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Michael Jackson's Complete Guide To Single Malt Scotch 4th Ed Hardcover – November 30, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 167 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, devotees of the dram can peruse the latest revised edition of the 1989 work. In 336 pages brimming with maps, photos, and informed overview of factors such as geography and flavor components--even proximity to the sea--Jackson sketches the evolution of Scotch whisky, from the prebottling days, when shopkeepers like Johnnie Walker and the Chivas Brothers would create their own blends for sale, to the late-1960s and 1970s' surge of individual distilleries marketing their own bottlings. Lamentably labeling the former as a time when "orchestrations drowned out the soloists," Jackson provides some sweet sheet music of his own: 294 pages are devoted to an A-to-Z review (including full-color labels and tasting notes) of more than 800 singles from "every Scottish malt distillery that has ever witnessed its product in a bottle." It's the perfect book to take to your local liquor store next time you're trying to navigate the high shelf of Scotland's highlands, lowlands, and islands. You may laugh at Jackson's description of Auchentoshan Select's "oily" nose with "hints of citrus zest" or Aberlour 10-year-old's "mint-toffee" bouquet. But you'll be laughing out of the other side of your haggis when you actually smell them. All the notes are well researched and designed to appeal to Cardhu-carrying connoisseurs, as well as those who'd just like to know more about Bowmore. In his introduction, the author describes a whisky's finish as "a crescendo, followed by a series of echoes. When I leave the bottle, I like to be whistling the tune." Scotch drinkers will find plenty to wet that whistle in Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch. --Tony Mason

About the Author

As the world’s bestselling writer on whiskey, Michael Jackson needs no introduction. He was renowned for his pithy wisdom and a remarkable ability to evoke aromas and flavors. Jackson wrote many books on this subject and won many awards, including the André Simon Award and the 1999 Glenfiddich Drinks Writer of the Year. He was twice honored by Malt Advocate Magazine as “Industry Leader of the Year” and elected the first chairman of the Guild of Beer writers in France, Germany, and Belgium. He also contributed to a variety of publications, including The Independent and Whisky Magazine. He passed away in 2007.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; 4th edition (November 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076240731X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762407316
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(This is a review of the latest 6th Edition, published in 2010)

Michael Jackson died in 2007 and his book had not been updated since 2004. The malt whisky industry has changed greatly since then. The goal of these three editors was to update Michael's classic book while trying to do it as he would have himself.

The layout of the book is in alphabetical order by distillery. There is a short half-page introduction to each distillery, a sentence on the distillery's house style, followed by very short reviews and ratings of several whiskies from the distillery. Many reviews also include a picture of the bottle label. The beginning of the book starts with a general introduction to whisky, left mostly untouched from how Michael wrote it.

The editors say that their goal was to keep as many of Michael's original reviews as possible, while updating them with reviews of new whiskies and removing outdated whiskies. The introduction says that two-thirds of the reviews are new, but I also found many of Michael's iconic tasting notes still in the book. The authors have intentionally changed very little in The Macallan section due to Michael's special affection for The Macallan, although they have added reviews of the Fine Oak series.

When it came to reviewing the whiskies, the editors say that they tried to stay true to Michael's style. This means that the reviews are terse, ratings are rarely above 85, and also that the editors tried to put aside their own opinions of the whiskies and tried to rate them as Michael would have (based on their reading of his past reviews). They spent 18 months updating the book, each working on reviewing separate distilleries without consulting each other on the reviews.
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Format: Hardcover
I consider myself an above-average (although by no means an expert) fan of Scottish single malts, and I own several books on the subject. I find "Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch" to be the most comprehensive, intelligible and above-all useful book in my whisky library.
While no book can take the place of sitting down and doing some tastings, buying whisky by the glass for tasting can be prohibitively expensive. If you are buying by the bottle, it becomes an even greater investment, and figuring out your individual tastes will be a considerable investment. Michael Jackson's guide goes a long way in the selection process, leading you to the whiskys most likely to meet your pallet. Each whisky is outlined, explained and graded. It will at least give you an idea of what to expect when approaching an unfamiliar label.
This book definitely falls into the "If you only own one book about single malt..." category.
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Format: Hardcover
As a novice Scotch drinker, I often found myself in the local liquor store standing in front of the whisky displays feeling a little like Sir Edmund Hillary before Everest- wondering just where to start. Scotch, like wine or music, is an incredibly personal thing, and there are numerous brands to appeal to a wide array of palates. By my ignorance hasn't cost me, because I tend to buy what I already know I like rather than risk forty of fifty dollars on a malt that I won't like. So, rather than risk money on a malt that will just sit on the shelf, I tend to only buy various Glenmorragie, Glenfiddich, etc. In restaurants I always seem to be stuck with the 12 year old Glenlivet, since liquor barons Seagrams seems to have control of every restaurant's alcohol supply. And while on a day trip to Stillwater, Minnesota we ate a restaurant that had an impressive list of Scotches, (I consider any more than 3 or 4 types impressive), and I tried a 15 year old Glenkeith that amazed me.
It finally dawned on me that after nearly a year of conservative tasting, i.e. not going beyond what I have listed above, that perhaps I need an expert opinion. Michael Jackson's "Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotches" seems to fit the bill nicely. Inside are personal reviews of over 800 Scotches from Scotland and Ireland, plus a brief history of Scotch is discussed. To my chagrin, Jackson seems to have taste for peatier Islay malts like Laphroaig and Talisker, malts that I have yet to mature enough to enjoy. He does give high marks to what I already drink, with the Glenmorangies scoring in the 80's on a scale of 100. The Scotches he seems to most enjoy are those bottled by the MaCallan in the Speyside region. And again the MaCallan's seem to have an abundance of peat.
Overall, though, the book is marvelous.
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Format: Hardcover
The discovery by Americans of single-malt whisky back in the 80's and 90's was one of the most interesting stories in the food and beverage market ever. This event by itself probably prevented a number of distilleries from closing, and several, such as the great Ardbeg, which had been moth-balled, were perhaps reopened as a result.
Some great but lesser known malts, like Edradour, found new appreciation for their tiny output abroad. Edradour, for example, produces less in a year than some distilleries do in a week, like Tomatin (the Edradour distillery only has 3 employees and only makes 2 barrels a week). Others, such as the Islays like Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Bowmore, and even the oddly dual-natured Caol Isla, with its both sweetish and phenolic character, were already known in Scotland but garnered new fans here in America. As in Scotland, the Islays are not to everybody's taste, but I know people here who will hardly touch a drop of anything else--an amazing testament to the enthusiasm that has developed in America even for the stronger and more exotic malts. And probably no book did more to make that happen than Jackson's great little books on single-malt scotch.
On a personal note, sometimes even the Scots themselves failed to appreciate how far American sensibilities had come with respect to single malts. I had the experience 20 years ago, when still a young man, of sitting in a bar at the south end of Loch Lommond, and having a well-meaning bartender refuse to serve me some Laphroaig. He insisted on giving me Royal Brackla from an old bottle, itself a great malt.
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