Let’s get back to the Austrian Whisky & Spirits Festival in Linz, after my article about the presentation of the Laphroaig Lore. Right after I spoke with Wolfgang from the Single Cask Collection the booth next to them caught my attention, the Alba-Collection publishing house. What caught my eye exactly I’ll tell you in a few paragraphs. It was around 2003 when Rüdiger Jörg Hirst, founder and owner of the publishing house, had the idea of publishing a good map with all – active, inactive and even lost – distilleries in Scotland. Being a engineer, working as an graphic artist at a print shop and loving Whisky (and rock music) he had everything he needed and so he started planning and producing such a map on his own.
There were – and are – maps available back then, but nothing really satisfying. Thirteen years later you’ll get at the Alba-Collection not only a very detailed map of Scotland but also Ireland, Japan, Austria, Germany, Swiss, Liechtenstein and Islay – published not necessarily in this particular order – of course he showed me all of them. After that, he took a big board roll tucked away under the desk and showed me his latest project. It was the first print of a map, showing all 800+ distilleries in the United States! I can’t imagine how much hours he put into this piece of work, but it looked really stunning.
The biggest challenge was the layout, as he told me. Scotland with its “only” around 100 distilleries is quite easy compared to the US. There are some parts of Scotland with a quite high density of distilleries (like the Speyside), but in the US the distilleries tend to be always packed together (especially at the east coast). Besides the great map (100 by 70 cm), you can get smaller (34 by 24 cm) maps with only one of these congested areas. This maps, as well as the Canadian map, aren’t for sale right now. They will be presented on the „Just Whisky“ show in Oberhausen in the end of May. But thankfully I am able to give my readers an exclusive preview of these maps here on my site!
As this project is at its final stage, he’s also planning on a world map (yay!) with, if possible, every distillery on earth. Another project is coming up too, but I won’t mention anything about that, as it is in a very early planning stage and I’m not going to spoil it, so that someone else can “steal” it. But I’ll check in with Rüdiger on a regularly basis to get some updates on this interesting project.
I like his products, because they make perfectly sense. You can either get a really big map to hang it on your wall or you just get the small (around DIN A4; ~21 x 30 cm) version which is – of course – water and Whisky repellent in case an accident happens (and it will happen!). You want it even bigger? You can get roll-ups if you like, or even bigger. You just have to ask. He’ll provide you with everything you might need. Well not everything. The original data files are stored away safely and will not leave his “perimeter”. Which is perfectly understandable and fine. But if you ask nicely – as I did – you’ll get JPEGs from the map to use it on your blog or site – as I do here, with the proper attribution. Something totally clear for me as a journalist, but these days lots of people think “Whatever is on the Internet is free”, but it’s not. Lots of it is, but everyone wants to get proper credit for his work!
As the (Whisky) world changes, so do the maps. They try to update the maps every year, so it is possible – as they keep the editions small – that you might not get the map you want at some time. But it’s better to tell the customer to wait some time to get the newest map instead of dumping hundreds of old maps. I think this is a good way, as is the price. Around 5€ you have to pay for the small map, a very fair and reasonable price.
But the thing which caught my eyes was The Elements of Scotch. At the booth he had two roll-ups with this kind of Periodic Table of Whisky. As a chemist I’m quite susceptible for that kind of layout and why I was drawn to it. I love this idea, but not every chemist does, as Rüdiger told me. Ordered by region there is the obligatorily Whisky symbol (e.g. Oc for Octomore), a number per distillery (every Whisky from this distillery has the same number), the number assigned by the SMWS to that distillery (very good!) and some other useful information like the annual production rate of alcohol, the number of warehouses, pot stills and so on. Definitive something you want to give to a chemist if you know he likes Whisky. And he got some inquiries to do the same for American Whiskey!
If you are in need of a good present for someone who loves Whisky, check out their site! You’ll find their pricing very reasonable and besides the maps you can get some stickers, bags and even some drip mats. The bags (WhiskyBag®) are specifically designed to hold Whiskybottles in case you buy some at a Whisky show and want them to be stowed away safely. Great idea and very stylish, as lots of the stuff from the Alba-Collection. I like it, that someone does make the effort to think something through and, only if reasonable and sell worthy, produce it. Please follow me over on my Facebook page, so that you won’t miss any new article I’m posting here!