*Sincere thanks to Davin de Kergommeaux, Johanne McInnes, and McClelland & Stewart, Ltd. for the review copy of this book.
A year or so ago, when whisky really started taking off – articles in major publications, a dozen new craft distilleries popping up every week, a dozen new whisky blogs popping up every week, previously undervalued brands and bottles skyrocketing in price and scarcity – it seemed like every corner of the whisky world was in on this surge of popularity. Every corner save one, really. Scotch and Bourbon were leading the way, Japanese whisky was gathering up awards and new distributors left and right, Irish whiskey was making a huge comeback, American Rye whisky, nearly in oblivion 15 years ago, was everyone’s darling, only Canadian whisky seemed to be languishing relative to the other’s success. In the last year that’s changed, Canadian whisky has joined the “revival” (for lack of a better word) and today is seeing more attention paid to its stalwart brands, more expensive expressions, and the few new craft distillery bottlings. Helping to spread the word on this distinctive style is writer Davin de Kergommeaux and his award-winning book Canadian Whisky, The Portable Expert. Davin has written about whisky for more than a decade and his site Canadian Whisky has long been an informative resource for me whenever I’ve dipped my toe into this booze from the North.
Canadian Whisky, The Portable Expert is the only book, at least in the last 20 years, completely devoted to this distinct yet under-appreciated style. I’m happy to say it’s not a big, glossy coffee table book. I like big, glossy coffee table books, especially ones about whisky. In fact, I’d need several more coffee tables to accommodate all the coffee table books on whisky that I have. However, that kind of book tends to be a bit more style over substance, long on beautiful pictures, often relatively short on detailed information. Canadian Whisky is just the opposite, a compact little duodecimal filled with text, small sepia-tinged images, concise tasting notes, and a few simple diagrams. It’s broken into five sections along with a thoughtful introduction and epilogue, and a handy glossary and index. The first and sections detail the ingredients and production process, while the third discusses the flavors and appreciation of Canadian whisky. The fourth section, and most interesting in my opinion, offers an excellent history of the style, describing the rise of farmhouse distilleries to huge international companies like Seagrams and Hiram Walker. The fifth section picks up where the fourth leaves off and profiles Canada’s nine current active distillers. As I mentioned, a few pics and diagrams help move the story along, and scattered throughout are tasting notes on more than 100 expressions.
It’s clear the author is fairly passionate about his subject. De Kergommeaux writes with brevity, but knows just when to wax a little poetic. He handles the first two sections excellently, there’s a lot of detail there, and quite a bit of technical info, but he successfully walks the fine line between being too complex, and understandable to the layman. Along with everything else, the book is just plain well done and carefully thought out, the separate index of tasting notes is an especially nice touch. As Canadian whisky continues to garner new respect, and more bottles make their way to new shelves around the world, Canadian Whisky, The Portable Expert is the perfect book to further one’s understanding and appreciation of the style. Definitely a required addition to anyone’s wine and spirits library.
(Sure, you can buy this book through Amazon, but wouldn’t you rather support your independently owned local bookseller? Of course you would.)