Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Whiskey Appreciation and Tasting Guide, Derek Cooper

Title: Whisky Appreciation and Tasting Guide
Author: Derek Cooper
Rating: OK

A while back - maybe three years ago now - some friends who live near us did an evil thing: they introduced us to whisky. And this wasn't an introduction to just any whisky. Oh no. We were hit with single malts, and in particular, the single malts of Islay, Scotland.

This hasn't become an obsession or anything, but it has lead to some interesting purchases, and when we took a trip to the UK a while back we spent some time in Scotland - on Islay - and learned a bit more about the thing that is whisky. Islay - by the way - is the southernmost of the inner Hebrides islands.

While there I picked up this tiny little book on the theory that it might provide some useful information. And there are 20 pages or so of very general overview about whisky and related things, but it's all pretty simplistic. Of course, getting to know it better probably requires a master's degree in something like organic chemistry, a second degree in something related to the hospitality field, and then 20 years of practical experience working in and around a distillery (or three) to really know what the heck is going on.

This book won't give you even the tiniest portion of that background, but if you have no idea what a single malt is or why it's different from a blended whisky, it can answer some of those questions.

Instead of reading this (or any other) book, though, you're probably better off finding a friend who already has some background and asking for help. An introduction to whisky can be a very interesting evening, and once you start down that path, well, it's a bit like the dark side of the force.

For the record, my favorite single malt to date is Lagavulin's 16 year old standard issue, which I can sometimes find at my local Costco. It's wonderful, but you have to like the smell and odor (and taste!) of a peat bog to truly appreciate it. You can learn a bit more about it from the Lagavulin wikipedia page. From there, the sky's the limit.