When I first entered the spirits industry as archivist for United Distillers at The Stitzel-Weller Distillery, there were very few books that discussed Bourbon and its history. One of the few books available was a book written by the late Michael Jackson titled The World Guide to Whiskey, first published in 1992. I don’t have a copy of The World Guide to Whiskey yet, but I was very happy to find a copy of Whisky: The Definitive World Guide to add to my collection.

Jackson was a writer who specialized in beer and whiskey. He earned many awards in his lifetime and was considered the world’s foremost authority on the subjects of beer and whiskey. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died of a heart attack in 2007. He was a very good writer with a style of writing that was both informative and entertaining. I would recommend this book, and any other book that he authored, for those interested in beer or whiskey. They are great additions to any spirits library.

Whisky: The Definitive World Guide, Michael Jackson, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2005. Contents, Introduction, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations, 288 pp.

Whisk(e)y is a very popular subject in today’s world. The late Michael Jackson was the world’s foremost authority on the subject in his lifetime. This book still reflects that authority, even after over a decade since his death. This book covers whiskeys from around the world – not just Scotland and Ireland, but Canada, the United States, and Japan and from areas that were just beginning to produce whiskey in Europe, Asia and Australia. 

Jackson starts the book by discussing the different styles of whiskey and how to enjoy the whiskey. Next he writes about the distilling process and the sources of flavors found in whiskey, ending the chapter with a description on how to nose and taste whiskey for best results. The book is a little out of date, since there are so many new whiskey distilleries established after 2005. This does not mean that the information is out of date, just incomplete in today’s world.

The heart of the book is broken down into chapters for each major country that produces whiskey and the regions in that country. The distilleries found in those regions are then described with their major brands and how they are unique to the region. Tasting notes of those brands follow each description of the distillery. These notes are descriptive but not judgmental. There are no “ratings”, simply a description of the aromas and flavors Jackson found in the whiskey. 

The book ends with a chapter on enjoying whiskey that includes some cocktail recipes, enjoying whiskey with a meal, cooking with whiskey and a further reading list and addresses of distilleries for those wishing to visit their favorite producers of the water of life.

The book is very well designed. It is easy to find individual distilleries or brands either through the table of contents or the index. The illustrations are plentiful and in full color. He created charts for such subjects as aromas found in whiskey and where they come from in the production process. The book looks good enough to place on the coffee table, but it will not stay there long, as people interested in whiskey will pick it up and want to take it somewhere quiet to enjoy its contents. 

Whisky: The Definitive Guide is a book that should be part of every spirits library. It is informative and easy to read. It is a little out of date, but the information it does provide is still very relevant to today’s whiskey industry. This is a book worth owning.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller