Books

What Can a Book Really Tell You About Whiskey?

If you're old enough to drink whiskey, you're too old for scratch n' sniff.


Author: Richard Betts
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Price: $22.00
The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All: Know Your Booze Before You Choose
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2015-10

A novelty item about a serious topic, The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All is a cheerfully childish book for the recently-legal drinker. It’s also the perfect gag gift for that friend just back from touring the Scottish, or Tennessee distilleries.

Whoever the audience, the guide is well-intentioned if imperfect. At 12 pages, with large print and a breezy writing style, it’s unlikely to confer know-it-all status. That said, authors Richard Betts, Crystal English Sacca and Wendy MacNaughton offer a decent overview of a complex subject within a limited space.

Whiskey, we’re told, is "just distilled beer", made from grains ranging from corn to rye to "everything else". The wheres, whens, whats and hows of whiskey are explained with brightly colorful illustrations. Said illustrations are accompanied by a pointing finger guiding us to the spot we’re to scratch and sniff on our journey to boozy expertise.

Woe betide us, though: the scratch n’ sniff feature doesn’t always work. Even as "corn" assailed with eau-de-movie-theatre-popcorn and "vanilla" emitted a sickly synthetic stink, "rye", "malt", and the usually potent "peat/smoke" were inert. "Hazelnut" and "honey", like "vanilla", smelled strongly chemical.

Had I stumbled off the peat path into a dark Merlot wood? Reasonably sure of my nose, I nonetheless sought additional opinions from visiting friends. As early Sepultura provided the soundtrack, they inhaled the book deeply, agreeing the sniffs were broken. They found the book "really cool", anyway.

Redemption comes at back of the book, where readers will find the "Map to Your Whiskey Desires”. This fold-out poster, designed in wheel form, gives a comprehensive list of whiskies by geography and taste, with drinking notes and brand listings from bargain to bankrupting.

Dispensing with earlier silliness in favor of straight information, the map is decorative enough to hang over your drinks cabinet, well worth the $22 you plunked down for broken sniffs. Because really, if you’re old enough to drink, you’re too old for scratch n’ sniff.

5

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