Book Review: The American Whiskey Tasting Notebook

, | August 24, 2020

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by Acclaim Press. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

In the search of the perfect, or at least perfectly drinkable whiskey, many flavor charts, color scales, and reviews have been consulted to ensure that I have made a reasonable choice to accompany my mood of the moment. Many publications, when speaking of spirits, emphasize their knowledge and can come off as pretentious with their flowery descriptions that can alienate instead of enticing the reader to drink. I should know, since I spend a good amount of my time writing about whiskey, only to search for interesting ways to engage or divert my readers based on my tastes of what I am reviewing.

With that in mind, I was excited to dive into Susan Reigler and Michael Veach’s book, The American Tasting Notebook, when it was presented to me for review. One of the fun parts of tasting and broadening one’s palate takes place through the experience of others. Having a comprehensive guide of hundreds of American whiskeys to taste by proxy seemed a lovely way to delve further into the grand tradition of American distilling. And with multiple guides on bourbon under their belts, they are a solid bet in finding creative and thoughtful depictions of hundreds of Rye, Malt, Tennessee whiskey and more.

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This book is almost pocket size, a benefit when you are wanting to take your reference guide along to your favorite watering hole or local liquor store. Inside is nearly 300 pages with notes on a wide variety of American crafted goodness.

The book is broken into chapters containing various categories of whiskey (e.g.: Chapter 1. American Whiskey, Chapter 2. Blended Whiskey, Chapter 3. Blends, etc.). Each chapter takes a concise look at a different bottle with a helpful color picture of the bottle and label to aid you in your search. You are given plenty of information to get started with the name, proof, age, type, style, mash bill, color, and price.

Following this, are separate tasting notes from each of the authors, followed by a brief summary. Both Susan and Michael have a distinct voice amplifying their individual experience of the liquor. I appreciated this aspect of the guide because you get to see just how diverse the human palate is. You are not just trusting one person’s perspective. You get the experience and insight of two distinctly different drinkers, allowing a variety of flavors and sensations to explore and compare when having your own tasting.

There is also an interactive aspect of this book with a space at the bottom of each page for the reader to become the reviewer. You are not expected to take the authors’ experience for granted. This space is useful also since you can compare notes without having to scribble in the margins.

The one element some readers and drinkers might be looking for is a rating system for each of the whiskeys. They present these whiskeys with the appreciation for others’ differing tastes and experiences. We don’t all like the same flavors in our beverages so relying on others numbering system can exclude the possibility of finding your one true whiskey love because you trusted someone’s personal preference. This book labels and describes the whiskey but allows the reader to leave their own rating in their notes section.

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Not everyone can, or should, try to mark off every page in your whiskey adventures, but should you want to open your palate and liquor cabinet to some fresh flavors, this guidebook will be a good way to track and identify some options you might have overlooked, or never even heard of.

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John Dover

As the creator and writer of “Johnny Scotch”, John Dover has built his Jazz Noir world from the music he is immersed in on a daily basis and from his travels across the US as a professional musician. John continues to build the “Johnny Scotch” library through short stories, and...