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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram [Paperback]

Iain Banks
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Nov. 6 2003 --  
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Book Description

Nov. 6 2003
Banksie, hi. What are you up to? Well I'm going to be writing a book about whisky. You're what? I'm going to be writing a book about whisky I've been, you know commissioned to write a book about it. About Malt whisky actually. It means I have to go all over Scotland, with expenses obviously...Do you need any help with this?

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"...In the final judgement, it does what every good book should manage to do ... and what a hundred other books on whisky (and a thousand other books on Scotland) have signally failed to do: makes you want to go for a drink with the author" Observer "Studded with bracing shots of pure insight and eloquence. And he's sound on the scotch as well" The Independent "It's a very readable and hugely informative book, and Bank's gentle humour permeates the pages" Time Out "It's an engaging piece of work, part love letter, part memoir" Esquire "A beautifully realised fusion of travelogue, social commentary and drinking guide. Scotland's most famous export is decanted into full-bodied, humorous prose." Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954. His first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984 to enormous critical acclaim and was declared one of the Best of Young British Writers. He lives in Fife, Scotland. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw Spirit May 17 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An inspired, informed, thoughtful and humorous guide to the best of Scotland's single malt distilleries. Iain Banks approaches his subject in an unconventional but highly readable style. His personal touch is what elevates this book well above the standard 'tasting guide' and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the mail but handled professionally March 6 2014
By Duane
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book if you are learning about whiskey or considering a drive around Scotland.
The book did not arrive within allotted time, but after contacting WOB Canada, they resolved it immediately.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where's The Editor? March 24 2004
It seemed like a good idea - well known author and scotch drinker travelling around Scotland sampling malt whiskeys and writing about his experiences.
Sadly, this book is at least 100 pages too long. Either Banks suffers from loggorhea or his publisher forgot to hire an editor. The sections on whiskey were entertaining and illuminating, but the travel bits - especially Banks' political writing - were stupefying.
More fun would be buying a good bottle and looking at pictures of Scotland.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great crack! Feb. 19 2007
By Larry S. Yaeger - Published on Amazon.com
Reviews are matters of personal opinion, so the other reviewer (only one as I write this) is welcome to his/hers. But I think he/she kind of missed the point of this book. This isn't supposed to be a Michael Jackson review of single malts, though I have to say I like Banksie's taste in whisk(e)y. It's not even supposed to be a tour guide of distilleries, though he does a nice job of calling attention to the most beautiful, warmest, most full-featured (those who still malt their own grains) distilleries and visitor shops. I'd certainly suggest having a wee dram of whatever Banksie recommends, and having personally toured a number of distilleries, I'd also follow up on his recommendations there.

That said, the point of this book is to talk about all of the above with wit and humor and a personal slant that no one else could really bring to the subject. And at that the book absolutely excels. The personal history this quintessentially Scottish author recounts brings these places to life in a way that no photograph ever could (despite the astonishing beauty of some of the places he writes about).

In Scotland, there's a complimentary observation one makes about people who know how to tell a good story, or entertain somehow by their mere presence -- such a person is said to have "great crack". It's fun to be around someone like this because they make things interesting by sheer force of personality. Iain Banks has great crack! And he waves it about in the pages of this book. It's just plain fun to read, from the humorous observations about friends volunteering to help him on his whisk(e)y trek, to the sadly accurate portrayal of the imperialist insanity of the Bush administration, to the wry, honest self revelations and deprecations regarding affectations and tastes in building climbing, motorways, and restaurants, to the beautiful homages to the Scottish countryside. Iain Banks loves life, writing, Scotland, whisk(e)y, science fiction, and a million other things, and despises politics and corruption (who doesn't!), and he shares these tastes in a clever, sweet, and funny way.

Obligatory full disclosure: I'm a great fan of the science fiction work by this author, under the name of Iain M. Banks, and quite love some of his non-science fiction work (sans M.) as well. I've also had the pleasure of meeting him once, through a mutual friend, Malcolm Crosbie, of Shooglenifty fame. I would have found the autobiographical notes throughout this book fascinating had I not cared one wit for single malt or Scotland, and I love both (well, all three, including Banksie, as his friends call him).

Buy this book for a good, fun read, akin to say, a Terry Pratchett book about a bizarrely recognizable Discworld known as Scotland.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny July 30 2007
By Steven Levin - Published on Amazon.com
This is a travel book -- where the "perfect dram" is not just what you are drinking, but who you are drinking it with. It's highly entertaining, and despite just having come back from two weeks in Scotland, I want to go right back and see about much of what he writes about...I feel like I missed so much!

If you are looking for a book on whisky and distilleries, this isn't it. If you're looking for a book on enjoying whisky in your life, it's the greatest book written.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The author is a lucky bastard Aug. 1 2008
By Kiri Namtvedt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I discovered the existence of this book I knew I had to own it. I love Banks' books and I love single malt scotch; this book is the perfect amalgam of the two. Once I had it in my sweaty little hands and started reading I had a moment of doubt - a brief fear that it might prove to be self-indulgent on his part, puffed up to extend the page count. I need not have worried. The book does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to either whisky or Scotland; it is one man's journey across his homeland sampling the product thereof in the company of his dear friends (and favorite automobiles). I like vintage cars, motorcycles, grand vistas, science fiction and whisky, but I think I'd enjoy this book even without all those links - Banks does a beautiful job describing the beauties of his homeland and the subtleties of a fine dram.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I could do this trip with Mr. Banks. Nov. 22 2012
By Joe & Lois - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Definitely a different approach to exploring both scotch whisky and the back corners of Scotland where it happens, with and without the tourists. I enjoyed this trip so much that my non-scotch drinking husband read it after I did, and he also enjoyed it! Now I have to share my scotch..is this a good thing? Not sure yet...
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Drams of a Small Country July 25 2014
By Tone Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having been there, appreciated the almost Personal Guide to the Distilleries of Scotland- with the help of google earth too.

The personal touch is a nicely written, with help from his friends and family, we get to travel and enjoy the landscape, the whiskeys and Iain's fine humour.

Of course his finest dram coincides with mine, and that was thanks to my friend Chris. He is getting this book as a Real Book, in the mail.

Iain Banks or as Iain M. Banks, has been a touchstone for me for a long time, and I have not read all his offerings,
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