Today’s review is my first in a line of reviews of whiskey publications. For obvious reasons, all sorts of books have been written about whiskey (the obvious reason is that whiskey is a delicious elixir); I will do my best to give some thoughts on some of the whiskey books I have read, and the ones I readily use.
Today’s review is of Whiskey Opus by Gavin D. Smith and Dominic Roskrow with Davin de Kergommeaux and Jürgen Deibel. Published in 2012, Whiskey Opus is a large book, spanning 285 massive pages, covering distilleries from all around the world. Despite the use of the “e” on the cover, the book focuses mostly on Scottish distilleries, although there is significant information on distilleries from other countries as well. The driving force of the book is distillery profiles, complete with the histories, stories, people, and tasting notes. As a result, if you are a fan of blended Scotch whiskeys from different distilleries (Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s, etc.), this book probably will not be up your street unless you are looking to explore beyond blends into the wonderful world of single malts. However, if you are looking to learn more about whiskey and the distilleries that make the wonderful spirit, Whiskey Opus is a great place to start.
For most of the distilleries, the authors (all formidable and experienced whiskey experts) do a good job at providing tasting notes for a variety of whiskeys, giving the reader a good idea of what to expect from each distillery. Of course, there is no substitute for your own palate, but reading the tasting notes of The Dalmore 12 year-old will probably give you a good idea of whether or not you will care for The Dalmore’s house style. The book is best for you if you are someone looking to expand your knowledge of whiskey, and it is a great, easy-access reference guide. The book also has helpful overviews of whiskey-making, whiskey tasting, types of whiskey, and whiskey glassware.
Overall, Whiskey Opus makes for a great reference guide for whiskey drinkers with limited or moderate experience with whiskey. For experienced whiskey drinkers, the facts and anecdotes are interesting, especially for the distilleries you may not have sampled from yet. Whiskey Opus is usually available for about $40, which is a fair price for a reference guide, especially given the amount of information on each distillery and the quality of the authors. There are certainly other reference guides on the market, but this one is thorough without being overbearing. It is easy to use and fun to read. If you see it on the shelf next time you’re in the book store, let it ride! I think you’ll be glad you did.