Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram by Iain Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is celebrated SF and fiction author Iain Banks' only non-fiction book. Ostensibly a book about the many varieties of single-malt scotch whisky, it is in fact the closest thing we will ever have to an autobiography of the sadly deceased genius.
The book reads like a Bryson-like travelogue as Banks traverses his native Scotland, sampling whiskies from each of it's distilleries, in search of the perfect dram. Along the way he entertains the reader with tall tales from his youth, and dissertations on politics, drugs, war, motorbikes and other random subjects. It makes the whole thing very readable indeed, far from a dry treatise on scotch, and is full of the author's trademark humour.
It's also surprisingly informative, and as an amateur enthusiast it taught me a lot about both the technical and more romantic sides of whisky manufacture and how the various tastes are introduced into the drink.
If I had one criticism it would be that the book is a bit too self-indulgent. I learnt as much about Banks himself as I did about the subject matter, but perhaps that's the point. In any case, as a fan of both the author and his subject that didn't bother me too much. This is a book written from the heart, and it shows.
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