Whisk(e)y Bibliography - Non-Fiction Books

Arthur, Helen, The Single Malt Whisky Companion - A Connoisseur's Guide, Quintet Publishing Ltd. (Macmillan), 1997, 1st edition. A wealth of illustrations - good pictures of distilleries and bottles, interesting maps, and some historical reproductions; however, the text falls short and imparts little information, especially with regard to tasting notes. In addition, the breakdown into mainstream, new, and rare malts is a bit forced. If it were of a larger physical size, this could qualify as a typical coffee table book. As it is, it is very pretty to look at, but go elsewhere for distillery details and extensive tasting notes.

Arthur, Helen, Whisky: The Water of Life - Uisge Beatha, Firefly Books, 2000, 1st edition. Arthur's latest, and, in keeping with her previous books, it is lavishly and well-illustrated. This book is more substantive textually than prior offerings. The tasting notes are limited, but the other information in the book represents a welcome change. Like Jim Murray's coffee table version of The Complete Book of Whiskey, this book goes beyond Scotch whisky; I still prefer Murray's book. At the current (July 2002) close-out price of 80% (or more) off list, this book is worth acquiring. And given the trend this book represents, I look forward to her next book.

Barnard, Alfred, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, London: Harper, 1887; Reprinted by Newton Abbot in 1969; Extracts reprinted by Lochar Publishing & Mainstream Publishing of Edinburgh in 1987. One of the great whisky reference works - everyone should have a copy in their library (not as the first book, but perhaps as the 3rd or 4th...). As Steadman mentions in his book, Barnard provides far more details than the average reader would care about concerning plumbing and other minutia; however, anyone interested in the current state of the Scottish distilling industry will find the changes from over 100 years ago fascinating (see, for example, changes in the relative fortunes of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie.) This book has been hard to find - fortunately, it has recently been reprinted (currently available from amazon.de), and parts of it are slowly finding their way onto the Web. Much of his book is online at WormTub.

Caol Ila Distillery (with a nod to various people, including Dolly Campbell), Caol Ila Distillery 1846-1996 - A Photographic Celebration, W. Peters & Son, ~1996, 1st edition. A collection of photographs of the Caol Ila distillery, its environs, and the people who have worked there over the years. It is focused primarily on the old (pre-1973) distillery, with the earliest picture dating from 1870. There are some fascinating photos of the new still house going up around the stills. Apparently the framework was put in place first, the stills installed, and then construction continued.

Cribb, Stephen and Julie, Whisky on the Rocks - Origins of the 'Water of Life', Macmillan, 1970, 1st US edition. Short review: An interesting and readable book on the geological factors impacting whisky production. Well worth acquiring for the coverage of an area not really dealt with in other books (other than by papers in technical journals); full review coming eventually...

Daiches, David, Scotch Whisky - Its Past and Present, Macmillan, 1970, 1st US edition. This is one of many editions of this book, and one of many books by Daiches. He was an English Professor, who wrote a variety of books on English literature, as well as on whisky. As he describes his interests in the preface, he was most interested in whisky's "social history, its nature, and its present situation." This was one of the first whisky books I read, and one can see the genesis of many later discussions of whisky herein. Interesting and worthwhile; although specific comments on the current state of the industry, and certain distilleries are well out-of-date, there is enough history and anecdotal information to reward the reader.

Gabanyi, Stefan, Whisk(e)y, Abbeville Press, 1997, 1st edition. Short review: Decent reference work, one of several current "dictionary" style books - worth acquiring; full review coming eventually...

Hume, John R., Dallas Dhu Distillery, Historic Scotland - Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1988, 1st edition. A short history of the distillery, along with an overview of the distilling process using the distillery as a source of pictures of the various steps.

Jackson, Michael, Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, Dorling Kindersley, 1989. This is probably the single best known, currently available book on single malt whiskies. It has gone through many revisions, and its presentation is consistent with the expected standards of Dorling Kindersley - well-reproduced photos, useful maps, etc. This book also receives a lot of flack from experienced tasters - much of it deserved. Jackson seems to suffer considerably from "label tasting", and one should always be aware that he (like Murray, MacLean, and others) makes much of his living from the whisk(e)y industry. That said, his book does provide useful information for the beginner, and if you can calibrate your tastes relative to his tasting notes and ratings, the book can prove worthwhile. I acquired my first copy of his book when it was initially released, and made a number of mistakes in whisky acquisitions based on his reviews; however, at the time, it was one of the few readily available references. All in all, it is worth having this book, simply so you can calibrate Jackson against your own palate, and be aware of one of the commonly mentioned references in the whisky tasting world. As a first (or second) book, however, I would pass it by.

Jones, Andrew, Whisky Talk, Piatkus, 1997. I first looked at this book in Scotland, and put it back on the shelf after a quick browse as not worth acquiring. Later, I went a head and bought it in a fit of "completeness" for my whisky-related library. Unfortunately, a second look confirms the first. It is subtitled A Spirited Collection of Facts and Essential Information on the Whiskies of the World"; while a close reading does reveal a few anecdotes / facts that I have not seen elsewhere, in general, the facts presented are sometimes only part of the story, and are presented bare, without context. The discussions of regions and distilleries are even more minimal than Milroy's, and far less useful. Any number of existing guides provide a better overview of whisky, it's history and production, and distillery details than this book. In addition, Stefan Gabanyi's book Whisk(e)y provides a much better-executed variation on a "dictionary" style book of facts.

Harris, James F. and Mark H. Waymack, Single-Malt Whiskies of Scotland, Open Court, 1992, 1st edition. This is a casual introduction to single malt whisky by a couple of enthusiastic American philosophy professors. There is little information here which is not available elsewhere. In addition, there are a number of mistakes perpetuated. However, it is well organized and presented, and is an easy read. I feel that their minimal descriptions of the various whiskies are at least as useful to beginners as the ubiquituous Michael Jackson. Their section on organizing a whisky tasting was one of the few sources of at the time which discussed the subject reasonably well. There are better books available now (I would recommend Murray for a similar style, with more information content), but this book is worth acquiring eventually for its enthusiastic and commercially unbiased approach to enjoying single malt whiskies. And, while I wish that they would release a second version cleaning up all the mistakes - I still find their lapses less irritating than the authoritatively-presented lack of consistency I see in books such as Michael Jackson's guide.

Lamond, John and Robin Tucek, The Malt Whisky File, The Wine Appreciation Guild (North America), 1995 (1st edition); The Lyons Press, 1997 (2nd edition); Canongate Press, 2001 (3rd edition). A decent introduction to single malt whiskies, with a different/simple approach to grossly classifying whiskies. John Lamond provides the tasting notes, and Robin Tucek (of the independent bottler Blackadder) providing historical and background info. They rate each whisky according to it's sweetness and peatiness, along with availability at time of publication (they have made an attempt to release revised editions regularly - but it is inevitable that many of the specific whiskies they rate are currently unavailable). This approach is prone to just as many problems as the Michael Jackson "50 point" scale (note: although the scale is notionally a 100 point scale, just as with wine ratings, no whiskies ever score less than 50). However, I find it far more valuable for novices, since peat (or smoke) and sweetness are two characteristics of scotch that are relatively easy to explain to newcomers, and this allows them at least to avoid whiskies that are grossly unsuited to their tastes - something not always possible with the Jackson approach. There are, though, a number of ratings which seem to me must be typos (e.g., rating the peat character of Auchentoshan NAS and Longrow 10 to be the same.)

MacLean, Charles, The Mitchell Beazley Pocket Whisky Book, Mitchell Beazley 1993 (1st edition), 1998 (2nd edition), 2001 (3rd edition; not reviewed yet). Prior to the publication of Jim Murray's book, this was my standard portable / pocket reference. It is small, but contains a substantial (for it's size) amount of information about individual distilleries. The tasting notes are minimal (as are Murray's), and non-specific as to bottlings; they tend towards describing the 1st order "house style" instead. In fact, many of them are simply quotations of the opinions of others, notably Michael Jackson, but also Cadenhead's and the SMWS. The book contains the usual (nowadays) overview of the distilling process, information on ownership (hard to keep current), and extends to grain and blended whisky as well. All-in-all, the 1998 version is still a useful book; however, my prejudices tend more towards Murray's style - but the books are similarly informative (with a nod to Murray for the occasional anecdotal nugget and his coverage of whiskies worldwide - plus, he relegates blends to a separate book).

MacLean, Charles, The Glenmorangie Sesquicentennial Diary, 1993. An advertising brochure from the distillery, which provides some useful / interesting historical information (see, for example, the article on this website comparing Ardbeg and Glenmorangie.)

Milroy, Wallace, Malt Whisky Almanac - A Taster's Guide, many editions, many languages; 1st edition was 1986; most recent I have is the 7th edition, 1998 from Neil Wilson Publishing. One of the many currently-available pocket guides, with a longer history than most. Wallace is the brother of John Milroy, founder of Milroys of Soho. However, in spite of (or, like so many other whisky writers, perhaps because of) his industry connections and long experience, the information provided is minimal - furthermore (again, like many other writers) he never met (or at least, never wrote about that I am aware of) any single malt Scotch that he didn't like*. In it's day, it did provide an easy-to-grasp introduction, and a usefully small book to carry about and scratch notes in; however, like other books (such as Harris and Waymack) it has been passed by.

* although he did refer to Northport as having a nose reminiscent of a pickle. But the implication in his description was that he liked it...

Mitchell, Euan, A Wee Guide to Whisky, Goblinshead, 1999. Part of "The Pocket Scottish History" series, this book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the industry, spanning the period from the days of dramming and dogs to the present age of consolidation into fewer and fewer large holding companies. Good reading, and revealing.

Murray, Jim, The Complete Book of Whiskey, Carlton Books, 1997. Essentially the same text as in Murray's The Complete Guide to Whiskey (see below), but in coffee table (large hardcover) format, with a lot of pictures. While the pocket guide is great to carry with one to tastings and on tours, etc., this book is great to enjoy with a snifter of whisky, browsing the pictures.

Murray, Jim, The Complete Guide to Whiskey, Triumph Books, 1997. Currently this is my recommendation when anyone asks for a single whisk(e)y book. I enjoy Murray's writing style, and find that his preferences (should I say prejudices?) match mine much of the time. He is not entirely free of the "label tasting" approach to scotch evaluation, but comes closer than, say Michael Jackson. He makes much of his living from the whisk(e)y industry, which must born in mind when he waxes rhapsodic on the virtues of certain bottlings or distilleries. But in general, his recommendations and evaluations strike a chord of agreement with me.

Smith, Gavin D., Scotch Whisky, Sutton Publishing Limited, 1999. A great selection of historical photos and reproductions. Included are items ranging from a Ferintosh advertising poster from the early 1900s (along with distillery pictures), a 1924 picture of the small, recently-removed Man O'Hoy stills, to pictures of Bessie Williamson operating the Laphroaig spirit safe in the 1950s. Also included are more modern pictures (e.g., photos of the Ardbeg visitor centre in 1998). There is minimal narrative text, but the pictures all have worthwhile captions. Overall, this book is well worth acquiring.

Steadman, Ralph, Still Life With Bottle - Whisky According to Ralph Steadman, Random House, 1994. An amusing journey around Scotland via motorbike, with a copy of Barnard as a guide. Irreverant, as one might expect from Steadman, the book is a good counterbalance to those who take whisk(e)y far too seriously.


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