Iowa City Public Library's Reviews > Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History

Scotch Whisky by Charles  MacLean
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's review
Jul 16, 2010

bookshelves: heidi, nonfiction, staff-picks-blog

Forget the guidebooks, forget the history books: to plan your trip to Scotland, check out Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History by Charles Maclean. The word “whisky” is a shortened form of the Gaelic words “uisge beatha”, or “water of life”; in Latin it is “aqua vitae”. This beautiful book recounts in a very readable way the history of whisky in Scotland, or rather, perhaps, the history of Scotland in whisky. Whisky’s historical uses in medicine and perfumery, and its role in the monasteries, agriculture, exports and politics are all covered. You will get an overview of how whisky is made (in Scotland, from barley), with detail on the malting, fermentation, distillation and aging.

There are beautiful illustrations throughout the book, including reproductions of engravings from the early 18th century and contemporary color photos of distilleries and their settings among lochs and mountains. The pictures of the polished copper stills—the color of honey or caramel, or whisky for that matter—are my favorites. The only thing missing from the book, in my opinion, is a guide to tasting Scotch. I would have appreciated some hints on what flavors to look for, cautions on how big of a sip to take, and so on. In my limited experience, it is still hard to swallow without grimacing, but I think practice will help. --Heidi

From ICPL Staff Picks Blog

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