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A Visit to Watson's Dundee Whisky Stores, Alfred Barnard, Aaron Barker Publishing, 2016

This book contains the reprint of the visits of Alfred Barnard in 1891 of the Watson’s Dundee Whisky Stores, the largest whisky blender of Scotland and their Cragganmore distillery. In addition, the publisher completed this book by a careful detail of the fire that took ravaged the Waston’s stored in Dundee 15 years after Alfred’s visit. The scale of the operation of Watson was very impressive and the details of the visits provide a good impression on how blenders were operating in the 1890s. I enjoyed very much the historical information contained in this book. My only criticism about this book is that the quality of the images could have been improved and darker.

Rating: 5/5


Whisky Island, Fiona Rintoul and Konrad Borkowski, Freight Books, 2016.

A very fine book on the Islay distilleries with an elegant text blended with superb photographs. Konrad Borkowski has his own photographic style, of high quality photographs, with a high contrasted (maybe too much in a few cases). While a lot has been written on these distilleries, Fiona Rintoul present them in a different style, not focusing too much on the technical details or on the history of the distillery, but highlighting their “personality”.
In conclusion, a fine and original book on the Islay distilleries that should appeal to any Islay fans and amateurs of fine photographs.

Rating: 5/5


Whisky Japan: The Essential Guide to the Word’s most exotic whisky, Dominic Roskrow, Kodansha, 2016

Japanese whiskies are now very sought after whiskies and selling out, for most them, in matter of hours or days, when and if you can find them. In this nicely and richly illustrated book, Dominic retraces the history of the whisky industry in Japan, provides short summaries on the whisky distilleries, a chapter on tasting notes (with most of them on collectors). The section on the whisky making is a good introduction to the Japanese whiskies, otherwise, it is rather superficial and for someone whisking to understand better the differences between the Scotch and Japanese whisky production, he/she might be disappointed, as this book was written mainly as an introduction to the Japanese whisky scene. The Japanese whisky bars and the bars around the world include a selection of bars selling Japanese whiskies (but not two of my favourites whisky bars in Tokyo).
If you do not know well the Japanese whiskies, or their productions, this is a very good starting book. If you want something more advanced, they you might short of your expectations.

Rating: 4/5 for the novice, 3/5 for the advanced whisky enthusiast.

Whisky Guide Schweiz 2017, Patrick Tilke, Medienbotschaft Verlag, 2016

The first contact with the new 2017 Edition of the Swiss Whisky Guide from Patrick Tilke is very pleasant. Of similar size as the famous Malt Whisky book of Michael Jackson, the cover is slightly rubbery allowing fitting well in your hands. The layout is very clear, modern and with excellent photographs. The first chapter is composed of several articles about the evolution of the Swiss whisky scene, how to taste whisky and whisky treks, in addition to a lexicon. The part about the whisky distillery has expanded to reflect the growing number of Swiss distilleries. The Swiss bar and Swiss whisky retailers section expanded as well,  as the author visited new shops and bars, especially in the Western (French speaking) part of Switzerland. The book is already over 320 pages and as the Swiss whisky scene is rather dynamic, I would not be surprised if it will continue to growth over the next years. The book is currently available only in German and one could hope to see in the future a version in French?
The work is remarkable, well done and of very high quality. Several books could take example on this one.

Rating: 5/5


Malt Whisky Yearbook 2017, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media,

The first sections of the Malt Whisky Yearbook include several articles written by most of the known whisky writers.  I found the article from Gavin D Smith on the grain whisky very “refreshing”, on how the grain whisky has evolved the last years. Charles MacLean already wrote this year two articles about the history of Diageo, but I liked this one even better, as it is concise and very comprehensive.  Ian Buxton does not mind being an elephant in the whisky business by challenging the current PR statements about the “scarcity” and “rarity” of the old malts. I somehow miss the key message of Neil Ridley’s article on the Millennial general. The other articles were well written.
Reading through the “Malt Distilleries”, I was impressed on how much is going in Scotland about single malts. In addition, there was a marked improvement with the new photographs, which are more modern and professional than the previous versions. Well done!
The section about independent bottlers can be interesting; unfortunately, it is not exhaustive and short. On the other hand, one my favourite section, the Year that was provides a very good and comprehensive summary of what happened in the last 12 months. A must read section.

In conclusion, the malt whisky yearbook maintains its high quality, and the change of photographs in the malt distilleries is a welcomed improvement. This is perfect Christmas gift for any whisky enthusiast, novice and expert. Do not be surprised if you see your whisky retailer consulting it to answer your questions!

Rating: 5/5


Whisky à la carte, Bob Minnekeer and Stefaan Van Laere, Lannoo, 2004 (French)

Written by Bob Minnekeer and Stefaan Van Laere, the book starts with an introduction about whisky and whisky tasting, before presenting food dishes with whisky made by three Belgian chefs (Stef Roesebeck, Guy Van Cauteren, Lieven Lootens). The photographs are excellent, as we for cooking books, with nice close up. Deliciously tasty. About 30 recipes are presented, for entrée, main dish and dessert as well. The recipes do not look too difficult. As whisky meals with whisky are starting to become rather popular, this book might be of interest to you, if you can read some French. Unfortunately, no English versions are available.

Rating: 5/5

1815-2015- 200 years of Laphroaig, Marcel van Gils and Hans Offringa, Conceptual Continuity, 2015

Published for the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Laphroaig distillery, this is the second book from the Dutch duo. The layout from the first book was very good, and it further improved in this one. It is richly illustrated and the quality of the numerous photographs (unfortunately, mostly without any legends) is excellent. The content and structure of the book is different, as the writing style. While the first one was detailed on the history of the distillery, with numerous pages on the various bottles, this one is written from a broader public, with an introduction about the whisky distillation process and a stronger emphasis on the people behind the whisky, with interviews from the distillery managers from the last 5 decades, as well as from the current employee workers. A few pages about the friends of Laphroaig complement it. A very well made and pleasant book, different and complementary to The Legend of Laphroaig.

Rating: 5/5


Scotch Missed - The Original Guide to the Lost Distilleries of Scotland, Brian Townsend, Angel's share, 4th Edition, 2015

Often, new versions of a book consist in updating some text, adding a few new photographs and changing the layout. In this case, the change compared to the third version is substantially more important. The book size and page number has increased, old images of the layouts of the distilleries from the Ordnance Survey maps included, new illustrations photographs, a few more lost distilleries added and the text mainly rewritten. If you are looking for any reference book about the lost distilleries of Scotland, this is the book you must have. Research has been very extensive and if you owned the previous version, you should seriously considering acquiring this new version, as this is almost a new book.

Rating: 5/5


Stillhouse Stories Tunroom Tales, Gavin D. Smith, 2013, Angel’s share.

This book is a very nice collection of interview of whisky men, covering all the aspects of the whisky production, from the turning of the malt on the floor maltings until the bottling of the final product, as single malts or blended Scotch, narrating the evolution of this industry from the end of the 1960s until today. Gavin Smith arranged them nicely, while also introducing the contextual situation. As I have personally met and/or interviewed a few of them, this brings me back some very good memories. Nevertheless, anyone interested in gaining a historical perspective of the changes in the industry over the last decades should enjoy reading it.

Rating: 5/5


The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, Carol Peachee, The University Press of Kentucky, 2015

This is not a history book about the old distilleries in Kentucky, but a collection of photographs from lost distilleries in the Kentucky such as the Old Taylor Distillery, James E. Pepper or the Old Crow. As for the work of Ian Macilwain and his Bottled History, the work is focused on the details of the whisky buildings and rusty equipment. The photographs with their high dynamic  tone range and saturation suggest the intensive use of the High Dynamic Range (HDR). In any case, the result is impressive, showing the skills of Carol Peachee to capture the light and turning mundane details in art. A true photographic art book, with all photographs of the highest quality. Simply impressive. A must have for any whisky enthusiast with an interest in photography.
Very well done Carol!

Rating: 5/5

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