The 12 Best Whiskey Books

Jan 28, 2020

Category: Vices

The world has been enjoying whiskey in one form or another since the late 15th century, and in that time the drink has gone from an experimental elixir to a globally-celebrated beverage staple. And while anyone can consume whiskey, to fully appreciate the nuances and complexities of the flavors, notes, and aromas, you’ll need to educate yourself. So, while you could pack up, move to Scotland, and train under any one of the numerous legendary malt masters and experts from the region’s renowned distilleries, you’re almost certainly better off cracking open one of the many stellar whiskey-focused literary works. However, in the more-than-500-years since the drink was invented, countless books have been published on the subject, which can make finding the right one for you feel like a stiff proposition.

So, to ensure your hunt for the best whiskey-themed works doesn’t leave you feeling on the rocks, we’ve compiled this concise list of the 10 best whiskey books. Whether you’re looking to add a few new cocktail recipes to your arsenal, or learn the difference between a Japanese and Scottish whisky, how it’s made, a bit about the culture, how to properly nose and taste, or about the rich history of the enigmatic amber liquid, one or more of the entries on this list is sure to strike a chord with you and have you well on your way to becoming a bonafide whiskey connoisseur.

Why Read About Whiskey?

A Literary Topic Worthy Of Your Time

In today’s technologically-driven world of smart-devices, augmented and virtual reality, streaming services, and 1,000HP+ supercars, it might seem an odd choice to spend one’s precious free time reading about a five-century-year-old liquor. The reality is, however, that learning about the finer points of the water of life comes with a host of worthwhile benefits. In addition to impressing your friends and family, a solid comprehension of whiskey will help you to better understand what specific qualities and characteristics make for a good whiskey, as well as what aspects you personally enjoy. Lastly, being privy to the history and centuries of hard work and ingenuity that went into the liquor adds another level of appreciation to the experience.

Le Snob Guide To Whiskey

John D. Lamond

This unique take on a whiskey guide uses a tongue-in-cheek high-end approach and views whiskey appreciation as its own art. Capable of transforming its readers from whiskey novices to know-it-alls, this book touches on everything from how to properly taste whiskey to how to correctly pronounce certain whiskey-related terms and words. Offered in both soft and hard-cover versions, we’d argue this work’s main selling point is its included directory of some of the most prestigious and elite whiskeys ever to be bottled.

Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
Release Date: October 2011
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 144

Purchase: $7

Whisky, Wit, and Wisdom

Gavin D. Smith

Though Whisky, Wit, and Wisdom takes a different approach than most other pieces of whisky-related literary works, it’s nonetheless just as deserving of a spot on this list. Rather than focusing on the drink itself, this book is a collection of fun, whisky-themed anecdotes from inside the wonderful world of whisky. And though Gavin D. Smith is credited as the author, it nonetheless includes stories from a variety of big-names in the whiskey world. On top of providing its reader with some genuinely entertaining stories, the book also offers a unique look at whiskey culture, the industry, and the people who dedicate their lives to it.

Publisher: The Gresham Publishing Co. Ltd
Release Date: May 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192

Purchase: $8

Bourbon

Fred Minnick

As American as baseball or apple pie, Bourbon is heavily ingrained in the cultural fabric of the US, and this fantastic 240-page book tells the story of the amber liquid in the states. Written by Fred Minnick, the book delves into how the drink was brought to the new world, from early corn liquor to modern-day mass-scale operations, this book traces the history of the drink back to the 1700s, going over its effects on everything from politics to pop-culture, and telling the definitive story of Bourbon and its impact on America. It also features more than 100 illustrations and historic photos.

Publisher: Voyageur Press
Release Date: October 2016
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 240

Purchase: $14

Hacking Whiskey

Aaron Goldfarb

Written by Aaron Goldfarb, a self-described “whiskey nerd” and writer based in Brooklyn, Hacking Whiskery offers a unique take on traditional whiskey books. The 264-page literary work includes tips and tricks for drinking and cocktail mixing, as well as a slew of wildly-unique recipes for drinks, including marijuana-smoke-infused whiskey and bone-marrow luge shots, among many, many more.

Publisher: Dovetail
Release Date: September 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 264

Purchase: $14

The Whisky Dictionary

Ian Wisniewski

This “whictionary” is the world’s most comprehensive whisky dictionary, going over countless words, terms, phrases, though it doesn’t end there. From the same outfit behind the Tequila Dictionary and Gin Dictionary titles, this book also explores the history of the drink, the ingredients and techniques used in its production, and some of the science behind fermentation and the aging process. The hundreds of entries that constitute this 256-page book undoubtedly make it one of the most well-rounded books ever penned on the topic.

Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
Release Date: October 2011
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 144

Purchase: $14

Big Whiskey

Carlo DeVito

Big Whiskey tells the tale of America’s premier whiskey region: the dirty south, namely, Kentucky and Tennessee. It goes into the fascinating history of whiskey, moonshines, rye, and bourbon in the US through the use of historical archives, records, and photographs, while also profiling no-less-than 80 of the south’s most elite distilleries. The book also includes interviews with a myriad of Master Distillers. If you’re a fan of distilleries like Buffalo Trace, Russell’s Reserve, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Knob Creek, this is the book for you.

Publisher: Cider Mill Press
Release Date: April 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 480

Purchase: $17

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2020

Jim Murray

Jim Murray’s annual Whiskey Bible is pretty much the gold standard in whiskey literature. This particular volume is the latest edition (and the 16th in total) and boasts over 1,000 ratings and notes that are all easily understood by a layman. Everything in this book is broken down and organized by region and distillery, too. With Murray’s books having covered well-over-20,000 different whiskeys, it’s not hard to see why he’s become such a respected authority on the subject.

Publisher: Dram Good Books Ltd
Release Date: January 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384

Purchase: $18

The Complete Whiskey Course

Robin Robinson

Like the title suggests, this book breaks down whiskey for the uninitiated in easily-digestible language and through the abundant use of some handy graphics and illustrations. In addition to teaching readers how to “nose” and taste whiskey, the book contains information on the history of the spirit, why different regions use varying techniques, and some basic info on the science and process behind how it’s made. If you’re looking to become a connoisseur, this is the book you want.

Publisher: Sterling Epicure
Release Date: October 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304

Purchase: $25

The World Atlas Of Whisky (2nd Edition)

Dave Broom

The latest version of this ultra-comprehensive guide to whiskeys of the world, the World Atlas of Whisky features a variety of detailed maps of key whiskey regions along with tasting notes on more than 300 select whiskeys. Penned by Glenfiddich Award-winning author, Dave Broom, the book also breaks whiskeys down into different groups, helping the reader to better understand the qualities and nuances involved in the so-called water of life.

Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
Release Date: October 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 336

Purchase: $29

The Way Of Whisky

Dave Broom

Another entry from noted whisky/whiskey expert, Dave Broom, this book recounts the rise of Japanese whisky over the last two-or-so-decades. Born out of more than 25 trips taken by Broom to Japan, this book explains the state of the single malt industry in Japan since the island first starting exporting the stuff in 2002. With each chapter covering a different distillery of significance, the book also explores what makes Japanese whisky unique and how distilleries there balance tradition and innovation.

Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
Release Date: November 2017
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 256

Purchase: $29

Malt Whisky

Charles Maclean

This book gives an in-depth and comprehensive look at good ‘ol malt whisky: what it is, where it comes from, and how it’s gotten to where it is today. This guide book also includes a helpful whiskey dictionary covering common terms and phrases, along with tips and tricks on how to properly taste whisky and some advice on buying it. Written by industry legend, Charles Maclean, the book also includes some 150 high-quality photos, a myriad of full-color maps, and a slew of other features that help bring this literary work to life.

Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
Release Date: October 2011
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 240

Purchase: $93

World Whiskey

Charles Maclean

This high-end liquor-focused literary work offers readers a nation-by-nation whiskey guide that packs over 700 whiskeys and bourbons from some of the world’s top distilleries. Bound by hand in a supple embossed leather-bound cover in America and brimming with high-quality photos printed on glossy stock, this 161-page work covers not only tasting notes, but also explains what factors contribute to these unique aromas, tastes, and notes. While it does shy away from the history of whiskey, it does offer one of the most up-to-date looks at the drink, including recent photos from noteworthy producers.

Publisher: Graphic Image
Release Date: September 2009
Format: Leather-bound Hardcover
Pages: 161

Purchase: $105

The 8 Best Whiskey Subscription Boxes

With the help of one or more of the books on this list you’ll be well on your way to knowing how to properly nose and taste the water of life, though even the most refined pallet is wasted unless you’ve actually got some whiskey to enjoy. So, if you’re looking to sample a wide range of the amber alcohol without spending a fortune, we’d recommend checking out our guide to the 8 best whiskey subscription boxes.

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