Let me tell you about whisky – Neil Ridley & Gavin D. Smith

It’s been a while but I decided to read a whisky book again. This one is a recent release from Gavin D. Smith, a famous whisky writer with quite some credits. The other writer, Neil Ridley, started out as co-founder of the Cask Strength Whisky Blog and has since moved up in the industry by writing for a variety of publications, WhiskyMag among others.

The book has a variety of USPs on the back cover. Two of which are:

  • The best whisky primer on the market
  • No jargon. No snobbery. No previous knowledge assumed

I didn’t know this at the time of purchase since this indicates a book directed at people with no previous knowledge on the subject. Keeping this in mind I started reading it.

The book is divided into a couple of main chapters. Whisky making, it’s flavours, how to enjoy it and distilleries and tasting notes.

The whisky making chapter is quite well written with no obvious mistakes. It keeps things nice and simple but nonetheless does it disclose quite a lot of information. Strangely though, the ‘no jargon’ bit does make it all a bit vague. In my opinion it works better if jargon is explained and then used.

The flavours of whisky is an entry course in which flavours you can find in whisky. It’s a fairly short chapter since they don’t give many examples of which flavours are found where. They keep the tasting notes for chapter 4.

How to enjoy whisky starts a bit strange. I am always quite surprised how whisky writers get to write an entire chapter on how to do this, while their opinion always is ‘each their own’ and ‘there is no right way to do it’. The part on whisky and food pairing, how to do a tasting and some cocktails is really nice though. As the rest of the book it’s a bit basic, but that’s the general idea.

The chapter with distilleries featured and tasting notes I have to admit I just leafed through. I only read the descriptions of distilleries I have barely any knowledge of or to see what they wrote when it came to Zuidam in The Netherlands. This means I mostly read the chapters on American craft distilleries since I am quite curious to those.

Having said this, it is a very well written and edited book. The information in it is concise and accurate. The descriptions of processes are well done albeit a bit simplistic. The tasting notes are accurate and the information on distilleries is very nice.

It is, however, aimed at novices. It is in this case more so than with many other books that do not propagate it. The way everything is described and the way the chapters are divided I had the idea of reading an entry level World Atlas of Whisky

So, concluding. It’s a nice, well written book. The images of both environments, distilleries, people and bottles are incredibly well done. Just keep in mind that if you’ve read a few whisky books before or have been to a number of distilleries, there might not be anything new here.

Available from Master of Malt at £ 16.99 in hard cover.

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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