Charles Maclean editor-in-chief
Dorling Kindersley Limited
This volume represents an extensive revision of a truly global assessment of whisky, which first appeared in 2009. Many of the well-known names in whisky authorship are there as contributors with Charles Maclean as the editor in chief. Quite an exercise with commendable results in a book, which is both handy to refer to and really quite comprehensive without claiming to be complete. The authors have their preferences and these are recorded with neat descriptive notes and full colour bottle images. There are useful essays on various aspects of the whisky world, including authoritative chapters on each of the five principal producing nations. The entry for Scotland is, quite rightly, longer than all the chapters on the other four producer countries put together. Curiously, however, of the eight featured distilleries from the producer countries, only three of them are Scottish out of a tally of over 110, whilst two Irish distilleries out of a total of three plus a growing number of craft distilleries, are given the same treatment. I could find no obvious explanation for this other than it might have been expedient to have a distillery from both Northern Ireland and the Republic. And let’s be fair - both distilleries are of great significance and produce fine whiskey.
Unusually, the book features within each producer country section all of the whiskies in alphabetical order without breaking them down into different categories. And so in Scotland, blends and single malts follow each other without any separation. Whilst I have no problem with this, the rigour breaks down towards the end when the strict alphabetical order is not followed and that is a pity. Other errors have crept in - I’m sure, for instance, that Beam Inc. did not pay €16 billion for the Cooley Distillery, no matter how splendid the whiskey might be! Also the brief chapter on Australasian whisky needs to be rewritten since it overlooks the fact that there was a substantial commercial whisky distilling activity in Tasmania in the 1830’s and industrial scale distilling on the Australian mainland, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, including the much maligned Corio Distillery at Geelong, which had an annual output of 750,000 proof gallons of grain and malt whisky. Also “Abnay” should read “Albany”, where the Great Southern Distilling Company is located.
But no one is perfect. Even the illustrious Michael Jackson in his classic work “Whisky: the Definitive World Guide” had Kinclaith located within the wrong grain distillery when, of course, it was a subsidiary operation within Strathclyde Distillery. These are not criticisms of what is otherwise a really good general guide to the world whisky scene at a very reasonable price, but simply suggestions that might be taken into account for the next edition.