Whisky Book Reviews 2017

I thought I’d write some brief reviews of some of the whisky books I have read in the past year.
The main problem with whisky books is that unless you are writing about the history of whisky, making references to current expressions will almost certainly condemn it to total irrelevancy within a year. There are some notable exceptions though.
"Malt Whisky Yearbook YYYY" by Ingvar Ronde. £13.95
A ‘must have’ book for anyone who really wants to explore the wonderful world of single malt whisky, published every October. I suggest you set a reminder in your calendar around September to pre-order the latest edition every year.
The bulk of the book is taken up with a complete A-Z of every single ‘Single Malt’ distillery in Scotland. At least one page, sometimes more, is dedicated to each distillery, telling you the history, describing the equipment at the distillery, giving you production output statistics and lastly, past and current expressions with general tasting notes. A great new feature which was added last year is a pronunciation guide to the distillery name. Very useful when visiting distilleries so that you don’t make a fool of yourself.
There is also a comprehensive section on world whiskies. There is a special section on newly opened distilleries as well as a fascinating chapter on closed distilleries. Before the main sections the book contains in depth articles on latest whisky related issues and at the end, there is an essential section of “What’s New” in the whisky industry, including takeovers, plans for new distilleries, special releases etc. There is also a comprehensive section on Independent bottlings.
At the end of the book we have a chapter on Whisky Statistics, industry sales and volume figures. The last few pages of the book contains one of the most useful features and that is a map of Scotland showing all locations of all the distilleries. There are two indexes, one in alphabetical order, the other in geographical order. The map also shows the status of each distillery, whether it is active, mothballed, closed or being built. It is almost worth buying for this map alone.
I do have a few minor criticisms. The author has been rather inconsistent regarding categorizing some distilleries as Southern Highlands which were actually higher up than some he categorized as Central Highlands. When I wrote to him he answered almost immediately and promised to review this.
Another tiny nit-pick. His once excellent map has become too crowded with all the new distilleries. He needs to redesign this and put it on two pages now.
Some suggestions for future editions. I’d love to see a section on collectable whiskies and whisky auction news which is becoming an increasingly popular part of the whisky world today. I would also like to see more information about casks used by each distillery. Sometimes the information is included, sometimes not. I’d like this to be consistent. What type casks, percentages of First-Fill casks used, sources of casks and whether they re-season their casks.

“Whiskypedia: A Gazetteer of Scotch Whisky (New Edition) 2016”, by Charles Maclean. £14.99
A good read, especially the introductory chapters but woefully out of date now. Unless you intend to update a Whiskypedia every year, it was only really worth buying the year it came out.

"Malt Whisky: A Complete Guide (2013 Edition)" by Charles Maclean. £7.99
Although the distillery and whisky expressions are totally out of date now, his introduction to malt whisky making and chapters on how to run a tasting evening is wonderful and I'd say worth buying even today just for this!

“Whiskies Galore: A Tour of Scotland's Island Distilleries” by Ian Buxton. £16:99
A great travelogue of the Island distilleries and written in such a clever way, it will remain relevant and not seem out of date for many years to come. It is full of cutting humour (sometimes too cutting perhaps?), and historical comment and facts you won't find anywhere else. I'm sure he will regret writing that Brora will definitely never open again!!!!  If I had to make one criticism it is that he does go on a bit too much about exotic Japanese inks and fountain pens. However, this is a great read.

“Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and Its Whiskies” by Andrew Jefford. 2005. £10.99
It was a good read back in 2005 but it’s now long past its SALE BY date. I enjoyed the historical stuff but the nature sections became a bit boring. Its main problem is that it is woefully out of date now regarding distilleries and expressions to the point that a large chunk of the whisky stuff is totally irrelevant now. For that reason, I would not recommend this anymore.

"Scotch Missed" by Brian Townsend. (Ed. 2015) £19.99
A “must have” book for all whisky geeks who want to read about the story of every closed, mothballed and demolished Scottish distillery: Where they were, why they closed and what the whisky tasted like. It is a great read and will always remain 90% relevant. I say "only" 90%, as a few of these closed, never to reopen distilleries have now actually reopened. I am sure that since writing the book, the author has been completelly surprised at just how many of these long lost (but obviously not forgotton) distilleries are in the process of being rebuilt or reopened!

I don't suppose Brian will be that upset though. Time for a 2018 Edition perhaps?


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