05 September 2015

Weekend Cooking: Tasting Whiskey by Lew Bryson

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Tasting Whiskey by Lew BrysonThe fun thing about culling and organizing your personal library is discovering books you forgot you had but really wanted to read. Lew Bryson's Tasting Whiskey falls into that category. Although we generally stick to a glass of wine with dinner on a daily basis, when we go out, our drink of choice is almost always a whiskey/whisky of some sort.

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
ISBN-13: 9781612123011
Source: Can't remember (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Tina 9/5/15, 6:44 AM  

I see we are on the same proverbial page this week with books about alcohol! I like that statement, don't let them influence your choices, as we all have different palates and preferences. I haven't had scotch in years - I like the clear liquors more but I have enjoyed bourbon. Cool book.

bermudaonion 9/5/15, 7:18 AM  

I've learned a little about whiskey brands because they're using the barrels to age beer but I really should learn more about their flavors. I love the author's attitude.

JoAnn 9/5/15, 9:29 AM  

I'm clueless about whiskey, but my BIL is very knowledgable. He would love this!

rhapsodyinbooks 9/5/15, 9:36 AM  

I like reading about whiskey more than tasting it!

Katherine P 9/5/15, 10:17 AM  

I'm not much of a drinker but learning about the history and different types sounds really interesting!

Claudia 9/5/15, 12:00 PM  

I could sure stand to learn more about it. Funny my latest favorite cocktail type drink has been a Burnt Honey Bourbon Sour.

Belle Wong 9/5/15, 2:08 PM  

I'm not much of a whiskey drinker, but I did go to a party once where the host was a whiskey afficionado. Definitely a learning experience - I learned how there are all these subtly different tastes among whiskeys. This looks like a good book!

Nan 9/5/15, 2:20 PM  

If you are a Scotch girl, there's a book you may really enjoy. It is by the late Iain Banks, and is about his travels in Scotland visiting the distilleries. The title is Raw Spirit. I don't like the taste or smell of any whisky, but I loved this book, and in fact, have read it twice. I love his passion for music and cars and whisky and life itself. So sad he died.

Joy 9/5/15, 7:49 PM  

Fun! My husband's been trying ryes recently.

Joy's Book Blog

Sheila (Bookjourney) 9/6/15, 11:58 AM  

I know nothing about whiskey but love books about things I know nothing about ;)

Roberta 9/6/15, 3:29 PM  

Whiskey has an interesting history, particularly relating to taxation. Does he touch on that at all?

I also love the quote. It applies to many things, not just whiskey :-)

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