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Recently published whisky related books

Whisky & Culture | 21 Oct 2016 | Issue 139 | By Rupert Wheeler

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At our recent Battle of the Blends event in London, John Glaser of Compass Box read a short passage from Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald. John was reading from an original copy first published in 1930, but the book has now been re-issued. Although written nearly 90 years ago, there are still some ‘pearls of wisdom’ to be gleaned.
\r\n \r\n\r\nWhisky
\r\nAeneas MacDonald
\r\nISBN 9781780274218
\r\nBookclub offer: £8.00
\r\nplus P&P (RRP: £9.99)\r\n\r\nFor perhaps the most revered piece of whisky writing ever to have been published, it is curious that Aeneas MacDonald’s Whisky has rarely been in print since it was self-published in 1930. However, a new volume has been resurrected by publishers Birlinn, under the stewardship of editor Ian Buxton. Aeneas MacDonald was a pseudonym for George Malcolm Thomson OBE, who elected to write undercover for many reasons – not least that his mother was a teetotaller. He wrote Whisky at a time when the industry was not in a healthy state, which explains the occasionally doom-laden tone. Robert and Walter Pattison had recently done their best to collapse the Scotch industry, and distilleries were shutting up shop in Campbeltown in the blink of an eye. Whisky – a category then dominated by blended Scotch – needed a heroic stylist who could help elevate the drink in the hearts and minds of general drinkers. Buxton explains in his appreciation that MacDonald ‘lit a torch’ on whisky that still illuminates us all today. Indeed, Whisky contains writing on the subject that has never been bettered. MacDonald writes that whisky itself ‘belongs to the alchemist’s den and to the long nights shot with cold, flickering beams.’ Heady pages are punctuated by scathing humour, such as grain whisky being described as ‘fit only for drunkards and for blending.’ What also makes this edition different is that it comes with a rejuvenated appreciation and entertaining footnotes throughout which give context and meaning to MacDonald’s occasionally esoteric turn of phrase. And for the first time the work comes with colourful illustrations and adverts which add considerable heft to Buxton’s respectful historical framework that he has built around the book.\r\n\r\n
\r\nThe Arran Malt
\r\nNeil Wilson
\r\nISBN 9781906000929
\r\nBookclub offer: £16.00
\r\nplus P&P (RRP: £19.99)\r\n\r\nThe distillery that produced spirit for the first time on Arran in almost 160 years has now reached 21 years. It was the last distillery built in Scotland before the second millennium closed and has been the forerunner of dozens of new distilling projects springing up across Scotland. The author has interviewed many of the people who were involved with its development.\r\n\r\n
\r\nLet Me Tell You About Whisky
\r\nNeil Ridley & Gavin D. Smith
\r\nISBN 9781862059658
\r\nBookclub offer: £13.00
\r\nplus P&P (RRP: £16.99)\r\n\r\nWritten by two well-known whisky writers, this book is probably the best primer out there. There have been many primer books about whisky, but not one with such detailed and all encompassing scope. The book assumes that the reader has no prior whisky knowledge and explains the full whisky process in detail.\r\n\r\n
\r\nTruths About Whisky
\r\nISBN not issued
\r\nAvailable only online at:  €30.00\r\n\r\nArguably the most important book ever written on Irish whiskey. The book was first issued in 1878 and describes the efforts of the four giant Dublin distillers to promote pot still whiskey. The book has been re-issued with a new introduction by well-known whisky writer Ian Buxton.\r\n\r\nWhisky Magazine Bookclub offers a selection of whisky related books at a minimum of 20% discount. Visit\r\n
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