Gavin D. Smith – Scotch Whisky (1999)

Let’s see if this rings a bell. Are you one of those people who own some whisky books? Do you have one of those coffee table books that cover everything? Isn’t it true that almost every time you pick up the book, you skip the first part that’s about the whisky history? Usually dry and boring stuff about which you already know everything that’s written down there and in every book like this, the same things are mentioned. You know of Uisge Beatha, you know who friar John Cor was and you know everything about the collapse of Pattison Elder & Company (in 1899). If I asked you: “how many bolls of malt…?” Wouldn’t you know the answer?

Well that’s all ancient history and well covered in almost every whisky book. But where is the modern whisky history? Where is the picking of the brains of people who made the whisky that’s in the oldest bottle you have at home? Here Gavin comes in. He talked with those people, he asked them interesting questions and writes down the answers which are even more interesting. Gavin is also the man who gathered the pictures of those times, and was brave enough to issue them in a reasonably priced book.

I’ll come back later to review the book about the whisky memoires, where the really interesting history is (Wort, Worms and Washbacks, 1999), but first the book with the pictorial history. In fact both books work well together. Just read the one and keep the second one at hand, to get a feel for what you’re reading.

The first thing that you’ll see in ‘Scotch Whisky’ are pictures obviously, many, many pictures (all black and white). Second, there is no story told in the classic way. There is almost no flowing text throughout the book. Just every chapter is briefly introduced across a page or two. So are we looking at the Scottish distilling picture book then? No, nothing like that. It’s a picture book wich tells its story through the captions written below every picture. this way it’s also easy to start anywhere in the book. You can pick which piece of history you want to look at first. You can look at different centuries, or have a look at different regions. The book has a great, logical structure.

I really like this book and I would have Gavin sign my books if I had the opportunity. I’m a fan of Gavin’s because he’s great, easy to read, has humor and is able to write a different kind of whisky book. Recommended!

Catch Gavin on-line at whisky-pages.

Gavin D. Smith, Scotch Whisky, 1999, 160 pages, Sutton Publishing Limited, ISBN 0-7509-2116-1

By the way, it was EIGHT bolls of malt.


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