Welcome to the third issue of The World Whisky Review - and thank you for all your support and kind words about our magazine.
Why am I doing it? I always have to be the first to know something
I have spent 30 years in journalism, 20 years writing about the drinks industry and more than 10 writing just about whisky. And apart from a few wild years as a music journalist when I was young, free, single and star struck, this is the most fun I've had in my career. Not only that: but stick around guys, we're on to something. I know this because of the silence from the British whisky writing community, none of whom have acknowledged that we exist let alone praise us, despite some of whom like to say we are friends; the sudden increase in world whisky coverage elsewhere; and the massive positive response I've had from whisky lovers and the industry particularly in Scotland who understand entirely what it's like to have an enthusiastic on your side.
Why am I doing it? Because there's nothing an old fashioned news reporter likes more than finding something new to talk about, and then being able to tell others about it. My wife teases me over the fact that I always have to be the first to know something - but that's the whole point. Which came first? Did I train as a journalist because I was nosey, or did I get nosey because I started working on newspapers back in the days when reporters were given a 'patch' and we're expected to own them, know everything about them and mine them for stories? Who knows, but 30 years on here I am, with one almighty problem: it's a bloody big patch and there are too many stories. So far The World Whisky Review has stayed close to what you might expect - few distilleries I've covered so far would be totally unexpected - I've written about most of them in three of my books now, and they are pretty well known.
I've focused more heavily on Australia than any other region, for three main reasons: one, because I had the chance to travel down to Tasmania just as the WWR was being launched; two, because I have been writing about the region for several years and know it as well as anyone else; and three, because a lot has happened very quickly in that part of the world. In this issue I wrap it up a bit, by providing a guide to the emerging mainland distilleries.
But in this issue too i've also turned my attention to Sweden because in my view Sweden is going head to head with the Aussie as the most important emerging market for exciting new whisky.
Let's step back a minute here and pay credit to the Germanic speaking countries of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. I am currently just finishing off a new book for Autumn publication with Gavin Smith called The Whisky Opus, and we brought in respected German writer Juergen Deibel to cover the Germanic stretch of Europe. Amazingly he identifies close to 100 distilleries across those countries. That's a lot more than Sweden or Australia.
But many of these are fruit liqueur of genever producers who have made there occasional malt spirit. Some of it is in such small quantities that it won't even make the shelves of the distillery shop. Much of it is uninspiring and interesting, and isn't serious. I will dig out the handful in each country for a future features, but the numbers flatter to deceive.
Sweden, though, is something else again. The country, a little like Australia, has a front line of established distilleries (okay one - the exceptional Mackmyra, which to all intents and purposes has outgrown its national boundaries). There are a handful - Spirit of Hven particularly comes to mind - that are bottling for the first time. And then there are the new players.
And yet again I've fallen in love, because during the Viking Whisky Festival, which sailed out of Stockholm in February i spent a great chunk of my time with a few new Swedish distilleries who have yet to bottle whisky but are doing immense stuff. These guys live and breathe whisky as fans first, and their enthusiasm is infectious.
You'll find a report from that trip and a look at Sweden in this issue, as well as a report back from my amazing trip to Bangalore to visit Amrut, Holland to see Zuidam, Southwold to taste new products from England's Copper House Distillery (serious stuff this), and reports on Penderyn, America's Copper Fox and weird Canadian distilleries.
Let us know what you think - and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I liked writing it.