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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  764 ratings  ·  85 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
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Published January 1st 2004 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published 2003)
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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.
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
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
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
J.C. Greenway
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Anton Tomsinov
It was quite a pleasant reading. Iain Banks touches much more than just whisky: this books mostly speaks about Scotland itself, people, nature, and culture, about the invisible threads that connect history with our times. It is also a very personal text, filled with humour and autobiographical anecdotes.
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.
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.
It's strange but over the years I have only read three Banks books and two of them I would class as brilliant namely 'The Wasp Factory' which was wonderfully blackly comic and The Crow Road which I loved and I also enjoyed the BBC adaptation. Last year I read Stonemouth and really enjoyed it so I wonder why over the last twenty years haven't I read more especially as i have had this book sat on my shelf unread for ages. What leads me to this digression is that I read this self indulgent road tri ...more
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.
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
Let me say at the outset that I know nothing about whisky, and, indeed, am teetotal. However, this book, ostensibly about that liquor, is not really anything of the sort. Banks is invited to travel his native Scotland "in search of the perfect dram". And so we set off, touring distilleries, with lengthy detours to discuss Great Wee Roads (GWRs) and his passion for cars and driving, generally; anecdotes from his past (including the infamous urban climbing at the Brighton WorldCon, which I had alw ...more
This is celebrated SF and fiction author Iain Banks' only non-fiction book. Ostensibly a book about the many varieties of single-malt scotch whisky, it is in fact the closest thing we will ever have to an autobiography of the sadly deceased genius.

The book reads like a Bryson-like travelogue as Banks traverses his native Scotland, sampling whiskies from each of it's distilleries, in search of the perfect dram. Along the way he entertains the reader with tall tales from his youth, and dissertatio
Alan Horsfall
I'm still relatively new to the joys of single malt whisky. But, as a fan of Iain a Banks (minus the M) and a lover of travelogues, I thought I'd give this a go.

Whilst Iain spent a little too long on reminiscing about youthful pranks, this did not detract from a wonderful, easy read, which both painted an idyllic picture of the whisky producing regions of Scotland and provided a fascinating insight into the time, love and care which goes into producing this astonishing and unique drink. Needles
suggestion from alison
This book was recommended for reading prior to my exploration of whisky distilleries in Scotland. From the start, I became a bit weary of the style. It is written more like a blog and self biography. The author has the blog-like diarrhea of the mouth discussing his inner-most, hippy-ish protestor thoughts about strife in Middle East, as well as past experiences with old buddies and other such fluff. I'll read it to the end but sense that I'll be disappointed not to learn more about Scottish whis ...more
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
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
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
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
I love my single malt, and I love Iain Banks (mostly in his guise as Iain M. Banks), but I was disappointed by this fairly flat, self-indulgent whack at a travelogue. There were brief moments of poetic beauty, and a few rare glimpses into the heart of the distillery industry, but overall it was "here's me and some of my old mates, and we're driving in a car on a road named something like A Nine Blah Blah Blah." As another reviewer put it, I would have much preferred more detail in the stories of ...more
Ulmer Ian
Ken MacLeod (sci-fi author, friend of Iain Banks and in this book) said at LonCon 3 if you wanted to know Iain Banks the man to read this book. So I did. It's a travel book and Iain's writing kept me engaged. I was also in Scotland while reading most of it, I think that helped. You should be a fan of Iain and at least one of the other subjects this book covers to enjoy this books - Scotland, cars or of course whiskey. For me it was Scotland and Banks and that was enough.

It was an interesting int
interesting mix of travelogue, guide to whisky, with autobiographical elements. really made me want to get out on the road and see these places and GWRs (Great Wee Roads) and try these whiskeys - I bought the one he really liked, and also named our second daughter after one of the minor characters (Eilidh, in case you are interested)
Richard Mullahy
While it can get a little repetitious on occasion, this is a wonderful book. The sense one gets is of a man who would be tremendous company on any road trip. His obvious love of life and some of the finer things therein (good company, craic, whisky, cars) leaps off the page. His engaging writing style and turn of phrase, well known to readers of his novels, make this an absolute pleasure to read. All I wanted while reading this was to hop in the car with him and his friends on one of the distill ...more
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
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Iain Banks / Iain...: Raw Spirit 7 19 Apr 05, 2013 12:48AM  
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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 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.” 27 likes
“To the people who insist they really do have a great idea but they just can't write, I'd say that given some of the books I've read, or at least started to read, it would appear that not being able to write is absolutely no obstacle whatsoever to writing a book and securing a publishing contract. Though becoming famous in some other field first may help.” 2 likes
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