The World Atlas of Whisky: More Than 350 Expressions Tasted - More Than 150 Distilleries Explored Hardcover – Oct 18 2010
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About the Author
Award-winning author and whisky expert Dave Broom has been writing about whisky for 20 years as a journalist an author. A four-time Glenfiddich Award-winning author, Broom is editor of the Scotch Whisky Review, editor of Whisky Magazine: Japan, consultant editor to Whisky Magazine (UK, USA, France, Spain) and writes for a number of other publications including The Spectator, Mixology and Imbide. In addition, he regularly appears on television and radio, and is actively involved in whisky education, acting as a consultant to major distillers on tasting technique as well as teaching professionals and the public.
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This is a large, heavy, coffee table sized book with beautiful printing and photography, an overview of whisky production of several kinds (single malt, bourbon, etc), and 1-2 page spreads on selected distilleries and their whiskies in Scotland and worldwide. Besides discussing each distillery, it has tasting notes for a few whiskies from each one, plus a recommendation of what to try next for them (i.e., if you like this one, go try that one). That's all good if it's what you want.
What is it NOT? First of all, it is not really an atlas in any sense, either literal (maps) or figurative (conceptual). There are a few maps but they are not comprehensive or detailed enough to count as an atlas in my opinion. Figuratively, it provides a conceptual "map" of whisky with two dimensions (vanilla vs. grain plus peat vs. clean, as I see it, although the author uses different words) but it is not really terribly informative for several reasons: it leaves many whiskies uncategorized, it explicitly takes no account of quality, and it doesn't even map all the whiskies in the book. Perhaps most strangely, the whiskies in the book are explained not with the map but with an unrelated other method of categorizing that uses different sensory terms ("fruit", "floral", etc.)
Second, it is not comprehensive. Not all scotches are there, certainly not all bourbons are there, and so forth. I have seven generally available whiskies on my shelf right now, and the book has tasting notes for 3 of them (of which one is from Japan, so it's 2 for 6 from Scotland and the US). So it is not at all a comprehensive reference.
Third, it is not a critical evaluation in the sense that it rates or ranks whiskies. It does not pretend to be, but I wanted to point that out. It happily discusses very cheap whiskies alongside expensive ones, sometimes almost to a point of absurdity. For instance, when I read the tasting notes for one whisky I enjoy, it said that I should next try Crown Royal. Yikes. Is that trying to say that the whisky I like is actually bad? Or does the author believe CR is good? Or does he think someone who drinks single malts would also sip Crown Royal? I don't know.
Finally, it is not a dense book. That's a good thing if you want something to browse. It has multiple 2-page spreads that are simply photographs (nice photos, although often rather obvious and cliched, such as a photo of Mount Fuji). This goes with the point that it is a coffee table book, not a reference.
Bottom line: if you want an introductory book that discusses scotch along with a few other world whiskies, dresses up a table, and is beautiful, then you'll enjoy it. Despite my complaints, I think it's an OK book, if you know what you're getting. If you want a reference, it's not. Cheers!
Broom walks the reader thru a well constructed, easy to follow/understand "flow chart" of how various whisk(e)y's are made throughout the world, provides numerous facts and anomalies about individual distilleries in each of the major whisk(e)y producing countries as well as descriptive tasting notes on some of the various expressions offered at the referenced distilleries.
Another very helpful tool included with the tasting notes is the "Where Next" feature. After using the "Flavour Profile Map" and tasting notes to help provide direction on what bottle of Scotch to buy, if you find that you enjoy that particular style, Broom suggests another distilleries expression to try next in a similar style that will likely be enjoyed. This feature has really helped me find my bearings and led me down a well defined path as I explore this wonderful world of whisk(e)y.
Reading thru "The World Atlas of Whisky" while sipping on a dram of your favorite whisk(e)y is truly what the journey and experience is all about!