Saturday, 26 November 2011

Book Review 101 Whiskies

101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die
Ian Buxton
Published September 2010
This was the book that really injected some real pace into my whisky journey. When I set off almost a year before buying this book, I had in my mind that I would be looking to buy Scottish single malts, discounting blends, bourbons and whiskies from other countries, I knew very little about whisky at the time but was rapidly running out of whiskies to buy as I was only looking at my local supermarket, and with twenty five 'whisky discoveries' under my belt needed some urgent help.

I didn't have a Twitter account nor a blog, just a 'liquid log' put together as a MS Word document and was wondering where I should go next. I thought to myself there must be a 101 list out there somewhere, a list of whiskies that I should be pursuing and searched the web and came up trumps when I found this book.

Ian Buxton has selected 101 'everyman' whiskies, and as Ian says quite clearly in his introduction, this is not an awards list, there are no points awarded, it's not a list of the best whiskies in the world, it's a guide to 101 whiskies that whisky enthusiasts should seek out and try.

There are no obscure single casks bottlings listed, and most, if not all of the whiskies listed should be available today, some three years after first publication. Ian set out choosing this 101 with goals of being generally available, albeit you may have to search a little further than your supermarket shelves. They must be affordable, there are a few whiskies listed that were retailing above £100, but I think the average (at the time of printing) was around £57 a bottle.

Ian has worked in the Whisky Industry for more than 20 years and so is well qualified to select 101 whiskies for us to consider. Everything is laid out in alphabetical order, it's not a top 101 list and although more than half of those listed are Scottish single malts, there are blended whiskies and whiskies from further afield introducing whiskies from Canada, Ireland, India, Japan, Sweden and the USA to me.

When I first read through this book I was pleased to find that of the twenty five I had already bought or tasted, nine appeared in this book. 

Each whisky listed fills a double page spread, with a full colour picture of the whisky to the left, along with some basic information; producer, distillery, availability and price guide. On the right hand page Ian lays out a brief description of the whisky, its producer, and some background information on its history, and why it has been included in the book. Ian follows this with some simple tasting notes. honest and understandable notes on his thoughts for each whisky.

This book became my guide when I came to a point in my journey where I was struggling to find out where I went next. I still refer to it today, and my copy is filled with small 'post-it' notes reminding me of when and where I tasted each whisky.

It has introduced me to blended whisky, and more importantly introduced me to the whole world of whisky. There is no doubt in my mind that this book has been a key foundation stone to my whisky journey, and I thank Ian Buxton for putting this book together. (and I have thanked him when I met him at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show last year).

Ian released a second edition in 2012, 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die expanding the horizons for the whisky enthusiast further still and you can find out what I thought about that here.

So how am I doing with this 101 list? At time of writing 60 down and I still have 41 to find. (May 2013)

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