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Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide Hardcover – May 16, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The occasional tippler may be intimidated by all the nuances of fine whiskey; after all, there are just so many variables to consider. What is the local climate and geography of the distillery? What the kind of grain is used, and how is it prepared for fermenting? What is the shape of the still? What kind of oak is used for the cask, and how long is the whiskey aged? Jackson's collection of essays and photographs will teach newbies how to answer all of these questions, but it will gratify the most obsessive enthusiasts as well. Every step of the process gets its own explanation, and there are even essays on food pairings and cocktail recipes. The bulk of the book, however, is taken up by an almost encyclopedic compendium of distilleries from all over the planet, including Germany and Japan. Individually, each section is informative; but taken together, the sheer amount of information may make novices feel overwhelmed. This is not to suggest that Jackson's "definitive world guide" is to be avoided. Rather, like the drink it celebrates, it's best in small doses. So here's what you do: buy a bottle of your favorite scotch, rye or bourbon, and another bottle of one that intrigues you. Read about each distillery, then check out Jackson's brief and informative section "How to Nose and Taste." Then pour two fingers in a highball glass, put on some relaxing music, and enjoy the spirit of the spirit.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Michael Jackson is Distinguished Visiting Professor in World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His many books of anthropology include Existential Anthropology: Events, Exigencies, and Effects; In Sierra Leone; and At Home in the World. The latter two are both also published by Duke University Press. He is the author of The Accidental Anthropologist: A Memoir; six books of poetry including, most recently, Dead Reckoning; and two novels.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: DK; American ed. edition (May 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789497107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789497109
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on November 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I would imagine that the very best to learn about whiskey is from a close friend who has for the past thirty years been fully immersed in all the arcane knowledge of whiskey drinking. Unfortunately, I think most people are like me, we get our whiskey education from the half educated clerk sitting behind the liquour store counter. Into this void comes Michael Jackson's "Whiskey".

First and foremost, this book is published by DK. This means that it will be rich in beautiful photographs and illustrations and weaker in text. I love well produced books and that is why I give this book five stars. The carefully shot pictures of Scotish whiskey distilleries are enough to make one plan a golfing/whiskey drinking vacation. However, the downside of DK books is that the writing is usually on the "lite" side. If you are looking for a guidebook to help you pick your next bottle of Scotch, this is not your book. Michael Jackson has produced other books that better describe and rate single malt Scotches. Purchase this book for the beautiful photographs and basic introduction to Scotch. Deeper knowledge will require more study and tasting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this book is certainly an eye catcher it falls short of an exhaustive reference book. Perhaps it's a good introduction for the beginner, but I was hoping it would do for Whiskey what Clive Coates' The Wines of Bordeaux: Vintages and Tasting Notes 1952-2003 did for Bordeaux. Specific information with regard to process, grain choice, barrel selection and aging at each distillery was spotty. In some cases there was no discussion of various products from a producer. I am sure meaningful tasting notes for whiskey can be tricky, but I didn't find these particularly useful either. From time to time i noticed an insightful tasting comment and frequently obvious dominating characteristics were noted but many of the tasting notes seemed rather generic. While preference is particularly subjective I think more critical evaluation would be helpful in terms of conveying tasting information.
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Format: Hardcover
This book describes the whiskey making process very thoroughly and has many beautiful pictures of the process from barley fields, to coopers, to the stills. Also, the pictures of the various countries (and distilleries) in which whiskey is made are beautiful and evocative. Although this book is not intended to be a buyer's guide, I do wish that he were a bit more opinionated in his tastings (he describes the aromas and flavors, but doesn't often make a judgement about the overall quality of the whiskey) and that he included some indication of price range of the whiskies that he describes. All in all, a beautiful book that will likely delight anyone (even relative newbies like this reviewer) interested in the whiskies of the world.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is filled with information about distilleries from around the world. After a brief introduction to whiskey, Jackson and his contributing authors explain the aromas flavors found in whiskey as well as their sources from the distilling process. For example, different strains of barley can add different flavors, floral notes often come from the heather that grew in the peat that was burned to heat the stills, the different oaks used for maturation can add different characteristics to the drink, and so on. The distillation process and equipment are also briefly explained. After that, the book moves to a trek around the world, spending about 100 pages on Scotland, about 10 pages on Ireland, about 10 pages on Canada, about 30 pages on the United States, about 15 pages on Japan, and a brief look at "everything else". This section of the book covers (I think) all of the active distilleries with a brief history, geography, and info about the production line. Each distinct geographic region includes a section of tasting notes about one or some of the typical/popular whiskeys from the region. The more popular brands, like Bushmills and Jack Daniels, seem to get a bit more coverage than the others. The book ends with a short section on cocktails and food pairing. The book is full of large, beautiful photographs of the distilleries- I would say most pages are 50% photographs.

This is not an all-encompassing tome of whiskeys, nor a buying guide, nor a tasting guide; there are plenty of other books out there for that. I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I think it would be better with a section on the relevant history of the region- for example, the Highland Clearances were mentioned many times, and eventually I had to go look it up. Also, the book would be better if they dropped the snob factor in the text- the condescension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. This is still a wonderful book, and if you are interested in whiskey at all it is definitely worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover
In his book, WHISKEY - THE DEFINITIVE WORLD GUIDE, Michael Jackson takes you through an exhilarating journey of fascination covering the ingredients, craftsmanship, and world development of whiskey. The crystalline palates of passionate contributors add their expertise to Jackson's anthology that includes writings on climactic influences, geological and regional imprints on whiskeys, agricultural ingredients, commercial processing, the traditional art and science of distilling, and the art of nosing and tasting.

You are taken on a whirlwind tour into the development of single malt scotch and scotch blends, bourbon, and whiskeys, with styles that span global continents. Explorations of distilled beverages include selected tastings throughout Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Japan, Europe, Asia and Australasia. These worldwide destinations are brought to life with superb photographic images and extraordinary architectural graphics.

Further exploration into the enjoyment of whiskey includes whiskey cocktails and culinary creations, matching foods with whiskey, resources for further reading and a listing of major distilleries throughout the world.

For the novice or the connoisseur, WHISKEY - THE DEFINITIVE WORLD GUIDE is an adventure into the realm of spirits. It is impossible to peruse the pages without a feeling of awe, inspired by the magnificence, history, development and flavor profiles bestowed upon the amber gem.
This book is the 2006 winner of the James Beard Award in the Books on Drink category, and deservedly so.
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