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I'm more of Scotch drinker, but Mr. BFR has become enamored of bourbon, and the American spirit is growing on me too. Although I've made a point of learning more about wine, I have to admit that I'm still fairly uneducated when it comes to whiskey. Need a bottle of bourbon? I've been know to grab whatever's on sale.
This is where Tasting Whiskey comes in. Bryson's well-researched and fun-to-read treatise is a great introduction to whiskeys from all over the globe. The book is beautifully styled in browns and whiskey gold, and the awesome graphics (see the scans; click to enlarge), maps, and beautiful photographs break up the text, not only providing eye candy but giving readers different ways to absorb the information.
In the early chapters, Bryson talks about the history of whiskey, how and where it's made, and the distinguishing characteristics of each type. He even sheds light on the whiskey/whisky controversy. What the heck is the correct spelling? As it turns out, the spelling variation is just a regional quirk and carries no real meaning. Regardless, many people restrict whisky for Scotch, Canadian, and Japanese spirits and use whiskey for Irish and American drinks.
The back half of Tasting Whiskey gets into the details of learning to taste the different flavors in whiskeys and provides a guide to the major producing regions (Ireland, Scotland, Canada, United States, and Japan). Here's where we learn the differences and similarities between Kentucky and Tennessee bourbons, the different peat levels of the Scotches, the reason rye isn't more popular, and the origins of Japanese distilleries.
One of my favorite lines from the book, and one that shows you Bryson's general attitude, comes from the chapter on learning to enjoy whiskeys. Just as there are wine snobs, there are whiskey snobs. Bryson has this to say:
You shouldn't let them influence your choices. Because just like there is no One Best Whiskey, there is no One Best Type of Whiskey, either. . . . To confuse personal preferences for world truths is no way to go through life. (p. 61)Bryson ends the book with a chapter on the classic cocktails--such as the Rob Roy, Mint Julep, and Rusty Nail--and another on how to pair whiskeys with food. You'll also find resources, a glossary, and an index.
I recommend Lew Bryson's Tasting Whiskey for a wide range of readers. Naturally both the newcomer to whiskeys and the die-hard fan will find a lot to love here. But so too will readers who are interested in the history of distilled spirits and those who are curious about how whiskey is made. My favorite chapter was the one on tasting, followed by the chapters that introduce the different whiskey regions.
NOTE: The scans come from Tasting Whiskey and were used in the context of this review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder, Andrew Heath, and may not be used in another context. The photograph is my own, and I retain the copyright to that.
Published by Storey Publishing, 2014
Source: Can't remember (see review policy)
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