Wittenborg writer Ben Birdsall’s book Whisky Burn drew lots of interest at the international Whisky Live 2017 Fair in The Hague this weekend, attended by thousands of whisky lovers.
The event took place at the Grote Kerk in The Hague. Birdsall had a stand alongside one of Holland’s, if not the world's, top whisky writers, Hans Offringa. “It was a great opportunity to connect with readers and network with people who share my passion for whisky. I really valued the experience,” Birdsall said of the event.
Whisky Burn Distilleries of Scotland by Vespa – the Highlands and Islands chronicles Birdsall’s travels in Scotland visiting more than 40 of its well-known distilleries. The book was published by WUAS Press (WUP) in 2015 and is slowly but surely finding its stride among whisky connoisseurs around the world. “Sales are picking up and we are continuously exploring new markets,” said Wittenborg’s chair of the executive board, Peter Birdsall.
WUP has teamed up with Whiskyboeken.nl – an online bookseller who was also at the fair - to promote Whisky Burn. Wittenborg also wants to expand the brand Whisky Burn by offering whisky tastings and other products.
In the meantime, Birdsall has just finished the first draft of his second whisky book – the result of visits to existing and upcoming Irish whisky distilleries over the summer, again on his trusty Vespa. He expects the book will be published by the summer of 2018, after it has been proofread and designed. “The second book shares the same format as the first, but the writing process has been very different. With the first one I was something of a novice, while with the second I had more experience and was also able to take into consideration the feedback I got from readers of the first book.”
How does Irish whisky compare with Scottish whisky? “We should not regard it as one competing against the other,” Birdsall says. “I like to think Irish whisky is complementing Scottish whisky, which has been brewed for more than 200 years, while most Irish whisky is still comparatively unknown. Generally, I think Irish whisky could have a considerable catchment area, with its approachable, sweet and floral lightness.”
Who are the biggest consumers of whisky in the world? “The French, the Americans and the British.” At this weekend’s whisky festival he was impressed with the quality of the Dutch whisky on offer compared with what it was some years ago. “They are clearly learning to produce good whisky!”
Meeting customers at The Hague fair also gave him an insight into his target market. “Aside from people who genuinely love and want to learn more about whisky, there are also those who like buying whisky books for their spouses, relatives or friends as a great Christmas gift.”
As a future project, Birdsall is keen to explore the possibility of touring the Japanese whisky distilleries, which is a fast-growing sector of the market.
by Anesca Smith