Just over a month ago, to mark the coming of spring, one of the most well-researched, in-depth books on Japanese whisky to date was published.
On the 4th of April 2017, “Whisky Rising – The Definitive Guide to the Finest Whiskies and Distillers of Japan” hit online bookstores worldwide, easily purchasable from Amazon and other large retailers. It can also be find in bookstores in numerous locations worldwide.
The content was written by Stefan Van Eycken, a very well-known figure in the Japanese whisky world. Stefan grew up in Belgium and spent quite some time in Scotland, where he began to discover his love of whisky. Since 2000 he has lived and breathed Japan and its culture, and has built quite a reputation in the Japanese whisky world.
He is the head editor for Nonjatta, a great blog on Japanese whisky news, and the regional Japan editor of Whisky Magazine UK. He also contributes to Whisky Magazine Japan and France and has been a judge on the board of the World Whiskies Awards since 2012. Stefan is also the person behind the ongoing ‘Ghost Series’ bottlings of extremely rare Japanese whisky.
Needless to say, Stefan knows his stuff, and his new book really shows us just how deep his knowledge is on the industry. The book is 400 pages long, in English, and comprises of past and present distiller interviews and the methods they use for whisky production, distillery information, and a good amount of technical distillation and production information for the more die-hard whisky fans out there.
The brisk and readable narrative makes it easy to turn page after page, and the comprehensible writing style will make this book your go-to reference for anything you want to know on Japanese whisky history and distilleries.
The book is also illustrated in full colour and features artwork and inside knowledge which could only come from someone deeply involved in the whisky world of Japan. Last but not least, the book has a section dedicated to rare whisky tasting notes, bar recommendations in Japan, and some pretty cool whisky cocktail recipes.
What makes this particular book truly unique is that it may be the first of its kind. No other book that delves so deeply into the closed and undocumented world of Japanese whisky has ever been written. What’s more, it’s in English, so fans worldwide now have access to information they wouldn’t be able to find before.
Luckily, I had the chance to talk to Stefan about the project and ask him about the difficulties he faced while compiling the research for the book. Here is what he had to say.
What made you decide to start writing such an in-depth book on the Japanese whisky industry?
I had been asked to write a book about Japanese whisky several times before, but I have a full-time job (not in the field of whisky) and a family – and wanted to keep it that way! So, while I wanted to take on such a project – because there was no such book in existence – I just didn’t see how I could find the time. What made me tackle it, when Cider Mill Press asked me at the end of 2015, was the fact that they’re a fantastic publisher and really understand the drinks field, but also news I was hearing through the grapevine about a few people elsewhere in the world working on a book of their own on Japanese whisky. In some cases, these people had never even been to Japan! I was getting contacted by some of these people, asking for help with info and so on, and thought: well this is a bit absurd. First of all, it would be like me writing a book on Canadian whisky (I have never been to Canada!) – which I could do, but I don’t think I am the right person to do it. So friends said: isn’t it time you finally rolled up your sleeves and started writing your book, rather than keep saying “maybe one day”.
How would you describe the whole experience of writing this book?
It was an incredibly busy year – not just the actual writing, but all the traveling to make sure my book captured the latest “state of the nation” – but it’s a bit like climbing a mountain. You start without really knowing what you are in for. But you do it, and then afterwards, you look back and say “how did I manage to get through all that?” but you do. I have to say, I am relishing this year… which is much, much calmer. That said, I’ve got a couple of mountains looming in the distance – follow-up book projects. It’s a bit like raising a kid. You only remember the good times and forget all the blood, sweat and tears.
What would you say were the biggest challenges of writing Whisky Rising?
Grab a copy and get educated!