As a Scot, I have sometimes wondered why the most memorable books about Scotch whisky have invariably been written by non-Scots. And I mean that handful of really outstanding volumes which have become classics in their own right and much sought-after by lovers of really rare whiskies who then turn to these even rarer volumes written about whisky as a means of identifying and confirming their personal commitment to that most excellent of spirits, Scotch whisky.
First and foremost, amongst these is, of course, Alfred Barnard’s classic work “The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom” which appeared in 1887. An original leather-bound copy will today cost upwards from £3000. The many reprints that have appeared since are also getting quite pricey. When I did the centenary rewrite published in 1987, the price then of £425 seemed quite outrageous. A mere 30 years later and it is selling for around £1,000 if you can find it. Barnard was a Londoner and, although his book also covered the whisky distilleries of Ireland and England, his first love was clearly those of Scotland.
Then there is the two volume “Best Collection of Malt” by the famous Italian collector, Valentino Zagatti. Lovely books which can still be found at auction around the £200 mark. But that will change to reflect “The Unseen Valentino Zagatti book project”, a five-volume effort by another great non-Scots whisky author, Hans Offringa from the Netherlands, the fruits of his efforts (with his wife Becky) to appear by the end of the year.
And so now we have a Frenchman reaching new heights in whisky literature in what can only be described as a most remarkable achievement in setting out in a most alluring and professional manner the dedication of Emmanuel Dron to the world of whisky. Drawing on his now famous Singapore-based collection of fine old whiskies housed at the Auld Alliance bar, we have the most serious contribution to whisky literature in decades. And we are talking only of the first volume of what is a grand endeavour by someone whose recognition in the world of whisky is immediate. Not only are the illustrations simply gorgeous and eye-grabbing, but the breadth of coverage of all aspects of serious collecting and investing is comprehensive and incisive without being exclusive. You might never be able to own any of the bottles featured but you can certainly enjoy them in a delightfully vicarious sort of way through this wonderful volume. The readership of this book will be limited but at this reasonable price, the cost of a fairly ordinary out of circulation single malt, anyone with a love of rare whisky should certainly have it on their bookshelf as an essential source of reference – and inspiration!
To purchase a copy, go to the Collecting Scotch Whisky website.