Thursday, January 20, 2011

And He Said Unto Me: Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2010

When it comes to books about whisky, single malts in particular, it has a shelf life of maybe 2 or 3 years. Some of the club members will pull out a well fingered handbook from time to time sporting dogeared corners and well creased spines. Generally though I have found the limitations in these books is that they are describing whiskies that just are not in production anymore and or have changed considerably since handbook was in issue. They are great retrospects but fall short of what one might be drinking now. On the other hand how could any handbook be anything more than a here and now manual. The short answer is by a new one every year and stop moaning about it.

So when deciding on what whisky handbook you like you really need to decide on what side of the fence you fall. So are you the type that drinks only the mainstream mass produced single malts with an aim to be the same year after year and likes top read about something you already know so much about? Or are you the type that loves ones daily dram but also wants to experience something new and unique on any other day? Or are you that whisky geek that only drinks single malts, that only fall into a higher price range, and that have to be at least a certain age? Some handbooks will aim towards one side and some towards the other but can a manual cover both and if so how in gods name can anyone sample 3,850 whiskies in any one year! Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2010 makes this claim. Hell if he can do it and he did do it then well done I say. I am a fence sitter and this handbook is just write for me.

I have had a look around for quite some time on what I might buy and settled on Jim Murray's Whisky Bible accepting it will be a somewhat throw away in a years time. At $25au a pop each year it does fell terribly wasteful but then how else can this be achieved.

What I DO like about this edition of the Whisky Bible is that it is covering what appears to be every continent producing whisky. The introductions are short but concise serving a bit of history, what Jim Murray likes and dislikes about about each type of whisky, why he has his favourites and why he rates as he does. He is not apologetic about his scores or comments even if some descriptions are terribly short if not downright useless to a novice like myself. I like the fact I can put the bible in my pocket and then lose it form time to time which I have done already. The bible does not make any references to price nor does it sport any pictures.

What I DON'T like about the bible is that there is just so many darn whiskies appearing. Very little passion is described from Jim Murray vs what might be found in the late Michael Jackson's Whisky Companion so keep this in mind when deciding if you are wanting a good read or a good reference. I also do not always like the briefness of the whisky descriptions as they just leave me thinking "he gave it a 92 but said absolutely nothing about the whisky… is it really worth it.

One might look to the Whisky Bible to search for your favourites to see what Jim Murray has to say but that is not the point of a 'go to reference'. Since you already like that particular whisky it is it really worth worrying what others have to say anyway? Yes I did start doing it and thought "what the hell am I doing". I have found many a whisky available here in Aus that does not appear in the book which makes for a sad case when I am up for a purchase (but that is just my problem and not a judgment). 

The Whisky Bible does make note that older issues can be back ordered to ensure you have an accurate archive of previous years as there is what appears to be a hell of a lot of one off whiskies (small batches, special editions, single casks) in the handbook never to be seen again unless you are a collector.

In a few months I will make a new purchase of the most recent 2011 edition but that can wait for now.

If I was to give a dram I would certainly put the bible at a 6 1/2 out of 7. It is serving it's purpose well and I appreciate the time Jim Murray has spent tasting, evaluating and rating the 3,850 whiskies appearing for this edition. I have by far found this handbook much more beneficial to me than the collection of dusty Glencairn crystal nosing glasses I never use.

As the I like to say "We are not whisky geeks, we just know what we like and what we really really like". So get a handbook and get out of it what you can in the limited time you have.

The Baron