I have never been a book lover, not that I have anything against them, I am sure they have their use, but I was never a kid to bury my head in a novel and sit quietly in the corner for hours. Alas, as my mother found out, I was more interested in dismantling the radio alarm clock to make a lazer gun or tying chunks of bread to fishing line and trying (in vain) to catch birds in the back garden. These are just two examples of the manic projects I would give myself that distracted me from books. That’s not to say I don’t have a small collection of the classics which I decided to force myself into reading. Turns out I actually quite like Hunter S Thompson, F Scott Fitzgerald and a number of other novelists who have random single letters in their names.
Books for me are points of reference I choose to dip in and out of when in need of research or ones that have lovely arty pictures of naked women (oops, I mean bikes)..such as Rouleur from Rapha – the most beautiful cycling magazine in the world. Of course I have my fair share of whisky titles upon the shelves. Thing is though, there is only so many times you can read about how big your mash tun is, how many litres your washback holds or the strain of yeast you use. “You make whisky right? Tastes good does it? Brilliant, I will try some thanks.”
The trouble with most whisky books is that they are either aimed at a certain individual who perhaps have a good knowledge of whisky and will lodge that piece of information about the worm tubs somewhere in the back of their mind to recall at an opportune moment with some equally geeky enthusiasts. Or, are so basic and lacking in any real content that they are best used as a door stop or coaster for your dram.
It was with great delight then, when yesterday a copy of Ian Buxton’s new ’101 World Whiskies to try before you die’ dropped on my desk. The nicely sized book (it will fit on your shelf) is the follow up release from Ian’s 101 Whiskies to try before you die which as the titles suggests is, oh you get it!
So why another book? Well, as Ian says in the prologue, the world is changing and the “world” of whiskies is just that – worldly. So this edition has a tiny proportion of scotch and is more concerned about what’s happening outside of Scotland.
On my first flick through I was surprised to see Johnnie Walker Jubilee staring at me. Oh oh, here we go again, another book filled with unobtainable drams and overly priced bottlings….but upon closer inspection the index of the whisky said “Distillery: What do you care, you’re not getting any” Brilliant! I am hooked.
I have always known that Ian and I share a similar view on whisky collecting and limited releases kept high in price or created just for the collectors market- basically we don’t like it. You can read my viewpoint in this earlier post. And he pushes this point home at the beginning of the book.
As I mentioned, the book is a nice size to flick through, the bottles are big and clear on each left hand page for ease of visual indexing and the descriptions are short, punchy and to the point. There are the odd detailed entires scattered here and there about production and maturation, but they certainly do not take centre stage- instead, the book is a fun and lighthearted collection of annectotes peppered with facts. It’s Ian’s blunt, no nonsense approach that helps make this book a welcome addition to my shelf. Oh, and the honesty- for example when reviewing the German whisky Slyrs, Ian happily admits that having not been to the distillery, he looked up all the notes online and says “So, apart from the fact I’ve tried it and you almost certainly haven’t, with a few minutes research you could know as much as I do. No need to bother though, just read the rest of this entry for enlightenment.”. Why can’t more whisky books be like this?
The book is available from Amazon from July 5th but you can pre order it here. And I suggest you do. This is just the kind of reference book I would have loved to write, but given my inability to self-edit my version would surely be filled with profanity. Not sure that would sell so well as I suspect Ian’s will.