November 07, 2005

Book Review: The Scotch Whisky Directory, by Phillip Hills

     Accompanied by four of the Scotch industry’s most highly-acclaimed “tasters,” Hills examines no less than 265 specific whiskies from every region, unraveling their complex flavors as though they were threads on a tightly-knit kilt. The tasters—Jim McEwan, Richard Paterson, David Robertson, and David Stewart—“sacrificed their time and livers” to blind-taste each whisky and dissect its flavor minutiae. The result is a straightforward, unbiased look at some of the most notable Scotches on the market, each presented in a simple graph that gauges its flavors (i.e. floral, musty, smoky, vanilla) on a scale of 0-10.

     Chosen for their distinguishing flavor (Laphroaig Cask Strength), historical importance (Port Ellen 21 year old), and/or popularity (The Famous Grouse), the featured whiskies will appeal to a wide range of Scotch drinkers. Highly notable is Bruichladdich’s 10, 15, and 17 year old single malts, the only whiskies in the Directory to receive zero marks in every negative flavor category, as well as The Glenlivet’s 1976 Signatory Bottling, a malt noted for being “possibly the most spectacularly flavorsome whisky inspected by the Directory.”

     Hills believes that no one—“not even the Directory”—can tell a person whether their favorite Scotch is good or bad. So rather than assault the reader with authoritative whisky reviews, the Directory simply dissects the whisky’s flavor, enabling the reader to formulate their own their own opinions. Because according to Hills, “the best whisky for you is the whisky that tastes best to you.”

The Scotch Whisky Directory; Mainstream Publishing, 2005. $30

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