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October 12, 2020updated Jan 31, 2023

Assouline Reveals the Ultimate Book for Whiskey Drinkers

The Impossible Collection of Whiskey tells the story of the top 100 liquids of all time.

By Alex Martin

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Luxury publisher Assouline has revealed another stunning addition to its Impossible collection of coffee table books, this time focusing on the most exceptional and collectable whiskeys of all time. Written by one of the world’s leading spirits writers, Clay Risen, The Impossible Collection of Whiskey tells the story of what he considers to be the top 100 liquids of all time.

Whether it’s a Kentucky bourbon of a Scotch single malt, whiskey (or whisky) has become a highly prized item in today’s world, not just for drinking but for investment too. With so much skill, patience and luck needed to create a truly exceptional whiskey, a rare bottle has become akin to a piece of fine art. Insatiable demand has seen prices for rare and exceptional malts skyrocket to the point that a single bottle can sell for almost $2m.

Risen, a leading authority on the subject, has been fortunate enough to try some of the most sought-after whiskeys in the world. He was therefore in the perfect position to choose the top 100 in the world. In fact, he tells Elite Traveler that the difficulty was not finding whiskeys to put in but deciding which ones to leave out.

Risen said: “It was relatively easy to draw up a list of about 50 whiskeys that I knew just had to be in the book – Black Bowmore, the 1926 Macallan Fine and Rare, LeNell’s Red Hook Rye. It was almost as easy to come up with another 100 whiskeys that I felt strongly about. The hard part came when I had to trim those 150 to 100, and it got harder the closer I got to the target.

The book is presented in a wooden box inspired by a whisky barrel / ©Assouline

“If there’s ever criticism of the book, I expect it to come from people saying, ‘Why didn’t you include this or that bottle?’ For example, I included the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old bourbon, but I left out the Double Eagle Very Rare 20 Year Old. I felt like I had to include the former because it is part of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, which is an absolute must on a list like this. But with only 100 slots, I didn’t feel right including another Eagle Rare expression, especially since, in all honesty, the liquid inside isn’t good enough to justify its very high price. Was that the right call? I’m sure people will disagree.

“Generally, while I made sure to include all of the canonical bottles out there, I also made sure to include several personal, idiosyncratic picks. All great whiskey, but they’re in there because they mean something to me. I expect other people would have a different list, and that’s more than OK – that’s the point. I want people to read this book and learn something, but above all to be inspired to imagine their own ‘Impossible’ list.”

Readers will marvel at the level of detail afford to each whisky, as well as the history of the industry itself and the country’s that have best honed the craft. Naturally, Scotch malts are given the biggest billing but there are also examples from little-known markets in India and the Czech Republic. The liquids span almost a century, ranging from a 1926 Macallan to the Midleton Very Rare 45 Year Old released earlier in 2020.

The coffee table book is presented in a wrought-iron trimmed wooden box modelled on an authentic whisky barrel and is priced at $995.

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