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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram Paperback – Nov 6 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Century; Airport/Export ed edition (Nov. 6 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844131998
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844131990
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,366,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"...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
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Most helpful customer reviews

By I W Baggaley on 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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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 By F. W. Young on March 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
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: 17 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Great crack! Feb. 19 2007
By Larry S. Yaeger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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
Very funny July 30 2007
By Steven Levin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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
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
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...
A deceptively useful guide to Scottish single malts Nov. 14 2010
By jannert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I know there are some grumbling negative reviews of this book, but I liked it a lot. And I live in Scotland.

I think it's important to read this book with an open mind. The folks who commissioned Iain Banks to write this guide to Scottish single malts were not just interested in him delivering a soberly (!) comparative guide to single malts, but also must have wanted his own brand of incisive, accessible, writerly charm to accompany it. I think he's delivered both. This is the Banksian shot at Zen and the Art of Whisky Appreciation. This is a book to be read at leisure, maybe taking notes, maybe not.

While intersposing amusing anecdotes about his foibles, his friends, his love of cars and driving, and a certain degree of political engagement - his research for this book began at the start of the present Iraq war - I think "Banksy" has also managed to provide an extremely reliable guide to the individual flavours of Scottish single malts and to the interesting process of making them.

What is exposed, as the narrative meanders around Scotland and its many distilleries, is Mr Banks's rather unexpectedly (if you're familiar with his fiction) kindly and constructive nature. At no point does he disparage any of the malts he's been encouraged to review. Instead, using his writerly gifts for precise, unpretentious description, he gives us a very accurate impression of the way each of them tastes.

I can certainly attest that his descriptions of the few single malts I have tasted myself are spot-on. He also makes it very clear which tastes he prefers (strong!) and leaves the reader to decide on the others, without passing unfavourable judgement - although he is very quick to praise his favourites.

In fact, my very favourite single malt is one which he does not particularly favour himself, but he has certainly described it perfectly. This makes me trust his judgement.

I suppose the only minor criticism I have of Mr Banks's approach is that many of the malts he describes are older (and more expensive) than the 10-12 year-old products available to those of us on Scottish supermarket budgets. However, he does describe the various ages of each distillery's offerings to a certain degree, so this is not a major criticism. It just makes me wish I had more money to spend on whisky!

In fact, I think this book has very neatly accomplished what its commissioners wanted; I now intend to taste every malt I can, to decide for myself which might be a "perfect dram." Mission accomplished. And, Mr Banks, if you ever decide to UPDATE this guide, I'd be very happy to help...


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