Whisky has now become not just a popular drink, but also a major field of study. From whisky appreciation weekends to in-depth whisky tours to university courses, whisky knowledge has almost become an industry in itself. And, year after year, new books on whisky are published that have to jostle for shelf space with those already there.
The latest arrival is “A Field Guide to Whisky” by the Dutchman Hans Offringa. Its original Dutch title (roughly translated) reads, “What Every Whisky Lover Should Know” and it’s a sort of AA Book of Whisky, largely set out as a series of questions and answers, with ample illustrations.
Although Scotch — malts, grains and blends — gets the lion’s share of the coverage, whiskies of every type and from many other countries also feature extensively. There are chapters on drinking it, tasting it, collecting and investing in it, plus a swathe of maps of countries and areas showing and listing all their distilleries. Finally, there’s a list of “must try” whiskies from many countries, a list of good sources of information and of further books to read. Lastly, there’s an exhaustive index.
I liked it, as it covered the subject extensively and was easy-to-read and informative, the information given in short, pithy paragraphs that packed a quart into a pint pot. It is also a book to be enjoyed by the beginner and those who’ve indulged in the cratur for years. There were Interesting historical photographs, although outnumbered by others that seemed to be straight out of a distillery video or VisitScotland brochure. All in all, it manages to bridge the gap between being a good read and quick-skim coffee table book.
The book itself is cleverly packaged, with a hardback black cover and gold print which almost makes it look like a presentation box rather than a book. It is published by Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing Co Inc. of New York, and is also being distributed in the UK.
A Field Guide to Whisky, by Hans Offringa. Published by Artisan, New York, ISBN: 9781579657512. Publication date: June 13, 2017. Price: £17.99.