Instant Expert's Guide to Single Malt Scotch Review
The Instant Expert's Guide to Single Malt Scotch
Vital Stats: 68 Pages of information on single malt scotch, from malted barley to mouth
Author: Kevin Erskine
Publisher: Doceon Press
Typical Price: $8.95 at Amazon
Initial Thoughts: When it comes to the world of scotch, we've always been on the outside looking in. Because of our scotch inexperience we never felt confident enough to go out and buy a bottle of the good stuff, and because we weren't confident we remained inexperienced. That's not to say we didn't enjoy a nice glass every once in a while, on a recommendation or a whim, but single malt scotch wasn't something we were comfortable buying.
That's why we read Kevin Erskine's book from cover to cover the moment it arrived in our mailbox. It's a slim book, but chock full of all kinds of information, including things you would expect like whisky basics to how and where scotch is made. The book is filled to the rim with interesting facts we'd never encountered before about the origins of scotch, and a discussion of distilleries by region. One of our favorite pieces of trivia was about the symbiotic relationship between scotch and bourbon (here's a hint: it has something to do with the barrels they're aged in).
All that is interesting enough, but Mr. Erskine doesn't stop there. The book moves right on to more practical information like what to look for when you taste scotch, and more importantly how to tell what you'll like. Another interesting difference between this book and others we've glanced at is that it doesn't only talk about scotch in terms of region. There is an entire section devoted to breaking scotch down by flavor, not by locality, so once you find a scotch that tastes right for you, you'll be able to explore other drinks that reside in the same flavor "cluster."
There's a lot of information about how to read the label on your scotch, and copious notes on the most popular types of scotch in the world, in the US and in Scotland. One of our absolute favorite aspects of the book is that while it arms you with the knowledge about how to make informed decisions about single malt scotch, there is no attempt to tell you what you should like. Don't open the book looking for an exhaustive (and boring) list of the author's tasting notes designed to dazzle you with how much scotch has coated his tongue. Instead the book focuses on giving you practical information to help you learn how to get the most enjoyment out of the "water of life."
Cocktail Recipes: There are a few good recipes included in the book as well, including our favorite drink in the entire world, the Old Fashioned. We usually make ours with bourbon, but blended scotch will do in a pinch. The version of the Old Fashioned included in the book is extremely close to the one we use here in the Liquor Snob offices, and we recommend it very highly.
Other recipes included in the book include the Hot Toddy, the Manhattan, the Rusty Nail, the Whisky Sour, and another personal favorite of ours, the Boilermaker. One thing to note - single malt scotch should NEVER be used to mix a cocktail...stick with blends if you're mixing.
Finishing Thoughts: The Instant Expert's Guide to Single Malt Scotch is well-written, painstakingly researched, and comes from a true love of scotch. One of our favorite aspects of the book is the "If You Remember Nothing Else..." page at the end of each chapter, which summarizes what you've read and distills it down (get it?) to the most important facts. This will be especially helpful when you take your copy to the liquor store to pick out your first bottle by something other than price.
Plus, since the book clocks in at under $10, you can pick it upfor less than the cost of buying a single glass of single malt in a bar, and as an added bonus you'll learn why scotch and chocolate chip cookies go hand-in-hand!
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Posted by Jake Jamieson at October 20, 2005 6:35 AM