Hans Offringa is, by far, the most famous Dutch whisky writer. I guess he’s about the only one that also writes in English and covers more than Single Malt whisky, which also helps.
I’ve met the soft spoken man a couple of times on Festivals, and more elaborately during the past two editions of Maltstock. I’ve read a couple of his books and articles on whisky and whiskey, but for some reason I never got around to reading the book that (more or less) started his whisky writing career ‘The Road to Craigellachie’. This will be remedied soon.
Anyway, when he announced he was writing a follow up to that with more whisky stories and was crowdfunding it, I pledged a couple of Euros to the cause and I’m rewarded with my name in the credits. Not that that would have mattered, but it doesn’t hurt to get some thanks every now and then.
Hans Offringa is a story teller mostly. It just so happens that he focuses a lot of those stories on whisk(e)y and that’s a very welcome combination for me. I like stories. I like whisky. A lot.
I have to say I’ve met quite some folks who like his books, but are not unanimously enthusiastic about him being a story teller. When you talk to Hans he’s also telling stories. I like that. It makes for interesting conversation but it might come off as a bit arrogant, since it seems you talk a lot about yourself. I think I understand where he’s coming from and while he has earned his stripes he’s not a show off. I see it more as realism which translates into tales. Also, different from most of us he can talk about whisky by telling his own experience instead of showing off what he read in a book.
An example of him being incredibly nice (to me): He read my review of Jack Daniel’s’ Tennessee Honey, which I had in a paper cup in a motel and disagreed. Since JD is ‘his thing’ he decided to pick up a mini in The States and bring it to The Netherlands to I could try again.
About the book then. Did I say Hans is a story teller? If you read Still Stories you’ll realize that soon enough. The book takes you from Kentucky to Scotland to Ireland, each represented by a handful of shorts about being a whisky writer, visiting places and other aspects of the industry that you encounter when you are fully immersed in it.
When I bought the book I was expecting more anecdotes about distilleries and the people in the industry, but it’s a more contemporary approach looking at where distilleries and brands ‘come from’ and where they are now. It took me a few pages to get my head around the type of stories, but in the end I like it. The history of random people, brands and places are well documented in many a book, and this is a fresh and very unique way of reporting on the current state of affairs.
In short, I really enjoyed the stories. I’ve been reading a lot of whisky books recently that take a sort of similar approach (this and this) and I find more and more that I find it more significant to my own interests than ‘in 1870 this random event happened’.
Another boon is that this book doesn’t contain any in depth tasting notes, it’s not about any one brand or whisky in particular and takes you from tiny bars, craft distilleries, independent people from the industry to the biggest factories around the main whisky producing regions. A very broad approach, and incredibly readable.
So, to any Dutch or Flemish whisky enthusiast who doesn’t already have this book: it’s worth the money and a really enjoyable read.
To the rest of world: A little more patience in waiting for the translated version to appear, but keep your eyes peeled. It’s expected in the fall of 2014.