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The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All: Know Your Booze Before You Choose Board book – October 6, 2015
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From the Publisher
A Conversation with Richard Betts
We chat with the best-selling author of The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert about tasting 500 whiskeys for his new book, training your nose, and more
After the success of your previous book on wine, what made you decide on whiskey for this one?
Our contribution to food, wine and drink literature is very much about making it inclusive, democratic and easy. Whiskey is an area of much enthusiasm and yet it remains a broad and varied topic without an easy, empowering guide. We’re not here to say this is the end-all be-all historic tome, or that we’re the world’s foremost whiskey experts, instead we’re here with a unique methodology that breaks down the topic into easy to understand pieces that actually allow you to learn in a way that will make you smile.
How many different whiskeys did you sample for the book, and did you ever get sick of tasting them!?
We (my partner and fellow sommelier Carla Rzeszewski and I mostly, with some help from friends) tasted nearly 500 whiskeys blind - so we could be objective - and worked very hard to put them into a logical order from what requires the least of the drinker (i.e. the easiest to taste and categorize) to the most demanding (i.e. very complex flavors that demand more of one’s palate, often accompanied by a higher proof) and this is for sure hard. Even when you spit, the physiological effects are real and so you cannot do too many at once. This means many sessions, lots of double and triple checking your work, etc. It took the entire summer of 2014. In the end I’d spent every dime of the advance and gave away hundreds of bottles of whiskey to many happy friends.
How did you decide what types of scents to include in the book?
It really flows out of what makes things smell and taste the way they do. For example, the base grain used to make the whiskey has a large impact so it makes sense to include those scents. You could also look at place, where the whiskey is aged and if that place contributes flavor, then include that too.
I don’t have the best sense of smell! Can I train my nose?
My dad said the same thing. Forever. Then his son became a sommelier and started sticking all kinds of things in front of him and whamo, there it was! We all have a keen sense of smell that goes back to our ancestors as hunter-gatherers but it is the sense that we least use today so it is really just a matter of dialing it back in. ..just like when the car radio goes fuzzy.
“My wife is Scottish, so I needed to learn about whiskey – and this was the way!” – Sir Richard Branson, legendary entrepreneur and founder, Virgin Group
“This is really the ultimate ‘hack’ on whiskey. I learned why I should try Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt faster than Google Maps could teach me where the Glorioso Islands are.” – Edward Norton, Oscar-nominated actor
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