Looking forward to what should be a fascinating read!
I just finished reading this book this morning, and I would recommend it to the following categories of people:
- Anyone who is interested in getting into whisky
- Anyone who wants to know more about whisky
- Anyone who thinks they know how to drink whisky, and thinks it should only be drank neat, or with a little bit of water
- Anyone who is into whisky
So, basically, everyone. Of the four categories listed above, I think the most important audiences are 1 and 2.
Audience 1 is important, because these people can realise that whisky shouldn’t be something snobbish or pretentious, and that they shouldn’t be ashamed if they don’t enjoy drinking whisky “the proper way”.
Audience 2 is important, because these people need to be taught a lesson in how not to be douchebags, and open their eyes to the fact that sometimes neat or with water really isn’t the best way to drink a whisky.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of scotch, though I didn’t realise how much I knew about it until a couple of months ago, when a I ran an impromptu tasting for a friend of mine.
She had recently tasted a bunch of Japanese whiskies, and asked me what I thought about them, as she knew I was a whisky/scotch guy. The conversation progressed, and she then asked me what the best way to drink scotch is, and my response was “however you enjoy it best.” She gave me this weird look, and my response was along the lines of the following:
"Look, certain people are going to tell you the only way you should drink it is neat, or the only way you should drink it is with a drop of water from the spring from whence it came, but at the end of the day you should drink it the way you enjoy it. Scotch is for drinking, and people have different tastes and palates. The way I enjoy drinking scotch will not necessarily be the way you enjoy drinking it. Plus, different scotches can have different flavours, and you may enjoy drinking different scotches in different ways… Anyone who insists that there is only one correct way to drink scotch is a pretentious douchebag, and you should ignore them."
Then, in one of the more pretentious moments of my life, I proceeded to run my first impromptu tasting with six different single malts; comparing the taste of them drank neat, with a few drops of water, and on the rocks. Proving my point, of the three of us who were there, there was no consistent single way that we enjoyed among all the scotches, or consistent preference on the same scotch between the three of us.
As a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I get their quarterly magazine, Unfiltered. There was an article in their most recent issue mentioning this book, and about how the author had set out to show that whisky is not necessarily best drank neat. I was immediately filled with the relief that I was not full of shit, and sprouting crap to my friend, and also immediately logged onto Amazon and bought the book.
Broom does an excellent job outlining the history of whisky (not just scotch), and through that showing that whisky is not necessarily meant to be drank neat. He also makes good arguments as to why single malts are not necessarily superior to blended whiskies, and touches on why an older whisky is not necessarily a better whisky.
So far, the history was the most interesting part for me (as that is an area where my knowledge of scotch, and whisky in general, was mostly lacking), and it is there where he outlines most of his arguments. His explanation of the flavours found in whiskies, and the whisky making process is also very accessible, and does not go into so much detail as to scare a novice off.
However, the part that I have not yet utilised (which composes the majority of the book), and may yet become the most valuable part of the book for me, is the section where, having tried a variety of whiskies with various mixers (soda, ginger ale, Coke, green tea, and coconut water), he scores the mixes based on their flavour, and describes what each mixer did to the whisky’s flavour (there are a couple he recommended not to mix at all, but those are far and few between).
For example, Lagavulin, one of my favourite single malts which I normally drink neat, he scores 5 for Coke, 4 for soda, 2 for coconut water, 4 for ginger ale, and 2 for green tea. I normally drink Lagavulin straight, but I am definitely going to try it with Coke to see if I enjoy it as much as he did!
I’m looking forward to experimenting with these flavour combinations, and maybe getting my bartender friends to mix up some of the modern cocktails detailed in another section of the book.
This book is a valuable resource for making whisky accessible to anyone, and in laying out the case that there is no wrong way to drink whisky… Well, I guess according to Dave Broom and myself there is one wrong way to drink whisky - and that is to insist that there is only one way to drink it.
 This is not verbatim, it’s me paraphrasing my own words down to their essence. What do you want from me, it was months ago, and we’d been drinking…
 1 is bad, 5 is good. 5* is you better try this.