The Whisky Barons
Allen Andrews – 2002 – The Classic Expressions – Angel’s Share/Neil Wilson Publishing. 144 pages, no index, select bibliography and monochrome illustrations.
This is the first book in the classic expressions series. This series are reprints of difficult to find old publications. As such, whilst the publication year for this edition is 2002 the original publication year was 1977 which was when it was published by Jupiter Books. The author, Allen Andrews died in 1984, before the classic expression version was published.
It is an interesting book, and not just for whisky lovers. It gives a good sense of life in London and internationally during the late 19th and early 20th century. This is the time of horse drawn carriages through the busy London streets and of the spreading mess that was left behind the carriages. It is also the time when, despite the mess, despite lower hygiene and safety standards, dress and manners were far more pristine and tailored.
The book starts at a time when whisky was not the best liked spirit, when adulteration was not unknown, when blends were just beginning to take hold and bottled whisky was less known than selling in barrels.
It was a time for the entrepreneur to navigate fresh trade waters and bring new life to whisky – and to do so in new ways. The book looks at history, politics and marketing against the desires of courageous and ambitious men. The world was ready to be sold whisky to but whilst there were the likes of Tommy Dewer, who was to set the bar for creative and successful selling, there was also temperance, prohibition and Lloyd George.
The book ends with a sudden change of writing style. The final chapter reads like a thriller novel. It is a story in it’s own right. It is a story of smuggling, gun fights, mutiny and pirates. All this mixed in with gangsters, polite gentlemen, murder, forgery and the birth of a very famous blend.
This book is entertaining and informative – well worth a read.