Just finished this book. A large thank-you to Lawrence for getting me the copy.
This is a book that lets the workers in the whisky industry tell the story of (1) what working in the industry is like, and (2) what changes have taken place over the last generation. It's a very "textured" read where in parts of the book, whole pages are quotes from industry workers strung together with overviews from the author.
Chapters are written from the point of view of an industry job - brewer, mashmen, stillmen, excise officer, cooper, owner, blender, and manager with some chapters written about concepts such as dramming. This is not a consicely written book - it would be vary hard to do this and let the workers tell their story in their own way. However, the texture is magnificent, and I felt like I was in a pub having a beer with the various characters listening to their stories.
The biggest theme that gets repeated was that the culture of the workplace has changed drasticly in the last 30 yrs or so. The buisiness used to be far more labour-intensive and so used to employ far more people than it does now. Also each distillery used to do itsd own maltings and there are less bottling plants so these contribute to less people in the industry. "Characters" have all but left the industry, replaced by chemists and people with degrees. Most distilleries have become more automated which has made better consistency in the new make, but some in the book feel that it has led to erosion of skills that were honed through doing things manualy.
All-in-all a fastinating read for those who are not in a hurry.