Below are a few of the titles that I’ve found helpful for navigating the world of whisky. You may also want to check out the Malt Maniacs Reading List, where I picked up some of the recommendations. They’re more or less all available at Amazon.com.
- Andrew Jefford, Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay And Its Whiskies, 2005. A superbly written portrait of one of the most unique whisky-producing corners of the world, in which Jefford intersperses descriptions and explanations of the character of the island’s whisky with episodes from Islay’s history. It’s a shame more whisky writers haven’t taken a similar approach, which is much more informative and pleasurable to read than the typical handbook of ratings format.
- Clay Risen, American Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye: A Guide To The Nation’s Favorite Spirit, 2013. Part history, part buying guide, Risen’s book offers reviews of more than 200 American whiskies. It’s a handy book to have around, though Risen’s quite hard on craft producers (he, quite reasonably, doesn’t feel that many of them have attained enough age or quality to justify the prices they charge), so it’s a good book to read alongside The Kings County Distillery Guide To Urban Moonshining, which is naturally more sympathetic to the movement.
- Colin Spoelman and David Haskell, The Kings County Distillery Guide To Urban Moonshining, 2013. The men behind Brooklyn’s first distillery since the end of Prohibition tell the story of American whisky and how their company fits into it. Colin’s unpretentious voice and DIY attitude provides a welcome counterpoint to the fluffier style that tends to characterize much whisky writing.
- Ian Buxton, 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die, 2010. If you’re looking to get an informed, critical and highly personal view of some of the world’s major distilleries, Buxton’s book is for you. It’s one I find myself returning to periodically when I’m on the market for new bottles or I want to look for other people’s takes on a bottle I’ve just opened. This book emphasizes Scotch, though he’s written a follow up titled 101 World Whiskies To Try Before You Die.
- Michael Jackson, Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide, 2005. A beautiful coffee table book by the late whisky critic, who is largely credited as one of the modern pioneers of the genre. This is a great start toward developing a comprehensive view of the world’s finest distilleries and their styles. Also look for the classic Malt Whisky Companion.