Sunday, 16 December 2012

Book Review: Malt Whisky Yearbook 2013

I'm coming up to my second Whisky Birthday next week and it was around this time last year that having been through most of the single malts available on the supermarket shelves I was looking for new inspiration to continue my journey.

So trawling through Amazon and similar sites I found and bought three books that I thought would help me with my journey, one on which was Malt Whisky Yearbook 2012.
My new shiny copy superseding last years yearbook 
Malt Whisky Yearbook is the brainchild Ingvar Ronde, who, having been interested in whisky for some 20 years, noticed around seven years ago that there for some reason was no yearbook compiling what happens in the world of whisky (and malt whisky in particular). After conducting some research he decided to try and produce one himself. So the idea actually came from a need he had, to be able to read a summary of what had happened in a year and also to get a glimpse of the near future.

Well Malt Whisky Yearbook 2013 has just been recently published and I'm very pleased to tell you that I have got my hands on a fresh copy to read.

I have been fortunate to meet Ingvar a couple of times now, the first time when we were new to the whisky world attending Whisky Live London in March of this year, I had already read through my copy of the 2012 Yearbook by that time, then again we met at the recent Whisky Exchange Show at Vinopolis.

Ingvar usually visits around thirty to thirty five Scottish distilleries a year, but hasn't had the chance to visit many outside of Scotland yet, relying on his network of contacts to update him regularly, and in good time for each new release. This is something Ingvar plans to change as he is eager to visit some of the distilleries not based in Scotland.

I asked Ingvar what his earliest whisky memory was and he told me "My first whisky memory is actually from 1980 when I travelled to Scotland with a friend of mine. We were riding on the Flying Scotsman from London to Inverness and we had a bottle of Dufftown Glenlivet (as it was called then) with us. Once in Inverness we rented a car and followed the Whisky Trail for a few days visiting Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Strathisla and Glenfarclas distilleries."

I went on to ask what three whiskies Ingvar would recommend to some one new to whisky and in no particular order Ingvar listed these:

I now need to find myself a Glenfarclas 12 Year Old as it's the only one of this three I've yet to try.

When I asked him what his dream dram would be, money no object, he told me how much he would love to enjoy a full bottle of Glenmorangie Pride. He got a tiny sample when it was released and was blown away!

Ingvar then gave me some whisky tips which I thought I would share with you:
  • Look out for the stuff coming from Compass Box – most of it is top class
  • From Berry Bros & Rudd – their different Blue Hanger releases (Ingvar's favourites have been number 4 and 5)
  • The new duty free releases from Auchentoshan – a distillery that many of us have overlooked before.
  • Yamazaki 18 Year Old and Miyagikyo 15 Year Old – two brilliant examples of what the Japanese can do
  • The old single casks from Glendronach that the owners have been releasing on a regular basis for the last couple of years are pure heaven for a sherry freak
Getting back to the Malt Whisky Yearbook, it was a revelation when I first got my hands on it, packed with information that I was looking for. The latest and 8th edition follows the tried and tested format, which is broken down into three coloured sections:

The 'red section' begins the book with articles from distinguished whisky profiles such as Charles MacLean, Gavin Smith, Ian Buxton, Dominic Roskrow, Neil Ridley, Ian Wisniewski, and Jonny McCormick. Gavin Smith opens the book up with a chapter charting the new single malts rise in the markets from established distilleries that previously supplied malt to the blenders. The red section ends with a new feature titled 'Working on the Front-line' where eight brand ambassadors, whisky retailers and whisky evangelists give their views of the whisky world.

The 'blue section' follows which contains the distillery data. Starting with the malt whiskies of Scotland and Ireland and packed with great photographs of the distilleries. The book dedicates at least a page to each distillery, listed alphabetically, with a brief potted history, tasting notes from one of the core expressions, as well as news of recent releases.  The distillery news is often augmented with an additional page 'meet the manager' where we get to know a little bit more about the brand, the distillery and of course the person.

There are additional articles interspersed within the distillery pages featuring cocktails, websites to watch, books and magazines, as well as a great feature on the 'maths' of a distillery (I'm an engineer, I can't help it) Where I got to learn that it takes around 11 litres of water and 1.4 kg of barley to produce one bottle of 12 year old whisky.
A Quick Guide to Whisky Math - OK I'm a whisky geek
The closed distilleries are not forgotten and are listed, with a brief potted history and update on their status before moving onto whiskies from around the world.

The 'green section' ends the the book summarising the whisky year, tabulating some fascinating facts and figures.

Malt Whisky Yearbook gives a great insight into what is going on in the world of whisky and it has become an authoritative book that whisky enthusiasts worldwide look forward to each autumn. My 2012 copy rarely left my side last year, taking it on holiday with me twice. I'll let the 2012 edition rest now and let this latest edition take up the mantle.

If you love whisky, this book must be on your bookshelf! For more information check out their webepage: back issues of some of the previous years are still available, and I'm sure will become collectable if not already.

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