Category Archives: Books

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.

Sláinte

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!

Sláinte

Spirit Of The Age, The Story Of Old Bushmills, Alf McCreary

I always find it fascinating looking back into the history of Irish Whiskey.

This 1983 publication on Old Bushmills catalogues the rich tapestry of the distillery through it’s folklore, scenery, politics, changing fortunes, characters & calamities.

The book clearly displays there’s a lot more to simply enjoying the glass of whiskey in front of you – there’s always a whole back story.

Illustrated with many photographs & tales of the people involved – both from the boardroom as well as the distillery floor – Spirit Of The Age is a testament to the longevity of Irish Whiskey.

At the time of publication Old Bushmills was owned by Irish Distillers – but history is ongoing & Tequila makers Jose Cuervo are now in control.

Ironically one of Bushmills biggest sellers no longer bares it’s name – Proper Twelve has now overtaken the lead sales position Bushmills used to enjoy – and marks yet another chapter in the changing faces of Irish Whiskey.

I found this highly informative & entertaining publication through Libraries Ireland – well worth reading.

Long may Old Bushmills continue producing Irish Whiskey!

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Old Bushmills website here.

Jose Cuervo buys Bushmills here.

Irish Distillers website here.

Proper Twelve sales growth here.

The Philosophy Of Whisky, Billy Abbott

I suppose it was wishful thinking expecting some existential answers to questions like ‘Why has whisky captured the human spirit?‘ or ‘ Can drinking whisky sooth a troubled soul?‘.

The Philosophy Of Whisky is however an easy – if brief – entertaining introduction into the growing global reach of distilling, maturing & enjoyment of the brown spirit.

Chapters covering the big 5 producers – Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada & Japan – along with mentions on Sweden, Taiwan, India, Australia & Mexico to name a few – give a welcome & refreshing world view on this tasty beverage.

The author still appears to elevate Scotch above the others – even when world whisky is winning tasting awards – & fudges facts over the earliest written records for aqua vitae – the forerunner of whisky.

Yet for all that – anyone still restricting their whisky drinking to Scotch is missing out on a world of exciting tastes, flavours & growth.

Excuse me while I pour some Titanic Irish Whiskey!

Sláinte

All images authors own.

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

My excuse for reading this book was being stuck in hospital.

It’s not exactly an uplifting experience.

One central character slowly descends into alcoholism & damages relations all around.

The rather sad lives portrayed give no sense of hope for a brighter future & I found it rather predictable – if a little bit voyeuristic peering in on folks struggling to cope.

Given fellow patients on my ward suffered from alcoholism & drug abuse – along with other physical ailments – I found Shuggie Bain showcasing characters I’ve met with all too often.

There is hope for alcoholics to improve their lives – but precious little of that came through in the book.

Too close to reality for me.

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All photos authors own.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

Whiskey for me is a journey of exploration, enjoyment & new experiences.

For others alcohol can be a destructive path to follow

Amy Liptrot’s memoir is a powerful & moving tale that pulled me in.

A world beyond mine was exposed that nonetheless gave hope & encouragement in an ever changing world.

Amy too is on a journey of exploration, enjoyment & new experiences – one that I could relate to on different levels.

Her book shares many common human traits & foibles combined with the nourishment of nature & nurture.

It was a joy to follow her journey while reading this life affirming memoir.

Sláinte

All images authors own.

The Bootlegger by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott

Despite being a 2014 publication this rip roaring action packed story set in 1920’s prohibition times of rum running reads like a 1930’s boys own story.

The clean cut hero thwarts a Bolshevik takeover of the US with the help of his trusted friends.

There’s a little background into the dark underworld prohibition spawned with mentions of Haig & Haig, The Real McCoy, Canadian Club & Bushmills too.

Could easily be the plot for a classic style of B Movie.

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Book image courtesy fruugo.ie

Tattoos & Tequila, Vince Hill & Mike Sagar & the timing of celebrity spirits.

The attraction of hell raising rockers & torrid tabloid tales of their exploits appears to be undiminished.

A new mini-series ‘Pam & Tommy’ explores the infamous ‘sex tape’ of former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson & Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.

Vince Neal is Mötley Crüe’s singer & in this 2010 book his antics, controversies & scandals are laid bare from his personal perspective.

The book coincided with his tequila launch – Tres Rios – as well as a solo tour.

Fast forward to 2022 & despite the enduring gossip around all things Mötley – Vince dead? – and a boom in celebrity tequila brands with George Clooney, Dwayne The ‘Rock’ Hudson & Kendall Jenner all selling loads – I can’t help thinking Vince was a bit premature with the launch.

Tres Rios appears to be out of production!

Sláinte

Hot Whiskey by James Morrissey, 1989.

Irish Whiskey was in a perilous state in 1987.

This revealing book by James Morrissey focuses on the remarkable turn of events culminating in the Pernod-Ricard takeover of Irish Distillers.

The most sobering chapters however expose the dismal performance & inability of Irish Distillers to drive the category forward – the very reasons a speculative takeover war started.

Irish Whiskey was a monopoly in 1987.

Irish Distillers owned all the distilleries – 2, Midleton & Bushmills – & all the brands – 15 – & was losing sales.

Cooley Distillery in County Louth was just being founded & had yet to mature any whiskey.

Irish Distillers main sales in 1987 were the domestic market followed by bulk sales to places like Japan – whose blending practices have a long history of using non-Japanese stock.

Sales in the lucrative American market dwindled down to a low of around 250,000 cases – about the same as Conor MacGregor’s Proper Twelve sold alone in 2021 – yet Irish Distillers marketing strategies were effectively underfunded & ineffective.

Without the takeover of Pernod-Ricard & increased competition from Cooley who knows where Irish Whiskey would have ended up.

Irish Whiskey today is in a far more healthier situation.

New brands, new bottles & new distilleries are being announced on an almost weekly basis.

I welcome each and every single one of them as they collectively strive to rebuild Irish Whiskey.

A read of Hot Whiskey sobers you up as to how grim things were a mere 35 years ago.

Sláinte

All images authors own.

Hot Whiskey available at www.librariesireland.ie