101 Whiskies to try before you die.
Ian Buxton. 2010. Hachette Scotland. 223 pages. No index but lots of colour illustrations.
What a strange book. This book is nothing more than a list of whiskies that some bloke thinks you should have a taste of at some point in your life. What’s more he doesn’t even seem to like all of them.
OK that said, let’s take a closer look. The ‘that bloke’ is the one and only Ian Buxton, which is a good indication that this is worth looking at. The list of whiskies is an interesting list of mostly accessible whiskies. By accessible I mean that they are not greatly expensive and most are easyish to find. Although there is one in the £800 mark and some are easy to get if you live in the right place.
One thing I like about this book is that there are whiskies in it that one can relate to. As soon as I picked it up I thought ‘Oh I’ve tried that one, and that one and that one….wait a minute I haven’t tried it at that age and there are lots I haven’t tried or have been meaning to try. However, the thing I like most about this book is not the actual whiskies – it is the messages the book gives out. The introduction to the book just confirms things that I believe in. You do not have to break the bank to buy good whisky. Whisky is for everyone. Whisky is to be drunk and, importantly, this book does not list the whiskies in some sort of rated order. The whiskies are in simple alphabetical order which, not only makes it easy to use, but gets away from the trap of judging which is best. In fact Ian Buxton actually points out that no one can really be so accurate to say that one whisky is worth 92 out of 100 and another one to be worth 93. This is avoided but there are some tasting notes to serve as a bit of a guide along with a space entitled ‘verdict’ for you to add your own comments as well as mark your progress.
The final thing I want to say is that this comes across as an honest book. Ian has consulted with people over the list but he has made it. He has not fallen into the politically correct traps of representing every nation or the right percentage of company brands, he has simply put down what he felt should be there and this is why there are some little oddities that some may take exception to. Such as the presence of more than one Highland Park or Compass Box and the absence of some nations and the inclusion of blends and malts.