Category Archives: Books

Ten Drinks That Changed The World, Seki Lynch

This is an extremely informative & highly stylised publication that provides a potted history of 10 drinks that changed the world.

They are – in order of appearance in the book;

Baijiu

Cognac

Vodka

Scottish & Irish Whiskies

Shochu

Tequila & Mezcal

Bourbon

Rum

Gin

Absinthe

Packed full of colourful stories, factual details, cocktail recipes & suggested bottle choices – the publication is an entertaining insight into the various worldwide spirits categories.

There’s only two I haven’t yet explored – Shochu & Absinthe.

This book makes me want to seek them out & give them a taste!

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The Whiskeys Of Ireland, Peter Mulryan

Peter Mulryan’s publication, The Whiskeys Of Ireland, is a welcome exploration of the Irish Whiskey landscape.

Packed full of historical information, anecdotes & photographs, the current rise of Irish Whiskey is given texture & depth.

The reasons for the demise of Irish Whiskey in the early 1900’s is still a contentious issue.

The usual trinity of prohibition, war & the rise of Scotch are generally trotted out by way of explanation.

However it’s clear from reading this book that opposition by the major players in Irish Distilling at the time to the emerging & revolutionary new technology of the Coffey Still of the 1830’s was a major factor.

Shunning this invention – and lambasting blended whisky as silent – gave the Scotch Whisky industry an opening which they enthusiastically embraced.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that Irish Whiskey eventually championed blended whiskey with the launch of a reimagined Jameson coupled with aggressive marketing that things slowly started to turn round.

As late as 1988 Jameson was only selling 466,00 cases globally.

Proper Twelve sold that much alone in the US in it’s first meteoric couple of years.

Irish Whiskey is still dominated by a few players – but there is much more diversity & innovation in the category as a whole.

Cooley kickstarted that diversity by double distilling & reintroducing peated Irish Whiskey to the market. This in turn has led to a positive proliferation of distilleries, brands, styles, customers & consumers flocking to the industry.

It’s fabulous to witness.

Irish Whiskey has never been in better health.

The Whiskeys Of Ireland is a great book to read – preferably with a glass of Irish Whiskey – to grasp what Irish Whiskey was, what it became & where it is now.

Where it’s going is all to play for.

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Persse’s Galway Whiskey, William Henry

I enjoy drinking whiskey.

I also enjoy reading about it.

Especially an historical whiskey located in Galway that I’m unlikely to obtain a glass of anytime soon!

This highly informative book charts the rise of the well respected Persse Distillery of Nun’s Island Galway.

At the height of it’s fame Persse Whiskey was considered ‘of the finest quality & highest order‘ and reached a global sales audience through shipping out of Galway Docks.

The book contains much detail & tales of the extended Persse family – many of which I’d never heard of before.

Lady Gregory of Coole Park fame was one such family member – it’s not known if she partook of the whiskey!

Mount Vernon – a house built by the Flaggy Shore – was named after George Washington’s abode by an admiring Persse member.

Sadly, by 1912 it was all over.

Quite what led to the demise of this distillery isn’t fully explored in the publication.

It pre-dates both prohibition & civil war in Ireland – 2 convenient events to explain the fall of Irish Whiskey.

There was an other event that isn’t always talked about. The invention of the Coffey Still by Irishman Aeneas Coffey in the 1830’s.

Persse didn’t utilise the Coffey Still in their production.

Scotch Whisky – mainly in the guise of Lowland blends – took to this new invention with gusto & created a new whisky category which usurped the former reigning sales topper.

Perhaps if Persse Distillery had embraced this new technology it might have still been around today?

Who knows.

As it is there are visible remnants of the former distillery to view across the rushing waters of the Corrib River as it flows into Galway Bay.

A very well researched & entertaining book on the glory days of Irish Whiskey.

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The Egans of Moate and Tullamore, Maurice Egan & David Egan

It’s not everyday you read a book so rooted in the historical & current fabric of affairs in the Midland’s of Ireland.

But then it’s not everyday a thoroughly researched & entertainingly presented publication charts the almost 200 year history of the Egans of Moate and Tullamore.

P & H Egans of Tullamore may have folded in the late 1960’s – but the legacy of their large commercial enterprises are evident to this day.

Their former Tullamore Brewery is now the Brewery Tap bar.

Their large headquarters, merchants shop & seed store is now the Bridge House Hotel.

Many artifacts, memorabilia & perhaps stories can still be found in these buildings – especially over a glass or two of Egan’s Irish Whiskey.

Descendants of this prominent business & political family have resurrected one of the enterprises that made them so famous – whiskey bonding, blending & selling.

I had a fabulous day celebrating the launch of Egan’s Centenary Irish Whiskey – along with many members of the Egan family – being shown round numerous historic buildings & making them come alive with tales & stories from the past.

The book adds so much colour, depth, complexity & character to a glass of Egan’s Irish Whiskey.

Liquid history.

For my original Egan’s Centenary Whiskey blog click here.

Egan’s Irish Whiskey website here.

Girly Drinks, Mallory O’Meara

It always intrigued me that the gender mix at Whiskey Live Dublin was predominately male, yet that of Gin Live – organised by the same folks, often with exhibition stalls from the same distilleries & staffed by the same people – is overwhelmingly female.

Well Girly Drinks by Mallory O’Meara can unsolve that mystery.

A thoroughly researched book, packed with information presented in an entertainingly readable style tells the tale of how females have been systematically excluded from the drinking scene for centuries.

This results in genderised drinks whereby whiskey = male & gin = female – as played out in my Dublin experiences.

Things are changing for the better however.

But consider the first female Master Blender of any sprits category was as late as 1997 with the appointment of Joy Spence at Appleton Estate Rum Distillery in Jamaica.

There is still a long way to go.

A compulsory text for anyone serious about the gender divide in alcohol.

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Interview with Joy Spence here.

Irish Whiskey, Gary Quinn

Collins Little Books released this handy pocket guide to the fast growing Irish Whiskey scene back in 2020.

It’s quite amazing how much of the information within it’s pages has already been superseded by the speed of unfolding events.

Brands that aren’t even mentioned – Ahascragh for one – are nearing completion of their own distillery & are winning awards with their sourced whiskey.

Meanwhile companies that are included have either changed hands, commissioned their distillery and/or released their long awaited whiskey portfolio to much acclaim.

In a refreshing aside the author doesn’t belittle sourced product over own release & places the growth of sourced brands in the historical context of independent bonders, blenders & bottlers adding to the expanding diversity & quality of Irish Whiskey as a whole.

A worthy little snapshot of the continued expansion of Irish Whiskey.

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Everybody Hertz, Richard Mainwaring.

I’m reading this book on frequencies.

The amusing title drew me in & has opened up the amazing world waves – be they sound, light or even taste! – have on our everyday lives.

It all boils down to vibrations – more specifically the frequencies they operate at – & the ‘good vibes’ they give us.

Chemical Brothers Life Is Sweet

I never thought of taste – as in smells – having a vibration, but it turns out there’s a row going on in the olfactory world about how we perceive smell.

One tribe – the Chemical Group – posit smells are unlocked by the shape of the odour molecule fitting specific receptors – as pertinent to whiskey tasting.

The other – Vibration Group – posit all molecules vibrate & it’s this the receptors pick up on.

I like the sound of the Vibration Group myself.

Often when talking about whiskey we experience ‘notes’. Turns out those ‘notes’ might have far more in common with music than we imagined!

Music can be experienced both physically & emotionally as a result of the vibrations – or frequencies – made by those performing the piece or hearing it through speakers.

Whiskey – it seems- can also be experienced in a similar fashion.

All of this only reinforces my belief that whiskey tasting is an intensely personal experience. What one person ‘gets’ from a whiskey might be an entirely different experience to anothers.

When in Italy recently I didn’t join the rest of my group listening to opera as it simply doesn’t connect with me. Similarly they didn’t join me in the delights of grappa. Yet we all enjoyed a beer listening to jazz in the outdoors!

So when you do find a piece of music – or whiskey – that moves you – you’ll know.

It’s the ‘good vibrations’ – and don’t let anyone put you off your vibes!

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Scientific article on the Theory Of Smell here.

Clanlands, Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

I knew nothing about either of these characters before picking up this book other than one of them – Sam – was an actor in a successful series & had recently released a whisky.

Image courtesy Master Of Malt

The whisky in question – Sassenach – has already won awards & appears to be popular – but has attracted a degree of criticism from those in whisky circles.

Image courtesy Twitter

I just don’t get it.

Any celebrity putting their name to a whisky – or in this instance actively taking part in the blending & marketing – helps to open up & expand the whisky market to a new layer of customers & consumers.

Given that the whisky community is predominately male Sassenach appears – at least to Sam Heughan’s Twitter page – to have attracted a large female audience. This is to be welcomed.

Rather than being open & expansive many in the establishment sitting in clubs, societies & bloggers often come across as exclusive & closed to new methods & means of enlarging the whisky community.

There are double standards at play too as many of these self-styled ‘defenders of the dram’ often promote themselves as celebrities within their fiercely territorial domains.

Celebrity spirit or not – the actual taste of the whisky is my primary concern. I do recognise celebrity status does bring enhanced brand recognition with perhaps easier routes to market usually leading to increased sales – depending on the celebrity involved.

I’ve not managed to taste Sassenach – it doesn’t appear to be available in Ireland – but I do find the name attractive & the packaging certainly makes it stand out too!

This book however was in my local library – so I gave it a read.

The pair of actors engage in a laddish romp round Scotland dishing out historical titbits, name dropping, thespian tales, hearty food & plenty of whisky!

Like the whisky it opens up Scotland to a new audience – perhaps for the first time – attracted possibly by the dynamic duo on the book’s cover.

Blending popular culture, celebrity status & whisky together is a sure-fire way to broaden the appeal of the golden liquid & ensures it reaches new fans.

I don’t have a problem with celebrity spirits.

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Sassenach is available from Master Of Malt here.

Sassenach Spirits website here.

Header image courtesy Sassenach Twitter here.

Sam Heughan’s Twitter here.

Whiskey & Philosophy, Editors Fritz Allhoff & Marcus P Adams

Wow!

I’ve never read a whiskey book like this before.

Authors from differing disciplines were invited to submit essays on varying aspects relating to whiskey.

The results are highly entertaining, thought provoking and at times – challenging.

Can you apply Hegelian thought, Aristotle virtue, the philosophy of Dualism, Buddhism or plain old group think & social cohesion to tasting a whiskey?

It’s all in the mix of this publication.

Why do you like one whiskey over another?

Is taste malleable?

Does knowing the master blender, visiting the distillery, being part of the clan, liking the manufacturing techniques, agreeing with the sustainable policies, bottle design, price point all alter our experience of drinking whiskey?

I certainly have my views of the above – and they’ve been further enlightened by the discourse within the pages of this book.

Whiskey & Philosophy is a bold publication full of complexity & rich depth. The diverse elements combine elegantly giving creative excitement to this blended entity.

Highly recommended!

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