“The Adventure of Arrack”, written by Michelle Gunawardana, became the first Sri Lankan book to receive a prestigious Gourmand Award, when it won first place in the spirits category at the Gourmand Awards held in Yantai, China in May, 2016.
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995, and each year honours the best food and drink books as well as food television. These awards are considered the highest international accolade for books and television in this sector. In 2016, the competition received thousands of entries from all parts of the world in several different languages. Over 1,700 entries from 103 countries were shortlisted, with the competition coming down to 766 finalists for the “Best in the World’ title in 89 categories.
“The Adventure of Arrack” is the first book from Sri Lanka to have been selected as a finalist for a Gourmand.
Author Michelle Gunawardana says, “It felt quite surreal to be up there on that stage amid such a stellar gathering, and I felt very proud that Sri Lanka was up there with the best. We have so many talented Sri Lankan authors – I hope that this win will encourage other Sri Lankans to get their work out there, because it proves we can compete with anyone.
The book, whilst being carefully researched and historically accurate, has been written in the style of a novel rather than a historical chronicle, and tells the story of how Ceylon Arrack came to be. Starting with a poetic description of the island’s history, using fragments of records and the travelogues of explorers, traders and invaders who sailed to Lankan shores in centuries past and fell captive to the island’s enchantment, it traces the origins of coconut arrack, one of the oldest distilled spirits in the world. This leads on to the story of the family-owned company that pioneered the modern process of coconut arrack distillation in 1924.
The history of Rockland Distillery is itself a saga of adventure, spanning nine decades and encompassing incredibly volatile times for the industry and indeed the country. The book follows the fortunes of the family company as it bore many a sling and arrow with the zeal of a true pioneer, to produce a truly unique Sri Lankan product that has more than stood the test of time.
The old-world style hardcover book, illustrated by Jonathan Burton, was praised for its imaginative text, illustrations and production. “The illustrations are exquisite, the text is very well written, structured like a novel, a thriller with so many survival adventures... The research, the illustrations and the production of the book make it a gem, to be treasured.” – Edouard Cointreau, Chairman, Awards Committee.
Michelle has authored several documentary and six biographical works. “The Adventure of Arrack” is available at Barefoot bookshop.