In the “Instant Expert” book series of US based publishers Princeton Architectural Press, the Scottish whisky expert John Lamond has contributed a title about whisky (using American spelling due to the location of the publishers).
The small bound pocket book has 144 pages and is essentially an introduction to whisky for novices. It begins with a short round-up of whisky basics like production and classsification of whisky types as well as thoughts on glassware and matching whisky with food.
The largest part of the book is devoted to presenting a selection of international whisky distilleries with an obvious emphasis on Scotland and USA. The distilleries are described in a short introduction, and then one selected bottling for each is presented with tasting notes. A selection of independent bottlers is included as well.
A section named “Possess” concludes the book, consisting of an eclectic mix of further information and advice about whisky: buying, storage, influence of casks or a selection of whisky bars to name a few.
The novice reader should be warned that “Instant Expert” is a promise this small book is unable to fulfill. Unless you define “expert” as “knowing more than an utter noob”. Too much is there to know about whisky that can not be addressed here. I have no idea how the other books of this range try to take on that bold task, but the title of the series appears to be not more than an attention grabber.
Throughout the book you can notice the wish or need to squeeze in as much as possible into the limited space, and this is not helped by the rather spacious layout. Unfortunately this goes along with quite a few informations being inaccurate and sometimes plain wrong. To list a few examples:
- “Grain whiskey: Contains unmalted barley or other malted and unmalted grains” – No, it has to include malted barley (assuming the Scottish definition).
- “Irish whiskey is triple distilled” – Not necessarily, see Cooley
- “Bourbon must be matured in new, charred white oak barrels for two years” – No, only Straight Bourbon must be matured for two years (or more).
- Redbreast Irish whiskey is listed as blend. It is a single pot still.
John Lamond gives highly lauded courses on whisky, and he is also a Keeper of the Quaich. I don’t know if these blunders are genuine errors or were caused by bad editing. But in effect they make the book only limitedly recommendable, in particular as it addresses novices who very likely will not notice them.
Review copy provided by Princeton Architectural Press