With Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies, Margarett Waterbury has written an inclusive and comprehensive guide to Scotland’s distilling industry that is one third sharp-eyed historical narrative, one third orientation course for casual drinkers and newcomers that is welcoming, and one third directory full of reviews and listings for over 200 single malt, grain, and blended whiskies.
The 300+ page guide embarks on the fundamentals, covering the basic definitions and terms of Scotch before heading off on a tour of the country’s geography. We are then treated to an all too brief timeline of Scotch history, and a thoroughly detailed and exuberant discussion on the whiskymaking process all the way to final cork and bottle selections. There is no stone unturned at every stop on the journey and throughout this section, it becomes evident Waterbury has an impeccable knack for detail, delivering stories worthy of her chosen subject while never resorting to a tone of heavy-handedness or pompous authority which can sometimes pollute this particular style of book.
The remainder of Scotch is dedicated to reviews, providing the sorts of data one has become accustomed to in reference guides: distillery, parent company, a brief distillery history, price point, and tasting notes. The greatest hits and then some are covered here, which aficionados may find to be a retread, but newcomers intimidated by the vast amount of selections available at their local shop will find to be helpful. Waterbury doesn’t delve deeply into the granular details of reviewing limited edition or exorbitantly priced offerings. On the plus side, there are no weird horny old man overtures or toxic bro culture buffoonery one must wade through to get down to the basic facts of an expression, a victory for all participants involved.
The book concludes with a section entitled “Playlists”: 15 carefully curated lists based on situations and subjects including starting one’s own collection representing Scotch in 10 bottles, modern classics, holiday suggestions, pairings with chocolate and more. There is also a budget-minded list for those not yet willing to invest in higher priced bottles, but do not wish to skimp on quality.
In his foreword Lew Bryson (himself no stranger to these sorts of books) references Michael Jackson, whose Complete Guide To Single Malt Scotch remains the gold standard for single malt guidebooks years after his passing. Bryson rightfully praises Waterbury for adding a new and refreshing voice on an already crowded bookshelf telling similar tales, rather than emulating Jackson’s style. He’s correct. Scotch is worthy of a place amongst the best of them, a book is just as much about the process as it is the final result and an incredibly useful roadmap to beginning the journey.
A / $18 / [BUY IT FROM AMAZON]