Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram Paperback – Nov 6 2003
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
The book did not arrive within allotted time, but after contacting WOB Canada, they resolved it immediately.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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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