In October, Dave Broom released the second edition of his ‘World Atlas of Whisky.’ This is an authoritative guide on the world of whisky and covers everything from the history, process, distilleries and of course the spirit itself. The second edition has been updated to cover many of the newcomers to the whisky scene, especially the craft distillers popping up all over the world. This is a lovely coffee table book complete with stunning pictures and detailed maps. If you love whisky and you have a coffee table, you should get this book. I got the chance to interview Dave Broom about his book and pick his brain about what’s going on in the whisky industry. Special thanks to Elizabeth Hermann and Dave Broom for making this interview happen. Enjoy Dave’s insight below and be sure to check out ‘The World Atlas of Whisky’ in a book store near you!
Tell us a bit about the book, how is it intended to be used by whisky fans?
Dave: It is intended for whisky fans and whisky newcomers. In simple terms, the premise is, this is a book about flavour. It looks at what makes each distillery unique, individual, singular. Why do the whiskies coming from single malt distilleries which are located next to each other different? What makes bourbon different from, say Canadian and then what makes each bourbon distillery different from its neighbour? How is Japanese whisky different to Scotch? What identifies Nordic whisky from French? The answers can be down to production techniques, to history, to terroir. Each tasting note gives you a flavour camp and also suggestions of what whiskies you can try next based on flavour. Mapping the world in flavour in other words.
What was your inspiration for writing an atlas about whisky?
D: There has been this extraordinary explosion of interest in whisky and new styles are being developed so there was a need to write about that. There wasn’t a book which looked at how these flavours are created and why.
How did you get into whisky initially? Was there are particular dram that caught your attention?
D: Whisky was always around when I was growing up – my uncle worked for Black & White. When I left University I then worked in a wine merchant just at the start of the single malt boom. It was an interesting drink to me – and then I tasted Talisker 8 years old while travelling through the north west of Scotland and realised that in some weird, magical way that the flavours in the liquid reflected the place in which they were born. I was hooked.
It seems like you’ve had the opportunity to visit many distilleries. Could you please mention some of your favourite distilleries you’ve visited and why?
D: Too many to list really! Chichibu: showing a holistic vision of what a new distillery could be like; Springbank and Bruichladdich: for an adherence to tradition but an awareness of the needs of a modern drinker; Yoichi: for hard-core cold climate whisky; Kavalan: for helping pioneer subtropical maturation; Drayman’s for high altitude, and attitude whisky making in Pretoria; Gimli; for managing to produce extraordinary whiskies in -40˚; Hiram Walker for showing that huge scale doesn’t mean a lack of craftsmanship and spirit of innovation; English Whisky Co and London distilleries: for forensic and fun examination of the possibilities open to a distiller; Millstone [holland] for reclaiming rye. Do you want me to go on?
Every distillery has a story to tell. That’s what the book is about!
In this second edition you cover a number of new craft distilleries. What are some of up and coming distilleries that could have a major impact on the whisky world in the near future?
D: I’m leery about the term craft All distillers are craftsmen/women. It’s wrong to think that Don Livermore at Hiram Walker isn’t as much of a craftsman as a guy hunkering over his still in Brooklyn.
Still, if you mean small(er) scale, then in the US Corsair, Westland, Balcones (if Chip remains), Kings County. In Europe: Millstone [Holland], Domaine de Hautes Glaces, Glann ar Mor [France], Haider [Austria], Telser [Liechtenstein], Dingle (Ireland) Box and Mackmyra [Sweden], Overeem [Tasmania] and the English distilleries mentioned above. Not all will have influence in terms of volume but they will (or should) in terms of philosophy.
Along the same lines, what are some distilleries that are not getting as much attention as they deserve?
D: Aultmore, Craigellachie Linkwood, Miltonduff, Scapa and all the other ‘forgotten’ malt distilleries in Scotland which quietly produce great liquid for blends. Virtually every distillery in Canada. Four Roses.
With the proliferation of world whiskies, do you think the market will be over-saturated? Is there enough demand to meet the growing supply?
D: It’s a great question. If you look at the volume of vodka sold in the world and compare it to the volume of whisky sold you can see there are plenty of people who drink spirits who have never tried whisky. I think we are at the start of what could be a golden age for world whisky but in order to tap into this distillers need to understand that whisky is a business, that it needs to educate, that it needs to find different serves, that it needs big brands and small-scale specialists.
Drinkers need to appreciate that in Scotch for example that blends are as good as single malts.
There is more than enough room for everyone but not if they all chase a small ‘converted’ market. Whisky needs long-term thinking, long-term and consistently themed education/promotion and though it may seem paradoxical it needs to have the ability to fill as many niches as it can.
Does Scotland need to worry about Japan overshadowing their whisky in terms of quality?
D: No. Japanese whisky has rightly been winning global awards for almost 20 years and I’ve been answering the same question for that length of time! You have to remember that Japan has been making whisky for over 90 years. It would be astonishing if they didn’t make great whisky! What’s slightly ridiculous is that it’s taken us in the west so long to realise this.
Is the Scotch industry aware of this? Of course it is. Suntory and Nikka both own Scottish distilleries, they contribute massively to international research into whisky production.
Scotland makes the best Scotch in the world. Japan makes the best Japanese.