three new whisk(e)y books...

"Discovering Scotland's Distilleries" 
by Gavin D. Smith and Graeme Wallace

Finally a book about distilleries only... I have been looking for a compact guide like that after I came back from my first visit to whisky distilleries in Scotland. Visiting distilleries can be addictive. It is so much fun to plan your next visit in advance, looking for information, scheduling your trip hour by hour, preparing the items in your backpack, etc. and this book is a great help.

It is extremely easy to use it's color coded simple maps and different indexes to find the distillery you are looking for. Each distillery page contains very short but useful info about owners, flavor style, visiting schedules, tour pricing and a summary of the distillery's history and it's technical details. Even contact info of closed distilleries and distilleries which do not offer regular tours are listed in case you want to try your chance. When I called Bryan Ross from Scapa distillery using the phone number listed in the book to convince him for a spontaneous visit first question he asked was: "Where did you get this number?".

laphroaig distilleryislay november 2009

It's a great modern day companion to Alfred Barnard's 110 years old "The Whisky Distilleries of United Kingdom". "Discovering Scotland's Distilleries" has also a great section where the writers suggest different whisky trails in different regions of Scotland. It is very helpful to choose a base city, plan your daily visits with short stops at whisky bars and whisky shops listed. The book has amazing print and paper quality and durable binding which is pretty important if you think that you will be carrying the book in your backpack on a dreich* Scottish day. It's size is very easy to handle, too. It can easily fit in your jacket's pocket.

ardbeg distilleryislay november 2009
By the way there isn't a single tasting note in the book which I appreciated a lot. Only the principal expressions are listed for each distillery nothing else. Like I said this book is aiming only whisky enthusiasts who are trying to make the best of their time when trying to choose the most suitable route and to visit as many distilleries as possible among 112 of them all around Scotland in limited time. It definitely has been one of my favorite books I purchased this year.

If you also prefer walking and hiking like me instead of driving or biking when you are on the road I strongly recommend Hallewell Pocket Walking Guides to use together with "Discovering Scotland's Distilleries". Their line covers almost entire Scotland and some of England and more and more are being added to their list every month also as downloads. They are cheap, easy to use, extremely useful and come in tiny pocket sizes. Definitely check out their website...

*a combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least four of the above adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich..!

"101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die" 
by Ian Buxton

When I first got this book I found the selection of the whiskies a little odd but after paying more attention and spending more time with it I kind of liked it. All the whiskies listed in the book are carefully selected to keep a delicate balance of availability, affordability and diversity.

You don't have to travel thousands of miles to visit distilleries or rare local shops or attend auctions to find the drams listed in the book. All of them are widely distributed and can be found easily online or in big whisky shops. None of the bottles requires your yearly paycheck (or more) to afford. In other words if you are a dedicated and curious whisky drinker you can fulfill the list in your life time like the title of the book suggests. I also liked that the book tries to give a very wide and fair selection of different regions and styles from all over the whisky producing countries. It is nice not to stick to only single malts, scotch whiskies or European and American expressions. Like it is also mentioned in the introduction Ian Buxton doesn't imply that the selection is the 101 best whiskies in the world. It is a personal and subjective selection as a suggestion to the reader especially to people trying to improve their knowledge and palate. It is quite enjoyable. My score is 62 out of 101 for now and I'll do my best till I die...

port ellen, islay november 2009

"The World Atlas of Whisky"
by Dave Broom

Now, this is a really fancy looking coffee table book and is pretty different than the two books I talked about above. It is written by Dave Broom with whom everybody interested in whisky familiar is. He is a very well known whisky person and writes for Whisky Magazine since the beginning.

The book contains short info about whisky and whisky making, charts of different production processes, a flavor map David Broom developed and a very well written section about flavor which is the main focus of the book. Then we start to browse regions and countries of whisky distilleries. Tasting notes of different distillery expressions are supported by a "flavor camp" category to help people to find similar drams to the whiskies they like. It is a book you want to read from the beginning to the end instead of using it as a reference. The whole book is supported with the most beautiful photographs of the regions and distilleries. It even smells good... A great present to a whisky lover. For my taste it is in the same class of Michael Jackson's classic book "Whiskey". Really well done...

bowmore distilleryislay november 2009
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Anonymous said…
I will just point out that I too have written for Whisky Magazine from issue 1 (though sometimes anonymously!).
Thanks for the review,
Ian Buxton