Guest post: Book review of “Great Whiskies: 500 of the Best from around the world”June 13th, 2011
Jonny McCormick, regular Malt Advocate magazine contributor, joins us today with a new book review.
Great Whiskies: 500 of the Best from around the world
Editor-in-Chief Charles MacLean
Published by DK (Dorling Kindersley)
My mission is to sift through the new whisky book titles to help you choose the right books for you, in the same way as whisky reviews can be the next best thing to sipping a new release. Hopefully, this will mean everyone gets the most for their dollars and the publishing world will continue to intrigue us with interesting and creative whisky books.
Today’s offering is more suitable for those in the earlier stages of their whisky journeys, or those people who could use a handy reference book in the bar to educate their staff and customers. Dorling Kindersley have filleted World Whisky (DK, 2009) to produce Great Whiskies, a straightforward A-Z handbook of fantastic whisk(e)y brands. One of the pleasures of whisky is the unquenchable capacity for new learning – even the greats of the industry will admit there are always fresh aspects to discover. The achievement of this book is the wealth of information packed into a chunky handbook.
DK are to be congratulated and Charles MacLean, to his great credit, has performed a fine job as editor-in-chief in ensuring the book has a consistency of style that masks the collaborative variance of using multiple authors. This is matched by the clarity of the layout, and the conceptual simplicity and uniformity of the bottle photographs.
Amongst the contributing writers are fellow Malt Advocate regulars Dave Broom and Gavin D Smith who have covered Japanese and American whiskies, respectively. Peter Mulryan manages the Irish whiskies, Tom Bruce-Gardyne covers single malts from Scotland, Ian Buxton acts as the curator of blended whisky, Hans Offringa tackles European whisky whilst MacLean himself has handled Canada, Australasia and Asia.
A concise column on each brand covers history and production in about 100 words, before succinct tasting notes are provided on key bottlings. Certain world-beating brands are given space over two pages with four reviews. Double spread touring guides of Islay, Speyside, Ireland, Japan and Kentucky periodically interrupt the alphabetical format.
One missed opportunity was to not update the information from World Whisky before pulling this text together so for example, tasting notes for the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection are from the 2008 releases. On occasion, this can make the page look slightly dated particularly when examining the newer distillers (where we are shown Mackmyra Preludium or Kilchoman New Make Spirit products) or the brands benefitting from recent repackaging initiatives (see Deanston, Tobermory or Fettercairn).
While there are 500 listed bottlings in Great Whiskies (but not 500 brands), there is no mention of the criteria used to define their greatness. The most obvious parallels are with Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to try before you die but the whiskies chosen here have a broader price range (the most expensive is probably The Last Drop) and the range of blends marketed the world over mean that you’re not going to be able to easily get your hands on certain bottles.
This is the perfect topic crying out for an e-book version for easy reference on the move – how about it DK?
EDITOR’S NOTE: While the author does hint that some of the material is outdated, please see the comment thread below for more information.