kingdom that turned Barnard away at the door”. I don’t think he did too well at Macallan Distillery in Speyside either, if the brevity of his chapter on that hallowed place is any indication!
There is a wealth of old material replicated throughout the book which embellishes this important volume in a most pleasing way. It deserves to enjoy the same success that its subject matter has done in recent years.