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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  954 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
A tour of Scottish distilleries explores the history, personality and mystery of the water of life.

As a native of Scotland, bestselling author Ian 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 j
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published December 15th 2003 by Century (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,665)
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Mar 22, 2009 Gilly rated it really liked it
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'
Dec 28, 2013 Michael 'matt' rated it it was ok
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
Sep 05, 2010 Cams rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Маx Nestelieiev
[порушу своє правило писати про книжку тією мовою, якою вона писана]
це книга про Шотландію, про автівки (багато різних автівок), про справжніх друзів, про пошуки пітріка (безнадійні пошуки), про всі інші книжки Ієна Бенкса, про вино (багато різних вин), і найменше - ця книга про віскі (тобто скотч). і то - автору подобається все пійло (за винятком Auchentoshan та Glen Scotia), але, перепробувавши все, він усе ж лишається вірним Лафройгу (тобто Laphroaig). і нащо було вирушати у пошуки ідеалу? на
J.C. Greenway
Jul 08, 2014 J.C. Greenway rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 14, 2014 Glen Engel-Cox rated it liked it
Shelves: bacchanalia
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
Jul 19, 2009 Thermalsatsuma rated it liked it
Shelves: book-a-week-2009
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
Jan 27, 2015 Anton Tomsinov rated it liked it
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.
Aug 19, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
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
Sep 28, 2013 Vasil Kolev rated it it was amazing
"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.
May 14, 2008 Martin rated it did not like it
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.
Aug 24, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Sumner
Dec 10, 2015 Mike Sumner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My brother picked this up in a charity shop and thought I would enjoy it, knowing my love of single malt Scotch whiskies. It was originally published in 2003 and remarkably the content remains fairly contemporary. A poignant read in many respects; Iain Banks died in 2013 aged just 59. So, to talk about having enough single malt after this trip around the distilleries of Scotland, to last him into his 70s lent a subliminal tone to the content of this book.

I did enjoy it. I love single malt, I lov
Phil Barker
Jun 26, 2013 Phil Barker rated it it was ok
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.
Amy Qualls
Jul 30, 2015 Amy Qualls rated it did not like it
I love Banks' science fiction. However, the rabble-rousing and ranting in this book just got old. I fast-forwarded to the final chapter to confirm nothing had changed. Technically a DNF.

Oh well. Moving on to the next book.
Jan 11, 2014 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2014 Merecraft rated it really liked it
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
Sep 03, 2015 Skeldof rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book, I really did. It's the last Banks book I haven't read before and, of course, his only non-fiction. I like whisky. I like his fiction. What could go wrong?

The book is just so self obsessed. Bragging about getting paid to drink whisky. Raving about his boats, cars, motorbikes and roads (things I don't personally care for.) All got rather repetitive. The descriptions of the whisky making process were quite interesting if brief. Tasting notes were the expected level of pi
Alan Horsfall
Oct 29, 2014 Alan Horsfall rated it really liked it
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
Sep 02, 2013 chris rated it it was amazing
suggestion from alison
Nov 09, 2015 Dom418 rated it did not like it
This book made me forget the joy of reading.

It promised so much. It purports to be about whisky and travelling around dramatic Scottish landscapes, but it is actually about massaging Iain Bank's ginormous ego. Throughout the book, Banks regularly embarks on lengthy and tedious tangents about the juvenile behaviour of him and his mates. He also spends half the book just talking about his various pals and how much fun they have together. And when he's not on about that, he is talking about roads o
Jun 12, 2015 Martin rated it really liked it
This book is a curious thing in that the percentage spent specifically discussing whisky, history, the process, the specific distilleries is actually a LOT less than you'd think. Instead you get a lot of Iain Banks' own observations on his friends, sailing, cars, what makes a great road, more cars, a ton of old anecdotes, digressions on politics (the book was written as the Iraq war was getting into full swing) and a LOT of insight into various bits of Banks' previous writing and his own history ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Kay added it
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
Jul 29, 2015 Luc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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
Aug 12, 2011 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 14, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it it was ok
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
Nov 01, 2009 Jeremy rated it liked it
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
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Iain Banks / Iain...: Raw Spirit 7 27 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
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“After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink.” 32 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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