2017 Gift Guide: Whiskey Books - The Whiskey Wash

2017 Gift Guide: Whiskey Books

If you’re starting to hunt for gifts for your favorite whiskey-lover, we’re happy to report that 2017 has been yet another banner year for whiskey books. Here are our top picks that hit the market this year.

By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail, by Tad Vogler

By bartender Thad Voegler, the owner of Trou Normand and Bar Agricole, two of San Francisco’s best cocktail bars, By the Smoke and the Smell is perhaps the most entertaining spirits book of the decade. Written as a travelogue, the book follows Thad and his crew as they search for producer-direct gems from the great spirits producing regions in the world—Cognac, Oaxaca, Islay, Cuba, Kentucky, and beyond.

This is the world of spirits unsanitized by marketing firms and PR agencies, with one foot in agriculture and another in front of the stinking, steaming still. Opinionated, lively prose is packed with laugh-out-loud moments. While it’s not just about whiskey, anybody who likes interesting drinks will savor every page.

101 Whiskies to Try before you Die, by Ian Buxton

Ian Buxton’s classic is back, freshly updated for relevancy in today’s fast-moving market. Perfect for those on the early stages of their whiskey journey, this book makes getting to know the major regions, styles, and producers easy and fun. If you really drink all the whiskeys in this book, you’ll be well on your way to whiskey expert-dom.

The Way of Whisky: A Journey Around Japanese Whisky, by Dave Broom

Like many of us, at some point, Dave Broom became totally fascinated with Japanese whisky. Unlike most of us, that obsession propelled him to visit Japan 25 times in the last 12 years. This beautiful, coffee table-worthy book is the result, freshly released in November 2017.

Written in first person, it explores the links between Japanese whisky production and the culture of craftsmanship that pervades life in Japan. Each chapter is built around a different distillery, offering a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into some of the most secretive producers on the planet.

Whisky Rising: The Definitive Guide to the Finest Whiskies and Distillers of Japan, by Jim Meehan and Stefan Van Eycken

In the last year or two, a flood wave of new Japanese whiskies has hit the market to replace the now-scarce flagship Yamazaki expressions, and until recently, there were precious few sources of information about those new brands. Until Whisky Rising, that is. Van Eycken seems to have visited every Japanese distillery making whisky as of about 2016, and his book is a treasure trove of previously unavailable information.

There’s also an excellent treatment of the history of whisky in Japan. One of the best, most informative books about Japanese whisky ever written in the English language.

Whisky, by Aeneas MacDonald, with a foreword by Ian Buxton

The oldest new book on this list by a wide margin, Aeneas McDonald’s Whisky is a special book—special enough to warrant a re-release now, almost 90 years after its original publication date, with a fresh foreword from Ian Buxton and new illustrations and images. Why is a book published in 1930 still relevant? Because it’s still so easy to see ourselves in Aeneas. Whisky is one part love letter, one part polemic, and it’s written from the perspective of an enthusiast, not an insider.

It’s a charming snapshot of the world of whisky from a bygone era, yet Aeneas is still kvetching about many of the things we kvetch about today: transparency, adulteration, cynical brand maneuvers, and his perception that whisky makers are abandoning the pursuit of true quality in favor of following fads and trends. Plus, he’s a sharp, humorous writer who’s fun to read. Sure, he gets a few things wrong (barrels have no impact on a whisky’s flavor, eh?), but that’s why Ian’s voice now joins his.

About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.