*6/20/13 – a quick revisionist note, I’ll stand by this review for the most part, but now that a few years have passed, and I’ve learned that much more about whisky and the whisky industry, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that Jim Murray can also be a bit of a head scratcher. His scoring has increasingly been seen as being a bit whacked out and suspect, and his obsession with sulfur in casks tedious. These days he seems more intent on creating a persona. I still think this is a somewhat worthwhile book, but as with all bibles, just know to take it with a grain of salt. I’d definitely recommend Ingvar Ronde’s Malt Whisky Yearbook over this for the malt end of the whisky spectrum.
Oh, the ravages of age! To be young again…spry, nimble and able to read very small type in relatively low light after 10:00pm without falling asleep and without taking off/putting on/looking above/looking below my glasses…
Jim Murray is probably one of the foremost whisky writers out there at the moment, and his 2010 Whisky Bible is a pretty indispensible guide for anyone with an interest in exploring whisky. Yes, it’s small, the type is tiny and occasionally gets swallowed up and hard to read in the binding, but there is so much information here, and in such handy, portable form, it’s more than worth it. Similar to Michael Jackson’s “Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch“, this 7th edition of the Whisky Bible lists whiskies by distillery, gives tasting notes, and an out-of-100 score. But whereas Jackson’s book has a place on a coffee table (albeit a small one), Murray’s is a perfect book for the back pocket. This is the book that I’ll take with while doing some serious tasting or shopping. It goes further than just the world of single malt Scotch, there are extensive lists and reviews of vatted malts, blends, Irish, Japanese, bourbon, Canadian, American, German, Swedish…everywhere there is whisky or whiskey, Murray’s included them here. Hell, there’s a malt from Lichtenstein, Telsington, that gets very high marks. Lichetenstien…who knew?
Murray’s scoring system is also really informative and in-depth. He divides the score into 4 parts, Nose, Palate, Finish, and Balance and scores each out of 25 points. The combined score from these renders the final score. He himself admits that he might score a little high, but I find his reviews and judgements very consistent, if the scores are high, maybe he’s just that excited about whisky in general. By the same token, he’s not afraid to take a distillery to task for producing an inferior product.
The book is mainly reviews, Murray explains his rating system, reviews his reviewing process, gives a look back on the past year in the industry, and dolls out his 2010 World Whisky Awards. After that, 320 pages of tiny-typed reviews that leave me feeling far-sighted and thirsty. An incredibly thorough, concise, and invaluable book.