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Whisky Rising, the definitive guide to the finest whiskies and distillers of Japan, Stefan Van Eycken, Appleseed Press Book Publishers LLC, 2017


Stefan is amongst, if not, the best expert of Japanese whiskies and his website, Nonjatta is well known amongst all fans of Japanese whiskies. His expertise is shown in the first part of the book, with the history of whisky in Japan, including the frequent regulatory (i.e., taxes) changes that took place over time, and which provide a good understanding of the current situation. The second part provides a good description of the distilleries (current and past) in Japan. It is well written and presented in a clear way, with e.g., a comprehensive scheme to understand the distillation process at Fuji Gotemba or an inside view from the operations at Karuizawa before it closed. However, this part was slightly short of my expectations, as more technical details could have been provided. The Part 3 is about drinking whisky in Japan and provides a list of bar to taste Japanese whiskies, as well as some cocktails recipes and tasting notes of some very famous single malts, as well as the list of some iconic series (e.g., the Cards). The book is rather richly illustrated and printed on plain white paper. However, a rather disturbing frame has been added with some icons on the side, which distract more the reader more than anything else. In addition, some photographs would have benefited from a better contrast.
I learnt a lot from this book, especially about the taxes regimen in Japan and covers a wide range of topics. Very good. A book that will fit your bookshelf  with Japanese Whisky from Ulf Buxrud.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Famous for a Reason: The Story of the Famous Grouse, Charles MacLean, Birlinn 2016

The first impression you get then your copies is delivered is the impressive weight: around 4.5 kg. It is now the heaviest whisky book I own. The number of pages is high (302 pages) and the format large (bigger than A4), with thick and heavy paper. No savings were made on the quality of the print, which is markedly better than the The Famous Grouse Whisky Companion. This book retraces the history of the Cloag Family and their whisky brand, the Famouse Grouse. While Charles MacLean goes sometimes quite deep in the genealogy of the Cloag Family, the book is very well written and provides a very good insight of the whisky industry from the late 19th century until today, including all the difficulties faced by a family owned company. The book is focused on the whisky brand, and only 1 page is written about the Glenturret distillery, the « home » of the Famous Grouse. While this book is richly illustrated with archives and photographs of bottles, there is not a single tasting note.  In conclusion, an excellent book with a remarkable work done by Charles MacLean, not for only the fans of the brand, but for any whisky enthusiasts interested in the whisky history.

Rating : 5/5

Whisky Erotico, Silvano Samaroli, The Whisky Library (Hong-Kong), 2017

Published initially in Italian, The Whisky Library in Hong-King had the good idea to translate this book in English. The print is with a soft cover and well made and with a pleasant modern font. Silvano Samaroli, the founder of the legendary Italian independent bottler Samaroli, who just passed away, wrote this book. One would expect from such a book to discover how he selected such excellent casks. In this respect, this book is somewhat short of my expectation. Little is provided about cask selection.
The first part is somewhat esoteric and metaphysical, before the book dives more into the whisky making, maturation and selection. The manufacturing process is well described and rather comprehensive and I share with him his views on the non-chill filtration and the craftsmanship. Somewhat contradictory with the age of the whiskies he bottled and the small leaflet provided with his bottles (The Selecting Art), which suggest an ideal age of bottling between 12 and 15 years of age, he writes in his book that the optimal age to bottle a whisky is 30 years. In addition, there are quite a few obvious mistakes, for examples, when he wrote that only 2 distilleries remain in Campbletown, but they now buy the grist and do not make their malt anymore. Since when Springbank stopped their own malting? This indicates that Silvano Samaroli had probably an excellent nose and taste, but his knowledge in the whisky making were not to that level. Thus my rating. Still a good read.

Rating: 3/5

 

C. Ask Whisky 2- The Stories Behind the Whiskies: Volume 2, Rory Mhor Nicoll, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform , 2014

A collection of short stories and anecdotes related about whisky. A book printed in black and white, with a poor layout and lacking a story line. I struggled to go through the short stories. There are better books of the style around.

Rating: 1/5

The art of whisky: A deluxe blend of historic posters from the Public Record Office, Jim Murray, Pro Publications 1998

A very nice collections of photographs of whisky posters from the Public Record Office dated between 1862 and 1912, including annotations from Jim Murray. It might not be very well known, but it gives a very good impression on the marketing from blenders and distilleries to promote their products. The photographs are excellent. I enjoy it. If this type of information interests you, then do not hesitate to buy it. Do not expect to learn too much historical information on the whisky industry during that period.

Rating: 5/5

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