New Whisky Books to Add to Your Reading List: Fall 2019

Few things pair better than a good book and a good whisky—and best of all is when the book is about whisky. There are several new whisky books out now, ready to be perused alongside a good dram. Pour a glass, settle into your favorite chair, and get lost in the pages.

Crack the Spine of These Five New Whisky Books

The Complete Whiskey Course: A Comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Classes
By Robin Robinson ($28)

Whisky educator Robin Robinson sets out to demystify the spirit in this book that takes the form of a comprehensive “tasting school,” with ten classes that transport readers to the far-flung corners of the booming whisky world. The heavily illustrated tome delves into whisky history, including the evolution of distillation in different countries and regions; the many styles of whisky and their production methods; and sensory appreciation of whisky—how to nose and taste. Each chapter offers a guided tour through the traditions of major whisky-producing countries (Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and the United States), and also showcases crucial, if less heralded, hotspots such as India, Sweden, and France. His picks for top offerings from both new and established producers will help whisky lovers add to their lists of bottles to seek out.

Robinson also offers readers tools for building on their whisky passion, with sections on how to read a label, how to zero in on a favorite whisky, and how to build a collection, and he has created themed tastings for different styles, organized by price to fit the needs of any occasion or budget. A must-read for aspiring connoisseurs, and a thorough refresher for seasoned whisky lovers. —Zak Kostro

The Little Book of Whiskey
By Lynda Balslev ($10)

Not to be confused with the specialty blend released by Jim Beam’s Freddie Noe each year, The Little Book of Whiskey is a bite-sized and approachable written tome, detailing in short order the history and process of whiskey making. It explains that “Whiskey is not just your dad’s drink,” and its portable size underscores not only the changing nature of whiskey drinking, but that of whiskey reading and writing as well. Balslev injects her cooking knowledge in this stocking-stuffer of a manual, offering 17 food pairing recipes, like scotch-cured salmon, whiskey beef stew, and bourbon-spiked carrot cake; cocktail recipes and famous quotes provide additional fodder for your inner host. Accessible and compact, The Little Book of Whiskey is more tapas than feast, but you’ll find each bite rewarding. —Ted Simmons

Bourbon: What the Educated Drinker Should Know
By Tim M. Berra ($27)

If “Bourbon 101” were a college course, students would find themselves pulling pre-exam all-nighters with this book. Author and university professor Tim M. Berra converted his own PowerPoint slides and lectures on bourbon into what he calls “bite-sized bits for easy consumption.” Indeed, the slideshow element is present throughout the book—Berra replaces the slide numbers with batch numbers, but adheres to an organized, bullet-point method of organization, packing valuable information into each “batch.” Topics range from the simple and straightforward “How to Interpret a Whiskey Label” to more advanced concepts like “Cooperage and the Perfect Barrel.” The glossary at the end of the book can serve as a helpful resource for both new learners and those who are brushing up. The book is packed with photos of bottles and distilleries, many of which were taken by Berra.

Although more experienced drinkers may find some of the information surplus to their needs, the beginner will discover that the journey of learning about bourbon is as palatable as the whiskey itself. —Sam Stone

The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip
By Tristan Stephenson ($25)

Native Englishman Stephenson—who has written six previous volumes in The Curious Bartender series—takes a journey of discovery across America’s whiskey landscape, meandering up the East Coast from Virginia to New England before venturing west to Kentucky, Texas, Colorado, and beyond. Visiting over forty distilleries, he provides detailed profiles of each, along with tasting notes for the main whiskeys and a recommended playlist to power the journey there. And, because it comes from a bartender’s perspective, there are dozens of whiskey cocktail recipes. Most of the major bourbon distillers, including Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Brown-Forman—even Indiana’s MGP—are covered, but the bulk of Stephenson’s visits are to small, up-and-coming producers, from Pennsylvania’s Liberty Pole to Washington’s Dry Fly and Rock Town in Arkansas. Glossy pages and high-quality photography support the dense, comprehensive prose. If you’re planning your own whiskey road trip, this guide can inspire ideas—but even if you just read it sitting on your couch, prepare to be transported. —Susannah Skiver Barton

101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die
By Ian Buxton ($20)

The fourth edition of this popular series comes fully revised and updated, including added emphasis on North American whiskies, particularly from Canada, and—in place of Buxton’s own tasting note—space for the reader to provide their own. More concerned with the essential bottles rather than the absolute best and emphasizing breadth over depth, the book is organized alphabetically, providing a single recommendation from each distillery featured. For example, Buxton recommends Balvenie PortWood 21 year old for its achievement in cask finishing despite its high cost relative to other, less-aged whiskies in the distillery’s lineup. Entries from the likes of Cotswolds, Mackmyra, and Teerenpeli—along with Scottish, Irish, American, and Canadian stalwarts—capture just how wide-ranging the world of whisky has become, and how much work the exploratory taster has ahead of them. You may not agree with Buxton’s picks, but thumbing through the list is sure to turn up a few bottles new to even the most experienced whisky drinker. —Ted Simmons

…And Three Cocktail Books for Good Measure

Drink: The Ultimate Cocktail Book
By Kurt Maitland ($35)

Tomes the size of this 847-page volume usually require a dedicated book stand, but readers are likely to want this as a handy reference whenever they’re mixing up a cocktail—old or new. Spirits expert Maitland has not only chronicled over 1,100 recipes, but offers in-depth chapters on all the main base spirits, from whisky to vodka, tequila, rum, and beyond; the whisky section alone spans over 110 pages. The basics of technique and tools are covered, along with advice about ice, directions for making infusions at home, sections on festive drinks and flask-ready cocktails, and a roster of mocktails for those who are off the sauce. Maitland directs readers to think of this as a “spirit cookbook,” meaning there’s no need to read it from cover to cover: Just thumb through, find a recipe that entices, and try it out. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Gather Around Cocktails: Drinks to Celebrate Usual and Unusual Holidays
By Aaron Goldfarb ($20)

Author (and Whisky Advocate contributor) Goldfarb follows up his irreverent “Hacking Whiskey” with this equally cheeky cocktail book that covers all the holidays you’d expect—(Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween) and several you wouldn’t (Groundhog Day, Purim, Dry January?!). Custom syrups like marshmallow, charoseth, and yuengling Beer feature in many recipes, and ambitious readers can tackle projects like The Big Game Kegged Cocktail (Super Bowl) and The Chocolate Bunny-Ful of Bourbon (you’ll need four hollow milk-chocolate bunnies. Alternative: Cadbury Creme Egg shots). If you’re looking for an occasion to throw a party (and you’ve worked through all the ideas in our Fall 2019 issue), this book should offer plenty of inspiration. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? And Other cocktails For ’90s Kids
By Sam Slaughter ($13)

Jump on the nostalgia train for this slim book of recipes clustered around the theme of ’90s pop culture. Slaughter offers riffs on classic cocktails as well as a host of original creations, including several featuring whisky, such as the Juice Box Iced Tea (an adult version of Ssips Lemon Iced Tea, made with bourbon), the Nothing Compares 2 D.E.W. (featuring Tullamore D.E.W., naturally), and the Tubthumper, which takes its ingredients directly from the Chumbawamba song: a mixture of whisky, cider, vodka, and lager. Still caught up in the memories? Pop on one of the recommended playlists and harken back to Y2K with the eponymous cocktail, which features a split base of bourbon, rum, and tequila—a combination that might make you forget the era ever ended. —Susannah Skiver Barton

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