If you read the NYT regularly, you've no doubt seen Mr. Risen's excellent stories on craft beer and spirits, with a keen focus on bourbon and other American whiskeys. While bourbon is a well covered subject, the last few years have seen a groundswell of American distilleries churning out whiskeys made with everything from the traditional components found in many scotches to such offbeat offering as whiskey made from millet and even quinoa, as well as a slew of newly marketed bourbons from micro-distilleries and bottlers. Mr. Risen's book is the first book to survey this crowded field of rapidly growing American whiskeys, so while you'll still find profiles of stalwart bourbons like Pappy, Blantons, and all the various Beam products, you also get overviews of products like Belle Meade, from a recently revived Nashville distillery, Copper Fox, a small micro-distillery in Virginia which uses ingredients solely from the lands around the distillery, and F.E.W. Spirits, which is the first distillery to operate out of Chicago in nearly a hundred years. Mr. Risen gives succinct and informative profiles and reviews of hundreds of whiskeys, as well as the distilleries making them. Wisely, he keeps the background notes regarding things like the history of distilling in America, and explanations of what whiskey is and how it is made to a minimum, as they are well covered elsewhere, though it's worth noting that he does a wonderful job covering those areas in a very succinct and informative fashion. Although brief, the book also includes a terrific little section on detecting flavors in whiskey, with a wonderful chart organizing the most commonly detected flavors. Throughout the book, Mr. Risen writes in an easy-to-read style that never comes across as stuffy or pretentious, and the lay-out of the book is clean and easy-to-follow. If you are just looking to get into the world of American whiskeys, or you are an experienced bourbon drinker looking for the best overview of the current American whiskey scene, you cannot ask for a better written or more timely book on the subject. Furthermore, if the current explosion in micro-distilled American whiskeys is not just a flash-in-the-pan, but portends a wide-open future of diverse American whiskeys, then Mr. Risen's book will no doubt be seen as a historical snapshot capturing a fertile and promising whiskey scene right at the peak of its nascent beginning.
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