The best books on whiskey and whisky

Kevin R. Kosar Author Of Whiskey: A Global History
By Kevin R. Kosar

Who am I?

I am the author of two books on distilled spirits and have been blogging at since 1998. I have written about drinks, drinks history, and drinks politics for the New York Times and the American Spectator magazine. Whiskey is my favorite distilled spirit—there are so many fantastic types and brands of it. For consumers, it can be really bewildering to navigate. So, I take it as my duty to help people navigate the wide and wild world of whiskey!

I wrote...

Whiskey: A Global History

By Kevin R. Kosar,

Book cover of Whiskey: A Global History

What is my book about?

Whiskey: A Global History introduces readers to the various types of whiskey, including bourbon, Canadian whiskey, corn whiskey, rye, Irish whiskey, Scotch, single malts, and blends. The book explains the drink’s often crazy history, from its obscure medieval origins to the globally traded product that it is today.

Whiskey: A Global History also recommends some great brands and classic cocktail recipes for the thirsty reader.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The World Atlas of Whisky: More Than 200 Distilleries Explored and 750 Expressions Tasted

Why did I love this book?

This big, beautiful, photograph-loaded coffee table book is an encyclopedia of whiskey. The Atlas, as whiskey-heads often call it, carries descriptions of a couple of hundred distilleries and reviews of around 750 different whiskeys. Broom’s book devotes a lot of pages to Scotch whisky, however, it helpfully covers Irish and American whiskeys and the brown spirits made in nations less known to most readers, like Japan, India, and Australia. Drinks geeks will love Broom’s meticulous explanations of how different whiskeys are produced. Those seeking guidance on how to taste whiskey will benefit from the book’s brief tasting tips and its ‘flavor camp lists,” which categorizes whiskeys by their dominant characteristics (“fruity and spicy,” “fragrant and floral,” etc.)

By Dave Broom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World Atlas of Whisky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new, fully updated edition of The World Atlas of Whisky provides an in-depth, comprehensive journey through the history, process, distilleries and expressions of world whiskies

"The best whisky book ever - a must-read for drinkers!" - Forbes

"The perfect go-to reference guide for the whisky lover's bookshelf." - Whisky Magazine

Award-winning author and whisky expert Dave Broom explores over 200 distilleries and examines over 400 expressions. Detailed descriptions of the Scottish distilleries can be found here, while Ireland, Japan, the USA, Canada and the rest of the world are given exhaustive coverage. There are tasting notes on single malts…

Book cover of American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation's Favorite Spirit

Why did I love this book?

Clay Risen is a writer for the New York Times with an immense passion for whiskey and its history. It was he who broke the news that the famed Jack Daniels learned whiskey-making from an African American. Risen’s American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye is exactly what it bills itself as—a guide, and an incredibly useful one to the consumer. Risen provides a short history of whiskey in America, but most of the book provides advice. He helps readers make sense of the jargon used in the whiskey world, such as “straight bourbon,” “Tennessee whiskey,” and “white whiskey”. The book carries 300 reviews of American whiskeys, and its modest dimensions make it easy for the shopper to tuck under one’s arm. Don’t go whiskey shopping without it! 

By Clay Risen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bible of American whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes has been updated! Arranged alphabetically by distillery and then brand, this expanded and revised edition offers histories, ratings, and tasting notes for over 300 whiskeys - with more than 100 entirely new entries. Each section includes the contact information of the featured maker, along with its various products. In addition to finding out how to get the best value for your money, you'll learn how to read a label, how to buy whiskey, which whiskey to give as a gift, and a full account of each bottling, including: age, proof, nose, colour,…

From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland

By Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Tim Herlihy, Conor Kelly

Book cover of From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland

Why did I love this book?

At the end of the 19th century, Ireland made more whiskey than any other nation. Then came an economic downturn, political trouble, and Prohibition, which devastated the country’s storied whiskey industry. Until recently, only a handful of Irish distilleries remained. Not any more—Irish whiskey is roaring, with new, small producers (like Teeling) joining the likes of the hulking, ancient producers (like Midleton). Muldoon and his colleagues share with readers a bit of the old and new on Irish whiskey. From Barley to Blarney is structured like a travelogue, with chapters devoted to the provinces where Irish whiskey is made, and its colorful coverage may induce the reader to book a flight to the Emerald Island. 

By Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Tim Herlihy, Conor Kelly

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Barley to Blarney as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From medieval monks to recent renaissance, From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland includes everything you need to understand, appreciate, and mix one of the world's fastest-growing (and most delicious!) spirits.

An Irish whiskey guru, two bartender behemoths, and an adept writer combine forces to create this comprehensive guide to Irish whiskey. The book begins with an in-depth introduction to whiskey and its history in Ireland, including what makes the style of Irish whiskey unique. What follows is a detailed examination of 50 different Irish whiskeys and the distilleries that make them, as well as a discussion…

Book cover of Canadian Whisky: The New Portable Expert

Why did I love this book?

Canadians have been making whisky for a few centuries, but drinks experts long have given the nation’s hooch scant attention. This is understandable, as Canadian distillers spent much of the 20th century churning out an ocean of low-priced and bland-tasting blends like Seagrams 7 and Canadian Club. Times have changed, though, and Canada is producing single malts and various high-end, sophisticated whiskies that have garnered international acclaim. David de Kergommeaux is the preeminent expert on whisky in the Great North, and his book is an indispensable guide to anyone who wants to learn the what-and-how of Canadian whisky-making and its history through the current day. He also directs readers’ attention to the brands of Canadian whisky worth buying, and his recommendations are spot on.

By Davin de Kergommeaux,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Canadian Whisky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Savour the bold notes and rich varieties of Canadian whisky with this fully revised, updated,  and indispensable guide.

This fully updated and revised edition of the award-winning Canadian Whisky invites you on a journey across Canada and back through time to discover the story of this unique spirit. Independent whisky expert Davin de Kergommeaux weaves a compelling narrative, beginning with the substance of Canadian whisky—grains, water, and wood—and details the process of how it’s made and how to taste it. He traces the fascinating history of the country’s major distilleries and key visionaries, and introduces the present-day players—big and small—who…

Book cover of Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and Its Whiskies

Why did I love this book?

This is neither an encyclopedia nor a tasting guide; rather, it is a deep travelogue of Islay, a Scottish island that is home to only a few thousand people and several of the greatest whisky distilleries on earth. Jefford paints for the reader a rich portrait of the island as a whole, and highly detailed miniatures of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. The reader who works through this thick book will come away with a thick knowledge of Scotch whisky, and a deep appreciation of the slice-of-heaven-on-earth that is Islay.

By Andrew Jefford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Peat Smoke and Spirit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Those who discover malt whisky quickly learn that the malts made on the Isle of Islay are some of the wildest and most characterful in the malt-whisky spectrum.

In PEAT SMOKE AND SPIRIT, Islay's fascinating story is uncovered: from its history and stories of the many shipwrecks which litter its shores, to intimate descriptions of the beautiful wildlife, landscape and topography of the island. Interwoven through these different narrative strands comes the story of the whiskies themselves, traced from a distant past of bothies and illegal stills to present-day legality and prosperity. The flavour of each spirit is analysed and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in whisky, Scotland, and Ireland?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about whisky, Scotland, and Ireland.

Whisky Explore 23 books about whisky
Scotland Explore 268 books about Scotland
Ireland Explore 225 books about Ireland

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Scotch Whisky, A Long Stride, and Single Malt Murder if you like this list.