June 17, 2009
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Malt Whisky: A Comprehensive Guide for both Novice and Connoisseur
by Graham Nown
Publisher:Salamander Books Ltd (15 Sep 1997)
While Scotch whisky has a long and rather dramatic history, branding of single malt Scotches is a very 20th century phenomenon. Even the explosion of blended Scotches has happened in the past 100 years.
This British book clearly outlines the trials and tribulations of Scotch producers from the time that they were bootleggers in far-flung areas of the British Isles.
The book also has many beautiful photographs of the various well-known and lesser-known (at least here in the States) distilleries and the surrounding areas. It puts the distilleries in a geographical context beyond the simple “appellation” categories. For instance, many don’t realize that The Balvenie is the next door neighbor of Glenfiddich, and, even though they share the same water source and use the same barley, the characteristics of each distillery is quite different due to different production methods.
Each distillery gets a comprehensive yet concise overview of the distillery itself and the characteristics of the product. Nown doesn’t attempt a numerical grading of the various scotches. For that, you’re better directed to the late Michael Jackson’s fine guides to Scotch whisky. However, you get a clear and unambiguous guide to the flavor of the Scotch.
At the end of the book, there’s a brief overview of Japanese single malt whiskies and Irish whiskies (the Irish spell whisky with an “e”, i.e whiskey).
This book isn’t easy to find, despite being a fairly recent book. However, it’s definitely worth seeking out, or buying if you happen to run across it in a used bookstore as I did. Every server who sells alcoholic beverages should have at least a passing familiarity with the various Scotch whisky styles (single malt and blended). People who drink them know about these things, so you can’t bluff them (don’t want to lose your credibility, do you)? and, it’s nice to be able to educated people curious about single malts. You might be able to sell them a $12 single malt rather than a $6 blended. And, if you do so, you’ll enhance their dining experience and perhaps put them on the path of further discovery.