Monday, May 7, 2012

Recent Reads: Canadian Whisky, the Portable Expert

A few years ago, I wanted to write up a very short blog post that could serve as a quick primer on Canadian Whisky. I searched the web high and low but couldn't find a decent site that could answer even very basic questions about Canadian Whisky. Having failed in new media, I turned to the old, hoping to find a reliable book about Canadian Whisky. The only thing I found was a thin advert-book commissioned by Seagram's in the mid-1990s. I was shocked that this major whisky category was so lacking in reliable information.

Not long after that, sommelier and Malt Maniac Davin De Kergommeaux came along with his blog which immediately became the go-to website for Canadian Whisky. Now, he had done one better with a new book: Canadian Whisky, the portable expert. Davin sent me an early release copy, but it officially publishes on May 8.

Not only is De Kergommeaux's book easily the best book on the market about Canadian Whisky, it is one of the best books about whisky period. More than an introduction, the book gives thorough coverage of the science of whisky, production techniques, the history of the industry in Canada, and profiles of the nine Canadian distilleries along with tasting notes for 100 Canadian whiskies interspersed throughout the book. Many of the sections on the science and production apply to other types of whisky as well, so it's an interesting read even if you're not a particular fan of Canadian Whisky.

It would not bean exaggeration to say that I learned something on nearly every one of the 336 pages. For instance, I've always wondered about the often cited rule that Canadian Whisky can be include up to 9.09% flavoring agents, but had not found any good sources for explaining the precise rules or the rationale. De Kergommeaux includes a detailed description of the rule (which only applies to whisky exported to the United States) and the reason for its existence.

While I've sometimes found De Kergommeaux's more informal writing to be overly dense, the prose in this volume is more direct and streamlined, making for a pleasant and to-the-point read.

For someone like me who craves accurate, specific information about my whisky, I could not have asked for more. De Kergommeaux has written what will undoubtedly be the definitive word on Canadian Whisky for years to come, and for $20 U.S., it's a better value than most actual whisky.

Canadian Whisky, the portable expert by Davin de Kergommeaux
McClelland & Stewart, 2012 ($20)


Florin said...

I just got mine in the mail from Amazon - looking forward to reading it, in-between blog updates!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy Davin's blog and look forward to reading his new book. That said, it is disappointing that so few of the interesting whisky brands he writes about are available in the USA. I hope this situation will improve going forward.

sam k said...

I love Davin's blog and his infectious enthusiasm for Canadian whisky, but until their distillers step up and start offering truly interesting, non-gimmicky offerings at ANYTHING more than 80 proof, I'm just not on the same train.

I will be buying, the book, though, based on your review, Sku!

sku said...

Sam, one bit problem with Candian, as Anon above alludes to, is that most of the good stuff never makes it south of the border. I've yet to try most of Davin's highest reviewed whiskies. I'm not sure though how many of them are more than cask strength.

sam k said...

Yeah, but none of them are over 80 proof, either!