December 31, 2014 - If you want to blame anybody for the fact that the
long awaited ‘Advanced Beginner’s Guide’ still isn’t finished yet, you can
blame Ingvar Ronde. Ever since he published the very first edition of the
inconspicuously titled Malt Whisky Yearbook in 2006, the urge for me
to publish ‘factual’ malt whisky information on-line has been diminished...
Don’t worry - there are still some criticisms and the book doesn’t exactly
cover the topic of malt whisky how I would like to see it covered precisely.
So, Ingvar won’t stop me from launching a lot of fresh stuff on this site in
2015 - but if paper books are your thing, this still offers fantastic value.
The first edition of the Malt Whisky Yearbook did cost £12.95 in 2006.
You wouldn’t think there has been a malt whisky bubble over the past
decade if you look at the price of the 2015 edition - at £13.95 that’s not
exactly something to whop about. Not only has the price increased less
than that of pretty much every single bottle of malt whisky since 2006,
it even beats the inflation!
Did I blame Ingvar for my own tardiness?
Well, that wasn’t exactly fair - so I promise
that I will get back to work on the publication
of the Advanced Beginner’s Guide as soon
as the latest site crash has been resolved.
(Especially of the GBP...)
So, the friendly price puts this book in my good books right away.
But what is the value of the information contained within the pages
of the book? Well, the concept is quite broad, so there’s probably
at least one section that appeals to the reader.
Actually, as whisky books go, the malt whisky yearbook almost feels more like a magazine
than a book - if only due to the paperback cover. A very hefty and glossy magazine, but still...
And just like a magazine, it doesn’t feel as ‘timeless’ as a hard cover book. But that’s not really
a problem, because (ceteris paribus) there will be fresh and updated version again next year.
Of course I have gripes! Where would I be without my gripes?
But those are mostly gripes from the perspective of a Scotch malt whisky anorak.
For relative novices and casual malt whisky drinkers, the malt whisky yearbook offers
pretty much everything that you could want from a ‘yearbook’. Sure, with no more than
a few pages per distillery (at most) not ALL information that the real nerds are looking for
is available on the distillery pages. But that’s why we have the web - and other books.
And the yearbook is actually much BETTER than most whisky magazines, because you don’t
have to suffer through dozens of pages with advertising if you want to read the whisky articles.
And I didn’t detect any native advertising either - the kind of covert advertising that is hidden
in so many ‘news’ articles these days. So, in that respect I’m mostly gripe-free as well...
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve received a free
review copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook.
But if I hadn’t, I would buy one - I’ve always
found it hard to resist a bargain like that.
The book is sold online and at festivals.
This part is pretty straightforward - a handful of ‘longread’ articles about malt whisky.
Just as in previous years, the articles were written by well-known whisky writers like Dominic
Roskrow & Charles MacLean, as well as less established and ‘amateur’ writers & bloggers.
Before I’ll look a little closer at the four sections of the yearbook,
I’d like to clarify my earlier statement that, if you were to buy just
one whisky book this year, it should be this one.
I would actually recommend buying at least two whisky books
every year. There are many excellent whisky books available that
can enhance your enjoyment of every other glass of whisky you try.
Two whisky books are likely cheaper than your next bottle anyway...
This is still the main portion of the Malt Whisky Yearbook. It is especially useful for
those of us that want to stay informed about developments around Scotch whisky
without subscribing to dozens of different newsletters and whisky magazines.
The closed distilleries like Banff and Brora are listed separately, and the same
goes for ‘upstarts’ like Ailsa Bay and Daftmill. From one perspective, that makes
sense: bottles from closed Scotch distilleries are often hard to find and expensive,
while single malt bottlings from recently opened distilleries are unavailable, period.
For every (active) Scotch malt whisky distillery there’s a green column that lists
some of the ‘essential credentials’; region, ownership, production capacity, etc.
There’s also a chronological overview of the history of the distillery.
However, this doesn’t make it easy to find Scotch malt whisky distillery information
in the Malt Whisky Yearbook if you’re a (relative) novice. If you locate a very dusty
bottle of Clynelish malt whisky in an attic somewhere and you check the yearbook
for details, you may not realise that it could actually be an ancient Brora bottling.
A - Whisky Writers (+/- 55 pages)
B - Scotch Whisky Distilleries (135 pages)
C - World Whiskies (+/- 75 pages)
D - Other Stuff (a few dozen pages)
The box at the left shows the division of the yearbook contents
as I perceived it - although the book mixes it up a little bit more.
Compared to the 2006 edition, the ‘world whiskies’ segment has
been expanded considerably. In the 2006 edition there were
just two dozen pages with information about whiskies produced
outside Scotland - and half of those were about Japan.
The fact that some people use mobile
phones to visit websites these days is no
reason to ‘dumb down’ websites. I need
every single one of my 1170 pixels, so I
won’t use a ‘responsive’ design here.
This section has grown quite a bit over the past ten years, and that makes sense as well.
For decades, only distillers from Japan came close to rivalling the craftsmanship displayed by Scotch whisky makers.
Not any more - in recent years distillers from countries like India, Taiwan and Tasmania have been making waves.
The yearbook looks in great depth at malt whisky production around the world - even small, artisanal projects.
I imagine this section will be even bigger next year...
Don’t let the fact that I lumped all the other stuff together fool you.
There are some very useful other pages in the yearbook, like an
overview of all Scotch whisky distillery owners and the statistics on
Scotch production at the very end of the Malt Whisky Yearbook.
Well, not the VERY end, actually...
The inside of the back cover is reserved for the only clear advertisement that I could detect in the entire book.
Some people might argue that ANY advert in a book that you have to pay for is one too many, but as long as things
don’t get any worse than this, I can certainly live with it. After all, you have to pay for most magazines as well, and
those are usually full of adverts and advertorials as well. And blatant advertising is better than native advertising...
Besides - the Malt Madness site has been kept alive (and free) this long thanks to advertisers as well.
But those advertisers won’t like it that most of this website is in the crapper at the moment - so I guess that I should
get back to work on the crashed webpages. Some can be refreshed soon, but others will take quite a bit longer.
The Malt Madness site has hundreds of pages, so the reconstruction process will take me AT LEAST six months.
So, you might as well order a copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook to keep yourself entertained until it’s safe to
browse around Malt Madness again. Or check out the sitemap or Twitter if you really can’t wait that long... ;-)