- Print Length: 256 Pages
- Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
- Publication Date: October 21, 2014
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00KLNAJ4S
- ISBN-10: 1612123015
- ISBN-13: 978-1612123011
- File Format: PDF, EPUB
Pour a stiff drink and crack open this comprehensive guide to everything there is to know about the world’s greatest whiskeys. Exploring the traditions behind bourbon, Scotch, Irish, and even Japanese whiskey, you’ll discover how unique flavors are created through variations of ingredients and different distilling techniques. With advice on how to collect, age, and serve whiskey, as well as suggestions for proven food pairings, you’ll be inspired to share your knowledge and invite your friends over for a delicious whiskey tasting party.
Tasting Whiskey: great for novices and know-it-alls
On the front cover of Lew Bryson’s Tasting Whiskey, there’s a quote from the whiskey writer Charles Cowdery: “I shouldn’t say this is the only whiskey book you need, but it probably is.” I don’t know if I’d go so far, but I will say this much: this is the book you want and need if you’re just starting out in whiskey.
Bryson maps the major styles of whiskey, from bourbon to rye to Canadian, from Irish to Scotch to Japanese, and from craft to the various world whiskeys, from growing markets such as India and Taiwan. He describes what sets the various styles apart from one another; so, for example, he details the grains that are in each style, the barrels it’s aged in, the climates and warehouses that hold it, and the length of time its aged.
Scotch, for example, is made primarily or exclusively from malted barley; it’s aged in used barrels (normally bourbon, but with some sherry and other wine casks tossed in for additional flavor); it ages in a cooler climate that enables longer aging; and it can age for up to 30 years or more without getting too woody.
Bourbon, conversely, is made primarily from corn, with other grains in the mix to add accent flavors; it ages in new oak barrels that impart more woodiness than do scotch’s used barrels; it ages in a warmer climate that ages it more rapidly than Scotland’s cooler climate; and therefore, it usually reaches its peak at roughly 10-12 years.
Each individual style is different, and Bryson masterfully explains how those differences affect the flavors of the finished product.
Every whiskey drinker starts somewhere. I started with bourbon and moved to scotch and then rye and on to other styles. When I started drinking scotch, I couldn’t begin to understand what made it unique until I started reading books that helped me puzzle it all out. Tasting Whiskey is such a book.
Its other strength is the infographics that Bryson uses to illustrate some rather complicated concepts. I write about whiskey, and so I know that it’s not always easy to describe, in words, the effects of barrel aging, or how barrel placement in a warehouse affects how quickly or slowly the whiskey ages. Bryson’s infographics demonstrate these concepts concisely and thoroughly.
After describing the major styles, Bryson then provides advice on how to drink the stuff, in an enjoyable chapter on water, ice, and cocktails. Is it okay to drink your whiskey with a bit of water? Bryson tells you. On the rocks or neat? He has some answers for that as well. Cocktails? Of course! What I enjoyed about this chapter was how conversational and story-oriented it was. No recipes at all, just a description of how to make a damn good Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
If you’re new to whiskey, and you need a friendly guide to the topic, Bryson’s book is for you. But if you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ll still find this book to be enjoyable and useful. I learned quite a bit from it.