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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on Whisk(e)y I have ever read
I consider myself a connoisseur of only two things; sushi and whisky. This might seem like an odd combination, but Scotland and Japan are the two countries I have lived in besides my native US, and I gained a deep appreciation for both traditions. And make no mistake, Japan is whisky country. In fact, the finest single malt whisky in the world is made in Japan. Don't...
Published on April 23, 2010 by Zack Davisson

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3 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars thin in taste
bits & pieces here & there; i can't remember much in the book, except the first couple of chapters.
Published on September 6, 2010 by Leung Hoi Tung


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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on Whisk(e)y I have ever read, April 23, 2010
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
I consider myself a connoisseur of only two things; sushi and whisky. This might seem like an odd combination, but Scotland and Japan are the two countries I have lived in besides my native US, and I gained a deep appreciation for both traditions. And make no mistake, Japan is whisky country. In fact, the finest single malt whisky in the world is made in Japan. Don't believe me? Just take a look inside "Whiskey and Philosophy."

What is "Scotch" anyways? What is "whisky?" (Or "whiskey", if you prefer. A debate in and of itself.) These are some fundamental questions that have not really been asked. By law, Scotch must be produced in Scotland, but if you take all the same ingredients and techniques, move them to another country and produce a product that is indistinguishable and in fact superior to the original (as Japan did), what do you call it? How much can you change the ingredients before what in your bottle is no longer considered whisky? Can you add flavorings and colors as has been done to vodka? And what is meant by a "great" whisky? Isn't it just a question of personal taste? Is there such a thing as a perfect "Platonic" Manhattan, or is variety the spice of life? Is drinking whisky a feminist statement? And how does Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle factor into all this?

These, and more, are the kinds of questions asked in "Whiskey and Philosophy." In fact almost no stone is left unturned. Even the title, willfully choosing the "e" spelling denoting bourbon, is a conscious choice supported by debate. For too long, authors Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams say in the introduction, the American-made whiskeys like bourbon and rye have been considered lower-shelf than their overseas cousins the Scotch and the Irish. Bourbon was a drunkard's tipple, dumped in with coke to mask the taste, and not something to be praised alone. With the very title of the book that sought to change that.

There are five units in total, with several articles in each waxing historical, philosophical or political about the water of life. Some, like Andrew Jefford's "Scotch Whisky: From Origins to Conglomerates" go a long way to bursting some popular bubbles about Scotch whisky. Although appreciators like to pat themselves on the back for their refined tastes, but in reality 90% of scotch whiskey produced gets dumped into those distained blended Scotches which still account for the vast amount of sales of Scotch whisky. Only 10% is bottled and sold as Single Malt. The illusion of a hand-crafted product from wind-swept shores is also shattered with images of modern production facilities and a Master Distiller whose job involves more button-pushing on complex machines rather than nosing a glass and wistfully bidding goodbye to the Angel's Share. Other fantastic articles like Ian J. Dove's "What do Tasting Notes Tell Us?" talks about the subjective nature of all those "overtones of clove and heather" or "scents of fruit at the market" -type of talk you see in tasting books. Should we feel bad if we can't separate the sensations? Richard Menary thinks so, in his article "The Virtuous Whisky Drinker and Living Well" who makes the separation between "virtuous" drinkers who study the product and refine their skills, with those who merely imbibe for alcoholic pleasure. (A split I thought summed up very well in Chasing the White Dog when it was said that "sometimes I am tasting, but sometimes I am just drinking.")

Many of the articles on Scotch focused on Islay, which was fine with me as that is my favorite whisky region, but even then there is some myth-busting going on. Labels like Laphroaig are in fact owned by large spirit conglomerates like Fortune Brands, and while the whisky is distilled on Islay it is actually aged over on the mainland so there is very little opportunity for that "lashed by the sea" taste to creep in during the aging process. When you make your whisky choice, you are buying marketing and an image as much as you are buying the spirit itself.

Some of these essays got me thinking. Some of them confused me. Some of them ticked me off. Which is exactly the correction reaction for a book like this. There were a few, I must confess, which bored me. Ada Brustein's "Women, Whiskey and Libationary Liberation" with its comments on feminism and whiskey drinking didn't do much for me, but I am probably not the target audience. "Whisky and the Wild" by Jason Kawall attempting to apply biological genus/species categorization and wondering whether diversity of product inherently improves the market took the metaphor a bit far for me, as did Dave Monroe's musings on the ability of whiskey to "make a man mean" in "Nasty Tempers: Does Whiskey Make People Immoral?" Christ Bunting's history of "Japanese Whisky" was one of my favorites, as was Harvey Siegel's personal memoir on finding the spot in Scoland "Where the Fiddich Meets the Spey."

"Whiskey and Philosophy" is part of a series of books, including Wine and Philosophy and Food and Philosophy. This is a truly spectacular book, and a gift to whisky aficionados everywhere. If there is someone who loves whisky, I couldn't imagine them not wanting to have a copy of "Whiskey and Philosophy" in their library.

The only possible complaint I have about this book is I wish I could have been a contributor instead of just a reader! You can't read something like this without your own ideas popping into your head. Ah well, maybe when it is time for "Sushi and Philosophy" to come out...
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whisky or Whiskey?, December 20, 2009
By 
Steven A. Peterson (Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL)) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
At the outset, this book captures one's interest. In the opening pages, we learn that even the spelling of the subject matter of this book is an issue (At one point, the editors note that they had tho0ught of calling the book "Whisk(e)y & Philosophy" to account for that; they were talked out of doing this, though). First, let me confess. I am not much of a whisky drinker. I once wrote a review in a DK volume on the subject, and--out of curiosity--ended up investing in a bottle of Glenfiddich. To my surprise, I really enjoyed a sip here and there (however, the one small bottle lasted several months). Thus, I was curious about this volume when I saw it advertised.

This book is, in short, a lot of fun! It takes the subject seriously but also has fun with it. In the Foreword, the editors note what is at stake in this book (Page ix): "[Whiskey] is far more than liquor in a bottle: it embodies tradition and high craft, social history and topography, poetry and song. In other words, it comes with a pedigree. . . ." This book focuses on the various aspects of whiskey. Part I explores the history and culture of whiskey; Part II considers the beauty and experience of whiskey; Part III examines, believe it or not, the metaphysics and epistemology of whiskey; Part IV looks at ethics and whiskey. The final part reverts to the other spelling, "Whisky: A Sense of Place."

The book is an edited volume with a score or so of authors of individual chapters. Let's take a look at some of these to get a sense of the contents and approach. The very first chapter in Part I is a nice history of Scotch Whisky. It asks whether Scotch whisky is an agricultural or industrial product, leading to an interesting analysis. It speaks of the role of casks, how to achieve consistency, and the role of the conglomerate in production and marketing. The very next chapter examines what to me seemed like an exotic issue--the terms provenance and authenticity with Scotch. However, the discussion is engaging and adds to one's understanding of the culture of whisky. The second part of the book concludes with another engaging piece, entitled "Where the Fiddich Meets the Spey: My Religious Experience." The metaphysics and epistemology of Whiskey? Dalton's chapter, "Heisenberg's Spirits: Tasting Is More Uncertain Than It Seems" digs into the question (Page 196): "Are some whiskeys better than others?" His answer turns on the next phrase, in which he invokes Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (from physics) (Page 196): "I will show in the following sections that the question encompasses not just the whiskey but also the person tasting it. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and how it relates to the taster/tasted system will be discussed." Again, much fun!

In the final section, there is a chapter on Japanese whiskey. What delights me about this is the use of postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard, to consider the evolution of Japanese whiskey. The simple fact that Baudrillard is used fascinates; the application of his concept of simulacra/simulations is enchanting!

All in all, a fun book. If interested in the many perspectives on whiskey, this is worth a read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speyside, Highland, and Islay... oh my!, December 1, 2009
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
With the completion and production of Whiskey and Philosophy, the Epicurean Trilogy (Wine/Food/Beer and Philosophy) has become a series. Unlike the other three this book seems to use philosophy more as a tool to analyze and enhance the experience of drinking and thinking about whiskey, than using whiskey as a tool to enter into the world of philosophy. Though, as the title suggests you get a unique blend of both. If you like to drink good whiskey, if you like to think about whiskey, or if you don't know what good whiskey is, then you should read this book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to be savored one sip at a time, January 20, 2010
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
For reasons that I won't get into here I did not start drinking until I was 25. This delay allowed me to by-pass the experiences of all night keg parties, Jello-shots and drinking solely for the effect. When I finally gave in to spirits it was for sociability and taste, which led me first to the cocktail. After finding that many of them were devised as ways to mask the taste of the alcohol (which I discovered can be dangerous) I quickly moved to whiskey with water and ice. The whiskey was Canadian but I soon gravitated to blended Scotch and even before I was in my 30's I was enjoying Single Malts straight or with a tad of water. In the following decades I have tasted bottles of Single Malts from well over a hundred distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the US. and have given lectures at cigar clubs, restaurants and bars on the pleasures of whisky.

When I got the chance to receive this book, Whiskey & Philosophy, I jumped at it. I was eager to read it and to add it to my good-sized library of books on alcoholic beverages, Scotch in particular. This book is divided into five "Units" with three to five essays each, all by different authors. They are:

Unit 1 - The History and Culture of Whiskey

1. Scotch Whisky: From Origins to Conglomerates by Andrew Jefford
2. Provenance and Authenticity: The Dual Myths of Scotch by Ian Buxton
3. The Heritage of Scotch Whisky: From Monks to Surgeon Barbers by David Wishart
4. Women, Whiskey, and Libationary Liberation by Ada Brunstein
5. The Manhattan and You: Thinking about a Classic Whiskey Cocktail by Hans Allhoff

Unit 2 - The Beauty and Experience of Whiskey

6. Whiskey, Whisky, Wild Living, and the Hedonistic Paradox by Robert Arp
7. What to Drink? Why We Choose the Bourbons We Do by Mark H. Waymack
8. The Phenomenoloy of Spirits: How Do Whiskeys Win Prizes? by Douglas Burnham and Ole Martin Skilleas
9. The Ideal Scotch: Lessons from Hegel by Thom Brooks
10. Where the Fiddich Meets the Spey: My religious Experience by Harvey Siegel

Unit 3 - The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Whiskey

11. As a Good Bartender Might: Whiskey and Natural Kinds by Thomas W. Polger
12. Heisenberg's Spirits: Tasting is More Uncertain Than It Seems by Jerry O. Dalton
13. One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Buddhist Theory of No-Self by Steven Geisz
14. What Do Tasting Notes Tell Us? by Ian Dove

Unit 4 - Ethics and Whiskey

15. The Virtuous Whiskey Drinker and Living Well by Richard Menary
16. Nasty Tempers: Does Whiskey Make People Immoral? by Dave Monroe
17. Whiskey and the Wild: On Preserving Methods and Distilleries by Jason Kawall

Unit 5 - Whisky: A Sense of Place

18. Peat and Seaweed: The Expressive Character of Islay Whiskies by Kevin W. Sweeney
19. Japanese Whisky: "It's Called Queen George and It's More Bitched Up Than Its Name" by Chris Bunting
20. Whisky and Culture: From Islay to Speyside by Susie Pryor and Andrew Martin

The authors run the gambit from academics to lawyers and from ethicists to true whisky-industry professionals (one such professional, Andrew Jefford, is the author of one of my favorite books on Scotch "Peat Smoke and Spirit"). Another thing that I found interesting was the diversity of the authors' drinking habits. Some claim in their bios to only drink cocktails or wine, others are Whiskey connoisseurs and at least one is a teetotaler. This range of familiarity with either philosophy, whiskey, or both is reflected in the essays themselves. Some of my favorite chapters include: the forward by Charles McLean, Ian Buxton's "Provenance and Authenticity" and Harvey Siegel's touching story "Where the Fiddich Meets the Spey". There are many other excellent pieces but there are also a few that had me scratching my head, wondering why they were included at all since the authors' grasp of philosophical discourse greatly outweighed their appreciation for the other half the titular subjects, Whiskey. Still the book is a winner in my opinion, even if a couple of essays seemed to miss the point. The others showed a true love for and understanding of "the water of life".

This is a book that you just don't sit down and read through it in a week or so. I enjoyed it just as I enjoy my whisky, in a quiet room, at the end of the day, and a little at a time.

DISCLAIMER: Although I was not paid for this review the book was given to me by the editors in the hope that I would review it. Thank you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brand Ambassador's Opinion, December 27, 2010
By 
Charles Swett (Moravia, Costa Rica) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
As Brand Ambassador for a Major Scotch Whisky Brand I have discovered a treasure trove of quips, quotes and anecdotes for my whisky tasting presentations. No more "cut and Paste" phrases, New life for a stately, traditional and extremely anthropological, while spiritual art form.
My copy is brand new and already heavily dog-eared, expecting to be a lot more so as time goes by.
Charles Swett,
Brand Ambassador
Johnnie Walker
for Costa Rica
(and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfaction!, June 15, 2014
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This is an informative and fun read. Skip around, read the entries, have a dram, and learn a little about your favorite libation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, September 3, 2012
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This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
Book was in great condition. It is a very interesting book. Kind of a different out look on whiskey and the ideas that come along with it. Pretty neat
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining book, great gift!, August 28, 2012
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This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
I gave this book to my husband along with a bottle of his favorite scotch. We haven't read the book yet, but a quick flip through its pages proved very entertaining! Shipping was fast and the book was in perfect condition when it arrived.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Whisky? Then You'll Love Whiskey & Philosophy., December 13, 2009
This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
Whiskey & Philosophy is the first of its kind among whisky books and the fourth in a series that also explores food, beer, and wine.

Like earlier books in the series, Whiskey & Philosophy includes essays by a seemingly incongruent mix of contributors: whisky writers slightly uncomfortable with philosophical concepts, and academics with the simulacra of connoisseurship that some readers may naïvely mistake for real (but not whisky buffs like you and I, wink, wink). Perhaps it's this tension that makes the book work so well as each contributor brings new and enlightening thoughts to a whisky conversation the editors skillfully synthesize into a cohesive and thought-provoking unit.

Whiskey & Philosophy is divided into five sections: The history and culture of whiskey, the beauty and experience of whiskey, the metaphysics and epistemology of whiskey, ethics and whiskey, and whiskey and a sense of place. Each essay provides an engaging first read, though many bear contemplation and reflection.

Whether you're curled up by the fireplace with your favourite dram or sprawled in a chaise lounge with a CC and ginger, this is a book whisky aficionados will go back to time and again both for entertainment and for intellectual stimulation.

A full review will be posted on the Malt Maniacs website after Christmas (2009).
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3 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars thin in taste, September 6, 2010
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This review is from: Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Paperback)
bits & pieces here & there; i can't remember much in the book, except the first couple of chapters.
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Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas
Whiskey and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas by Fritz Allhoff (Paperback - October 1, 2009)
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