The best books on whiskey and whisky

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

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Dave Broom

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

Why 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.)


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

By Clay Risen

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

Why 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! 


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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 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. 


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Canadian Whisky: The New Portable Expert

By Davin de Kergommeaux

Book cover of Canadian Whisky: The New Portable Expert

Why 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.


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

By Andrew Jefford

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

Why 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.


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