An old bottle of Scotch whisky by Highland Park

----- Below you can find a few publications that I personally found to be very useful in
---- enhancing my understanding and appreciation of Scotch whisky. The text on a lot
--- of the pages of Malt Madness follows my meandering stream of consciousness, so
-- many pages tend to go on and on. I've tried to keep a sharper focus this time, so
- here's a relatively short and sweet top ten list of the finest Scotch whisky books,
 or at least the whisky books that I know of and that are (relatively) widely available.
And keep in mind that most books are cheaper than most bottles of whisky - and they last longer...

----- I used to devour at least three to four books a week, but I have to admit that my
---- reading habits changed quite radically after I discovered the wonders of the world
--- wide web in 1995. More than a decade passed by, during which I hardly read any
-- novels at all. And If I did read a book, there was a 50% chance that the subject of
- that book was whisky. So, I must've read at least a hundred whisky books now...
At some point it occurred to me that it might be helpful if I shared some thoughts.
 
Over the years, I've written a bunch of whisky book reviews for my Liquid Log and
 my Liquid Blog - but those book reviews are spread out over a few hundred (b)log
- entries. So, then it occurred to me that some of the visitors of Malt Madness might
 find an overview of the best whisky books useful. Therefor you are now looking
at such an overview of books on whisky - or at least a selection of my favourites.  

Top 10 whiskey books

(But first, let me stress once more that this is just a purely personal selection of books which only represents my current opinion)
  

  • 01) Malt Whisky Yearbook edited by Ingvar Ronde  (Although one could argue it's not really a book.)
  • 02) World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom  (First published in 2010, but already a classic. Excellent!)
  • 03) The Making of Scotch Whisky by J. R. Hume & R. S. Moss  (By far the oldest work on this list. )
  • 04) Peat, Smoke & Spirit by Andrew Jefford  (Fantastic, but not really a 'reference' type of book.)
  • 05) MacLean's Miscellany of Whisky by Charles MacLean  (A fairly unique little whisky book.)
  • 06) Malt Whisky Companion by the late Michael Jackson  (Still the template for an overall handbook.)
  • 07) The Malt Whisky File by J. Lamond & R. Tucek  (In all fairness, they probably invented the format.)
  • 08) The World's Best Whiskies by Dominic Roskrow  (A recent publication that offers great value.)
  • 09) Whisky Classified by David Wishart  (The value of this book lies in figuring out what's wrong.)
  • 10) Whisky Encyclopaedia by Michael Jackson  (Although you don't really NEED it if you have #1 or 2.)
     

Dave Broom's World Atlas of WhiskyI've put the "Malt Whisky Yearbook" at the top of the list, because
I think that it offers the best value for the widest possible audience.
Especially for beginners, the Malt Whisky Yearbook offers almost
everything they'll need to aid them during their first shaky steps into
the confusing world of whisky. On the other hand, as a yearbook it
also has a 'shelf life' of only one year. While most other hard cover
whisky books can be proudly displayed on the bookshelves for
decades to come, the yearbook becomes just a little more obsolete
with every day that passes. So, in that sense it's almost more like
a magazine than a book. Nevertheless, it still offers great value!

Dave Broom's World Atlas of Whisky is the first runner-up on the list
of my personal favourite whisky books. And that's not just because it's
the most impressive book on my shelves - Michael Jackson's "Whisky
Encyclopaedia"
and Dominic Roskrow's "The World's Best Whiskies" are
comparable in size. Just like the name 'atlas' suggests, this is a book
that looks at the whisky distilleries of the world from a 'geographic'
point of view. That means that all distilleries are combined into
regional groups. The Scotland part covers roughly 65% of the book,
but the rest of the world is covered in detail too.

The photography is stunning and the same goes for the large, detailed whisky maps.
Although the focus of this book isn't so much on tasting notes, Dave has tasted at least one expression from every distillery and whisky brand that is discussed. All in all, it's a pretty fantastic book that deserves a sweet spot in anybody's whisky collection. The same goes for The Making of Scotch Whisky by J. R. Hume & R. S. Moss. However, I've put that standard work at #3 on my list of favourite whisky books for different reasons. This book gives a fascinating look into the Scotch whisky industry around 1980. The first edition was published in 1981 to commemorate the centenary of the Bruichladdich distillery. And this book also offers a look even further into the past; a Scotch Whisky Industry Report with a little information on hundreds of closed and long forgotten distilleries like Abbeyhill, Aberfoyle, Anchoragan, Ballintomb, Barkmill, etcetera.
 

Peat Smoke & SpiritIt's not necessary to have visited the windswept island of Islay to enjoy Andrew Jefford's Peat, Smoke & Spirit - but it doesn't hurt either. Any book about an island with more than half a dozen malt whisky distilleries can't escape the topic, but the book goes far beyond the water of life. Because the writer includes topics like the history, the geography and the people of the island in the book, it really helps one to fall in love with an island off the Western coast of Scotland. It's a very different type of book than most of the - mostly - 'reference' type books on this page.
 
Fellow malt maniac Charlie MacLean has written many wonderful books on whisky; my personal favourite is MacLean's Miscellany of Whisky . That's because it's the perfect companion piece to the other whisky books at the top of my reading list. It covers a lot of the "smaller" interesting topics that the other whisky books have to gloss over, like the history of whisky bottles. For example, did you know that bottles were very expensive when they were introduced in the 17th century - and that there's a difference between "serving bottles" and "binning bottles"? Or that the word "butler" comes from the word "bottler", because that's what they used to do in the old days. MacLean's Miscellany of Whisky is filled with light-hearted yet interesting information about almost two dozen other whisky related topics.

I'd say that the first five titles on my reading list make up a solid foundation for any whisky book library.
So, if you're a relative novice in the whisky world, spending a little over 100 Euro's on these 5 titles is a sensible investment - especially because there's not too much 'overlap' of information. Together with everything you can find on the web nowadays (like the Beginner's Guide and Distillery Data elsewhere on MM ), these books should help you maximise your enjoyment of every glass of whisky (well, almost ;-) that you'll drink afterwards. But now I'm getting ahead of myself; the reading list goes on for a bit longer...

At the #6 spot of my reading list we find Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion by the late, great whisky author Michael Jackson - "not the pop singer" as he used to joke. If the author had still been with us it probably would have ended up higher on the list, because the format of this pocket book (a blend of general whisky information, tips on how to drink whisky, facts and figures about distilleries and tasting notes) makes it close to perfect for relative beginners in the whisky world. However, recent editions have been put together by other writers, which makes the book in itself a little less interesting for me. Meanwhile, there's an ongoing argument about who actually was the first to publish a whisky book of a similar format. A strong case was made for the whisky book that we can find at the #7 spot; The Malt Whisky File by John Lamond & Robin Tucek. Just like the companion, the Malt Whisky File contains a guide to the regions, nosing and tasting tips, whisky maps, etc. There are a few unique sections as well though, like hints on pronunciation and price indications for bottlings. Despite these differences, it might be best to choose one or the other here.

Dominic Roskow - The World's Best Whiskies 2There's no need to make such a tough decision when it comes to a
fairly recent publication: The World's Best Whiskies by Dominic
Roskrow. It's very well written and features some beautiful
photography, as well as some welcome attention for the glassware
that's used to enjoy whisky. There's one problem though - the title
suggests that the book features the 750 BEST whiskies, but it does
not - unless you agree that Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker Red Label,
Jack Daniels and Slyrs are amongst the best whiskies in the world.
Also, independent bottlings are hardly mentioned. If you are a
relative beginner (or if you want to give a book as a gift to a
potential whisky lover), Dominic's book also provides a great
check list for everybody that's just discovering the whisky world.
 
At #9 (at least for now), is Whisky Classified by David Wishart.
That's odd, because I don't feel like it's a particularly good whisky
book. However, the classification of different whiskies IS an
important aspect of the enjoyment of single malts. In my case, the
crooked logic in this book provoked me to come up with an
alternative system that worked for me; a PERSONAL classification
system rather than a system that was already outdated by the time
I sampled my first malt whisky in 1991.

So, I recommend this latest book mostly for its thought-provoking qualities... ;-)

Last but not least, there's The Whisky Encyclopaedia by Michael Jackson.
This comprehensive standard work on all things Scotch and whisky used to be higher on my reading list, but in recent years a few other whisky books were published that contain fairly similar information. What's more, the data in those books is a little more recent. So although this book of Michael Jackson is a fine piece of work, it's conceivable that its place on this list will be taken by another book eventually...

Ardbeg Scottish whisky from Islay---So, that's it; 10 books to help you find your way around the confusing whisky world.
---Of course, the problem with these types of "Top 10" lists is that there's only room for
---10 entries. There are dozens of other whisky books on my shelves, and I'd recommend
---most of them. Like 'The Business of Spirits' by Noah Rothbaum - it didn't make the top 10,
---but it offers an enlightening look into the business side of the whisky world.

-------After I discovered the internet in 1995, I hardly touched any books for a decade.
-------However, while the world wide web provides access to more information that any
-------book could ever hope to contain, it also requires a computer or smart phone.
-------Books & magazines provide a different experience - and in recent years I've come to
-------appreciate the portability of paper again. Besides, even after tasting a few thousand
-------whiskies in the cold glow of a computer monitor, I must admit that sitting in a comfy
-------chair with a good book and a good glass of whisky simply looks more stylish.
 
-------The scene would probably look even more stylish if I were dressed in a silk smoking
-------jacket with a paisley pattern, but that would not be practical. Well, at least not until
-------I finally add that live webcam feed from my living room to the site...

Anyway, that's "it" as far as whisky books are concerned - check out the sitemap for lots of other topics.

Sweet drams,

Johannes

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