Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram
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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  594 ratings  ·  69 reviews
A tour of Scottish distilleries explores the history, personality and mystery of the water of life.

As a native of Scotland, bestselling author Iain Banks has decided to undertake a tour of the distilleries of his homeland in a bid to uncover the unique spirit of the single malt.

Visiting world-famous distilleries and also the small and obscure ones, Iain Banks embarks on a...more
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Published January 1st 2004 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published November 6th 2003)
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Gilly
I read this with a map of Scotland in one hand and a dram of whisky in the other, which definitely enhanced my experience, but you could certainly take this book neat and enjoy it just as well.
Cams
I used to enjoy whisky. I also enjoy Iain Banks's novels. So it made sense to read a book about whisky by Iain Banks. Ironically, I picked this book up from the boxes of books stored in the church hall where we have our Wednesday AA meetings. I put 50p in the honesty box.

The book is very readable. Iain travels around Scotland visiting distilleries and buying up hunners of bottles. One might say that it's a self-indulgent book by a writer with too much money and who likes nothing more than to tal...more
Michael 'matt'
As a whisky drinker and fan of Iain Banks I can't believe how long it's taken to get around to reading this book. Still it may have been better never to have read this book. It is one of the biggest let downs I have ever read.

I had expected to be taken on a literary tour of the distilleries of Scotland, to hear their stories and anecdotes and to meet the people that make the industry. To me this is the essence of a travel book - the people that make the place/industry/whatever that is being inve...more
Glen Engel-Cox
I would have picked this book up in any case, as I'm a big fan of Banks and could probably enjoy reading him write about the intracacies of inventory management, but since we are headed to Scotland next September, I found this book--about Scotch whiskey and the Scotland distilleries that make it--quite fortuitious. This is Banks's first book of non-fiction, having made his career on both the literary fiction that appears under his own name and the science fiction that appears under his obvious n...more
Thermalsatsuma
Banksie! I hear you're writing a book about whisky - you'll be wanting a hand with that then ...

Offering the noted author Iain Banks the opportunity to write a book about whisky is a little bit like giving a five year old child the keys to a sweet shop and the toy shop next door as well. This is an enormously self indulgent book, but Banks writes in an engaging and humorous way about his various wanderings around the Scottish highlands and islands in a variety of interesting cars and bikes, acco...more
Ron
Fun, very informative, in a chaotically anecdotal way, about Banks' own favorite Scotches and by way of travelling to various distilleries, his favorite places in Scotland.

I enjoyed it and read it in less than two days, but I have to admit he sometimes goes on just a wee bit long in his personal stories of exploits with his old buddies, and he shows off his cars just a little too much. (Me, jealous of his BMW M5? Naw. ;-)

But over everything else I felt very sad that this exuberent, talented, st...more
Carol
Am not a whisky connoisseur (since my 21st birthday debacle) but reading this has rekindled my interest in the water of life. Might have to try some of the lesser known expressions! I've toured many a Speyside distillery - as well as shortbread factories - in my formative years but might be time to visit some of the others. Enjoyed this travelogue as much for the non-whisky elements however and even with no interest in whisky whatsoever, it can be enjoyed for its humour and anecdotes.
Vasil Kolev
"After extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single-malt whiskies are good to drink."

The book was great. Actually the parts with explaining how the whiskies taste are the boring ones - but his rants are wonderful, there's ton of information (which makes my liver cringe, when I think I have to test so much stuff), and his writing style makes the read really pleasant.

All in all, this is somewhat an ambient book, it can really help you relax.
Martin
Generally I like Banks, I like whisky, I like Scotland and I like road trips. Thought this was going to be a good book that combined a little of each - with some added history and knowledge of this special drink combined with what Scotland, steeped in heritage, has too offer. Started off well, but slowly descended into sanctimonious nonsense about his fast cars. Poor stuff from the author who wrote such vibrant novels as Wasp Factory, Complicity and Crow Road.
Phil Barker
Ian Banks drives around Scotland visiting friends and distilleries. Chatty and witty enough to be entertaining for 50 pages, but essentially repetitive after that. If it had an index the stuff about the distilleries might be useful; far too much about driving.
Ben
I never read any Iain Banks before and didn't really know what to expect. The booked was passed to me because my well known love for whisky and books.

This book i weird. It is more the "making of" rather then the real book. It starts by describing how his agent calls him and asks if he wants to write a book about whisky (a case he gladly accepts because he is getting paid for it; post-hoc judging how many whiskies he tasted, he was paid dearly). The book proceeds by describing his "research": dri...more
chris
suggestion from alison
Luc
This is a book you should read in preparation of a visit to Scotland, during your visit or shortly after. Although the title suggests it's a book about Scotch whisky, I would say that only about 25% of the text is dedicated to the history and making of the drink, to tasting some and to distillery visits. Because this is the venture Iain Banks undertakes: touring scotland to visit distilleries and taste whiskey. The other themes in the book are: roads and cars and an occasional motorbike, an over...more
Maria
We are heading to Scotland soon and this is one of the few modern travelogues on Scotland I could fine although the theme is very much a tour of the distilleries. It is written by a native of Scotland, now living in Fife who is an author. As such the writing is spirited and entertaining and you get a real sense for the author's personality & friendships. His passion for whiskey is rather infectious. His other great love is cars and driving, and the book contains numerous musings on the cars...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in May 2004.

Iain Banks' first book length non-fiction writing is on a subject which has little interest to me, and is certainly a book I would not have picked up had it not been for the author's name. The subject is whisky, and I have been a teetotaller for over fifteen years. So a book about scotch is not really one calculated to appeal to me, and indeed I did find the parts of Raw Spirit which are in fact about the drink rather dull (there is clearly a limi...more
Jeremy
I had never really warmed to Iain Banks’ writing (or Iain M Banks for that matter) despite taking on Crow Road and one or two others, but this did offer promise of something different. And different it certainly was.
I do like a good dram of good whisky and I was looking forward to be reminded of some of the great ones I have tasted over the years. I didn’t really expect the book to drift so far away from the subject matter or so frequently. Yes, we are interested in the fabulous Scottish landsca...more
Julia
I started this book because I thought it was going to be about Scotland and whisky. And, while it was notionally about Scotland and whisky, in the end the overwhelming impression I took away was of a book about driving and roads, secondarily about whisky, and thirdly about Scotland. Banks, a self-professed petrolhead, seems to spend a lot of time talking about the virtues of this road or that, or this car or that. Perhaps it would have seemed less pervasive, or at least more accessible, if my Sc...more
Ian Mapp
This is a real odd ball of a book.

In theory it should work. One of my favorite authors, my favorite drink in my favorite country. However, it fails and it all reads like we are funding banks to pursue his dreams and he is giving little in return.

The premise is that he visits all the distlleries in Scotland in search of the perfect dram. He travels in a haphazard approach to areas in a variety of decent cars and spends a fair amount of money on great cases of whisky - rubbing our noses in it. He...more
Dennis
I liked this book quite a bit (although I felt like I might have gotten more out of it with a map and some samples), but I felt like it was lacking a little structure. It seemed to be a 'book' in the sense that Ball Four is a book: a great collection of stories and recollections, with a vague chronological order, but without any narrative or major structure. It's an entertaining read, I just think there was potential for something more. This was my introduction to Banks, and I very much enjoyed...more
Mekerei
This book is written by Iain M. Banks who is also Iain Banks. It is not so much a book about where to find the perfect dram but a travel to Scotland with the excuse of finding the perfect dram.

This tale is a great crack (in Scotland a compliment) told by a man who loves his country. I'm not a great whiskey drinker (I love a dram of Glenmorangie) but this book makes me want to get a group of friends together and drive around Scotland in search of the perfect dram.

A solid four stars
Dan
Scotch. Iain Banks. Travel. These are a few of my favorite things. The world lost a great soul and a very fine writer when Iain Banks passed this year. This non-fiction book about rambling around Scotland to various whisky distilleries is great fun at taken at face value, but also quite poignant as a window into a writer that left us too soon. I would recommend this one to anyone interested in travel writing, Scotland, whiskey or british humor, but it is required reading for anyone who has read...more
Justin
A fun and enjoyable book on drinking and experiencing whiskey. The problem is there are far too few words devoted to actually discussing the topic. Instead there are far too many passages on driving his expensive cars and his political views. I have no problem with his views, they just aren't terribly insightful or interesting in the context of this book. I believe he was trying to tie Scotch the drink into what it means to be Scottish in some way. However, it came across as just rant after rant...more
Jim
If you are looking for an authoritative reference guide to Scotch Whiskey this is not for you.

However, if you are looking for a light-hearted travelogue through the wee roads of Scotland, coupled with occasional political rants against the recent Iraq adventure, loving descriptions of the top distilleries, personal tasting notes, and funny personal anecdotes from one of Scotland's finest novelist this book should be right up your alley.

The late Iain Banks 2003Raw Spirits is equal self revelator...more
Alex
This turned out to be a very expensive book to read, as it made me want to buy bottles of scotch. So even though the book was only £2 from a charity shop - sorry Mr Banks, no royalties from me this time - it's cost me nearly £100 so far, and likely to be much more.
This is an easy and charming read, if you identify with Iain Banks' warm and ebullient style. He reminds me of Bill Bryson in his relaxed, friendly, erudite writing. It's a loving tour of Scotland and many of its distilleries, with ple...more
Jen
I picked this up during a vacation in Scotland, and loved the political commentary throughout the book -- probably because he was bashing Bush, and what's not to love there. I also enjoyed some of the digressions and the reminiscing, but wasn't as thrilled by the Great Wee Roads stories as I was by the descriptions of distillery visits. I also wonder if I'd have enjoyed this book as much if I didn't have the exact same taste in whisky as the author does... All in all, an enjoyable read. One thin...more
Clarke
similar to Judgement of Paris..., this book had me out buying new whiskey's immediately. To some degree I felt as if I was reading a book about myself, fast cars, wandering about with no set destination, and enjoying being with friends and tasting whiskey. this book is about just that, traveling aound enjoying life. It discusses whiskeys, but not heavily detailed....thus if you're looking for definitive guide to whiskey this isn't it. But if you're looking for story about the love of travel, and...more
Jim Mcclanahan
I enjoy an occasional dram of single malt. I also love Iain Banks' stories. So it was a no-brainer to pick this one up. I learned that he loves to drive on GWRs (great wee roads) and loves to swill whisky. I'm surprised he didn't end up carrying his liver in front of him in a wheelbarrow. But the commentary (a lot of it) between the visits to various distilleries was fun, albeit quite self-indulgent. The descriptions of the various spirits encountered were colorful. A fun read for the most part....more
Colleen
This guy is a well known sci-fi writer. I think he saw this book as his opportunity to tell all about his life and his cars and roads in Scotland he's driven his cars since he doesn't get to do such things in his books. Oh and about the Iraq war.

I was really looking forward to a book about whisky and his adventure going to the different breweries. Instead I got a book about his uninteresting life and opinions on things completely unrelated to whisky. I don't care dude. I don't think I'd care if...more
Elizabeth Hunter
This book chronicles Ian's publisher-funded search for the perfect dram of Scotch. In the course of visiting many of Scotland's distilleries, he writes about all the roads he travels, the cars he drives, the friends he visits, the stories that reminds him of, the war he despises--with great wit and verve. I don't think I could keep up with him on a weekend road trip, unless I could convince him to try tequila, but after reading this book, I think I'd like to try.
Sebastian
Not really a book anyone needs. Iain Banks drives around Scotland from distillery to distillery, telling anecdotes from his life, muses about his car park or rants on the Iraq war. Arguably, it's not an easy job to turn a trip to n more or less identical locations into a pageturner. The book has its moments, but all in all, while I do not begrudge Banks the certainly more than nice research time on this book, the result is not overly exciting.
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This author also published science fiction under the pseudonym Iain M. Banks.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edi...more
More about Iain Banks...
The Wasp Factory The Crow Road Complicity The Bridge Whit

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“After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink.” 24 likes
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