At the helm

In a new series Dominic Roskrow celebrates some of the people who are contributing to whisky,quietly making our lives richer. First up is Ingvar Ronde,publisher of the Malt Whisky Yearbook.
By Dominic Roskrow
Publishing a whisky book is like trying to sail across Portsmouth harbour. It takes dedication and focus to navigate a path through the crowded waterways and avoid sinking without trace.Meet Captain Ronde.He’s just published the 2009 Malt Whisky Yearbook and in four years he’s carved out a niche in the market place.If you’re not familiar with it then my advice is to go out and get yourself a copy because it’s an essential aid to anyone with a love of whisky.There are pages on each of Scotland’s distilleries, features written by a collection of whisky writers, a round up of distilleries elsewhere in the world, and a back section packed with enough statistics to give Wisden’s Cricketing Almanac a run for its money.Not only that, but it’s frighteningly up to date.And if you’ve purchased a copy in the past and don’t think there’s much point in buying the new version, think again – a whopping 70 per cent of the content is fresh.It’s an impressive body of work.So how come a 51-year-old Swede has set the world of whisky publishing on fire? For Ingvar Ronde, it was a natural progression.He’d been introduced to malt whisky by a friend who gave him a copy of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion.“Like so many others I am indebted to Michael for opening up the doors to a whole new world,”he says.“I only met Michael a couple of times before he passed away but I was delighted to have him as a contributor to the first edition of the year book.“The Malt Yearbook came about because for quite a few years I had been involved with printing and writing and I realised that the topics I covered back then didn’t interest me any more and I decided that if I was going to carry on in the business I had to do something that really engaged me.At that time I used to keep track of what was happening in the world of whisky through the internet. It’s a great way of keeping up to date but it lacks the charm of sitting down in your favourite chair with a good glass of whisky and reading a book about the latest developments, and as there was no Yearbook on the market about whisky, I simply decided I could fill that space.” From the outset Ingvar had a clear idea of how the book would be structured.There would be a collection of features by leading whisky writers first, a directory to all the Scottish distilleries, and lists and statistics late on.That’s how it’s pretty much remained, though it has evolved, too.This year’s version includes tasting notes for the first time.“Originally I was determined not to have tasting notes because there are so many other writers out there who share their opinions on different whiskies,”he says.“But I’ve had so many remarks from readers saying that the book was great but that tasting notes would make it perfect. I thought about it for a long time and then decided that it would make sense.But I still wanted to be different from many other books where just one person – the author – gives his view so I decided there should be two opinions on each whisky.The inspiration came from the tasting section of Whisky Magazine which I have always enjoyed.” Ingvar’s longer term aim is to broaden the book out to cover whisky of all styles and expand the coverage of whisky from around the world.“I enjoy blended whiskies very much,”he says.“The skills of a master blender really fascinate me; that ability to find the right combination of grains and malts not just once but over and over again. I have also just started enjoying bourbon, an area which until two years ago was a white spot on my map.“It’s great fun keeping track of all the distilleries popping up all over the world, and the people are involved are often so enthusiastic.It’s a pleasure dealing with them.” Ingvar is, of course, one of those enthusiastic people and his passion and commitment flow through his work.But that, says Ingvar, is the point; it’s not really work.“I think many people have a dream that one day they will combine their daily job with their hobby, and when they do it is the ultimate way of making a living. It is very gratifying to have accomplished that.”PROFILE
Currently drinking:
Benromach Origins
Favourite whiskies:A
peated Benriach or Talisker
after walking the dog in
winter,but I also enjoy the
new vintages from Balblair
and some sherried malts
such as A’Bunnadh
Favourite distilleries:
Speyside Distillery for its
magnificent surroundings,
Glenmorangie for the
feeling of entering a
cathedral when you enter
the still room,and
Springbank,where time
has stood still