Book Review — Know It All Whiskey: The 50 Most Elemental Concepts of Whiskey, Each Explained in Under a Minute

Know It All Whiskey: The 50 Most Elemental Concepts of Whiskey, Each Explained in Under a Minute by Charles MacLean is both a history and an education on whiskey.  MacLean has been described by The Times as “Scotland’s leading whisky expert.” He has been researching and writing about whisky for 35 years and has published 15 books on the subject.

My understanding of whiskey has changed since those underage and early twenties Jack and Cokes.  What better whiskey was there than Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, or that special high-end whiskey Wild Turkey?  I have never developed a taste for Scotch, but not from lack of trying.  Today a nice rye is my favorite and no need to mix it.  Growing older I have discovered that whiskey tastes good on its own. If I want to mix, though, it’s back to a blended whiskey or big name whiskey.  

Know it all Whiskey will take the novice reader through the history of different whiskeys and their origins.  Facts like Japan is one of the big five whiskey producing countries along with the US, Canada, Scotland, and Ireland are found throughout the book.  Rye is an American whiskey that contains at least 51% rye in the mash.  In Canada, however, whiskey is commonly referred to as rye although is a blended whiskey that does contain some rye.  The reader will also travel the world and out more information on Scotch and its varieties.  Whiskey itself is a generalization distilled mashes much as wine covers the many varieties of fermented grapes.  Bourbon is different from Rye, is different from Scotch, is different from blended whiskey.  These may also vary by location.

The book itself is well organized.  The pages are nicely illustrated and the small history lessons are done on a black background with white text. The main text is written in the center column.  On the right is the “3-second nip” and “3-minute distillation” providing nice simple summaries.  On the left is “Related Topics” with page references inside the book, information on distillers, and the variety expert.  Between chapters is a list of keywords and their definitions.  Know It All Whiskey provides a wealth of knowledge in a very usable form.  Tips on tasting and serving will allow the reader to choose the right whiskey for every occasion.  


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