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Issue 57 - Whisky writing's finest moment

Whisky Magazine Issue 57
July 2006


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Whisky writing's finest moment

Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald is being republished. But who was the writer shielded behind the author's pseudonym? Ian Buxton solves the mystery

It is, according to Dave Broom, “the finest whisky book ever written.” Charles MacLean nominates it as “the one whisky book I would take to a desert island.” T S Eliot presented a copy to Harold Monro of the Poetry Bookshop.

Christopher Morley, a giant of pre-war American literary life, gave a “red hot recommendation” to United States publishers and arranged to have the first chapter privately printed and circulated amongst his friends. This, it should be noted, during Prohibition.

Yet, for all this acclaim, the real author remains largely unknown (it was published under a pseudonym), and as it has been out of print since 1934 you are unlikely ever to have seen a copy, though you will surely have seen it widely quoted.

Have you got it yet? The mystery title is Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald, first published in Edinburgh in 1930 by the Porpoise Press.

Only 1,600 copies of the first edition were printed and they are now desperately scarce.

If you can find one, especially in its handsome original dust jacket, expect to pay £150 or more. But snap it up. This book is uniquely important in whisky writing.

Whisky has been made in Scotland since at least the 11th century. Written records date back to 1494. Yet Aeneas MacDonald's little book is the first significant piece of writing to look at whisky from the drinker's point of view.

For that it will always be honoured.

Subsequent writers are all in its debt and, indeed, many of them quote from his work.

But Whisky ...

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