The World’s Best Whiskies by Dominic Roskrow

The second book review on my blog! In October of last year a serious amount of whisky books was released. This one and Dave Broom’s World Atlas as well as the annual Malt Whisky Yearbook and Whisky Bible. I hadn’t gotten around to reading this one, but I finally did last week. Here’s what I think:

The good
The World's Best WhiskiesRoskrow’s writing style is very easy to read so you fly through the book. He also has taken time to write (rather short) articles on distilleries, which more often than not are a fun read instead of boring statistics and dates. The start of the book is very much oriented at beginning whisky fanatics with notes on the different kinds available, as well as general terminology and a ‘how to taste’ bit.

The bad
The list of ‘750 essential drams from Tain to Tokyo’ makes no sense at all. Of distilleries that have not produced many great whiskies there are many entries. And yes that is opinion, but in this case, the averages don’t work. A couple that stand out: 11 Arrans, 16 BenRiachs (recent ones, not the ones from the seventies), 11 Benromachs compared to 5 Bowmores and 2 Broras and 1 Rosebank. It just doesn’t add up (well, it does, to 750…).

Also, in the introduction there’s a line or two on why independent bottlers are not included (highly limited turn-outs and such), but there are single cask releases by distilleries themselves which are just as limited. The one entry that stood out most was the Cougar bourbon. This one is only in there because other people said it was great. However, its long gone (limited release issue?) and Dominic hasn’t tasted it for himself.

Conclusion
The list is more like ‘what-official-bottlings-have-been-released-over-the-last-few-years’ than anything else. In my opinion, and also when I browse around the internet to view the general consensus on whiskies there are many classics missed and some utterly obscure and unpopular bottlings have made it in. The redeeming factor of this book is the witty writing style that I really enjoy and therefore I warrant it a star. Only one, though.

1 star

The book is available through all major book sellers for about €25 and up.

PS: on that Cougar thingy:
Apparently its a Bourbon, distilled by Foster’s, the Australian beer brand. For some reason it still makes an appearance in the categories USA and Rye! WTF?

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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5 Responses to The World’s Best Whiskies by Dominic Roskrow

  1. Dominic Roskrow says:

    Thank you for reviewing my book.
    But one star? Wow. I don’t normally respond to reviews but one star? That’s a tad harsh isn’t it? It’s beautifully designed, highly approachable and was written without any reference to other books so is a rare attempt to do something new and different. You don’t think it works? Fine. But one star? That’s bordering on vindictive. What are your credentials for being so lofty and pompous?

  2. Hi Dominic,

    First of all: thanks for your reaction.

    It might be that one star is a bit harsh. And yes, the book is beautifully designed, approachable and without reference. Those are qualities I enjoy about the book. But those qualities only go so far. I like the short articles you wrote on people in the industry, the industry and the types of whisky itself.

    However, as I said in the post above, the list itself which, according to the title is the main part of the book, makes no sense to me. The reasoning behind including some whiskies but omitting many others (indies, in this case, which are a significant part of the industry) eludes me.

    About me being lofty and pompous: I don’t really see how I am being pompous or lofty. I’m not saying I could have done a better job. I’m not saying you’re a bad writer. If anything, I am saying you are a good writer and I like your style. This is the opinion of one amateur.

    So yes, maybe I’m being harsh and the research and buttloads of work gone into your book deserve more credit. But I’m not about to change my opinion because someone doesn’t agree with me. It never was my intention to offend you, or anyone else.

  3. Bas says:

    Would not buy the book anyway because it’s a list of one man’s opnion of what should be ‘the best’ .
    For that matter i don’t buy the whiskybible either.
    –Decide for yourself what you like at tastings etc.–
    Now if i made a list of whiskies which i think you should taste and for what i think are the best wiskies in the world , would you buy my book?
    I’ll start writing tommorow:-)

  4. I have not read the book, so I can’t comment on how justified the 1/5 rating is. But following up on Bas’s thought, I am not really happy with the title of the book. “The World’s Best Whiskies” suggests a level of objectivity which a single person’s opinion just can’t deliver. If there had been a panel of 10 international whisky experts pondering about the list, the tilte may be alright. But for a single man’s list of favourites it is, well… a bit pompous.

  5. sku says:

    It’s disappointing to see an author react to a review this way and accuse someone who didn’t rate his book highly of being “lofty and pompous.” I haven’t read the book (too busy writing my own list book, as you know), but the review appears fairly balanced and the criticisms seem legitimate. Ratings are, as any whisky reviewer should know, very subjective.

    Oh and as to Cougar Bourbon, it’s essentially an independent bottling. It is distilled by Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana and bottled by Foster’s. So, it is an American whiskey, but it is bottled by an Australian company and so far as I know, only distributed in Australia. They also make a Cougar Rye.

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