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The Unexpected Things This Author Learned While Writing a $1,000 Book on Whiskey

Clay Risen gives us the skinny on his latest tome.

The Impossible Collection of Whiskey Assouline

After penning two best-selling books on whiskey, Clay Risen is serving up another undiluted tome dedicated to the tipple. The deputy editor of The New York Times, who has garnered a reputation as one of the country’s leading authorities on spirits, has joined forces with top-shelf publisher Assouline to deliver The Impossible Collection of Whiskey.

For the project, the 44-year-old Brooklynite, curated 100 of the world’s most coveted whiskeys. To make the cut, bottles had to showcase rarity, age and/or innovation. Naturally, they needed to taste good, too.

Connoisseurs will, of course, recognize heavy hitters, like the Midleton Very Rare 45-Year-Old (the world’s oldest and most expensive Irish whiskey), but may be surprised by a 30-year-old single malt from the Czech Republic. It’s not simply about the most expensive expressions, this is Risen’s love letter to whiskey and a celebration of the spirit’s deep and complex history.

Indeed, the book transcends a superficial “Top 100” listicle. Instead, Risen explores each bottle’s backstory and artfully justifies its position on the list. Quibbling among collectors is to be expected, but that’s half the fun of it. The whole point is that this impossible collection is the stuff of dreams.

In keeping with Assouline’s brimming collection of thousand-dollar coffee books, which run the gamut from stogies to football to Bentleys, the Impossible Collection of Whiskey is itself a work of art. Presented in a wrought-iron-trimmed wood box modeled after a whiskey barrel, it’s an elegant representation of the subject matter.

While penning the page-turner, Risen uncovered some unexpected truths about whiskey—who knew India could be the next big global producer?—and the writing process itself. Robb Report caught up with the author to get the skinny on each salient revelation.

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