Travel books about Scotch whisky are not the easiest ones to find, especially in brick and mortar stores. They are usually relegated to the lower shelves in either the cooking or wine sections. Searching “whisky” on the Internet is quite a bit easier, and adding words like travel, map, and whisky trails will help. Remember that there is no ‘e’ in Scotch whisky, so using the “e spelling” will lead you to books about Bourbon and other American whiskies. Here are six of my favorite whisky travel books:
The Whisky Trails – A Geographical Guide to Scotch Whisky
The book is divided into easily manageable treks, in different geographic regions of Scotland, arranging local distilleries in a logical sequence, similar to the children’s game of Park ‘n Shop for adults! Heavily illustrated with straightforward photography, travelers are offered insights into driving on single track (one lane) roads in the Highlands, distillery times, telephone numbers and addresses. Each distillery’s whisky is explained, and other places of interest in the immediate area are described. Under the listing for Craigellachie Distillery we learn about nearby Ballindalloch Castle, the Whisky Trail, the Speyside Cooperage Visitor Center, and the River Spey, renowned for its salmon fishing.
The Island Whisky Trail – An Illustrated Guide to The Hebridean Distilleries
© 2003, Angels’ Share Press, Glasgow
About 150 pages
“A Barbarous People”, Chapter One, sets the tone for describing the rough and historically fascinating collection of islands off Scotland’s West Coast and their role in the genre of single malts known as “Island” whiskies. Vicariously, we sail on Scotland’s only square rigger, the Jean de la Lune, during the 2001 Classic Malts Cruise, with Wilson providing the commentary. We cruise to the port of Oban, and to the islands of Islay, Jura, Mull and Skye. In addition to visiting operating distilleries on each island, Wilson takes us back in history to illicit stills and to distilleries that have given up the ghost and no longer exist. Illustrations from the 1700s, black and white photographs from the early 1900s, and spectacular sailing color shots onboard the tall ship itself whisk us away to the brisk, salty air of the Hebrides.
Scotland – The Land and the Whisky
Roddy Martine with photography by Patrick Douglas-Hamilton
© 1994, John Murray Publishers, London
About 225 pages
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Scotland and its Whiskies – The Great Whiskies and Their Landscapes
Michael Jackson, with photography by Harry Cory Wright
© 2001, Harcourt, Inc., New York
About 145 pages
Both of these coffee table books capture the essence and sense of place of Scotland’s distilling regions. They provide a visual explanation of terroir – that quality of what makes each whisky unique from another. The Martine text and Douglas-Hamilton photography venture away from the distilleries to include castles, lochs, fauna, and an explanation of The Keepers of the Quaich, and the Quaich itself. This is an exclusive, international society, honoring leading representatives of the Scotch whisky industry. The Jackson text and Wright photographs take aim at “the spirit” of the subject matter with evocative, almost mystical, prose and pictures. The caption for a photo of a mountain river: “From the granite of the Grampian mountains … the water of life in the making. It will be a winding, heathery journey to the glass.” Or this: “When even the skies are stormy, the iridescence of the clouds half-hide the pagodas of Ardbeg. This magical headland cast a spell. Around the bay are irises, lilies and a curious scent of saffron. Lovers of Ardbeg become besotted.”
The World Atlas of Whisky
© 2010, Mitchell Beazley, London
About 320 pages
An exhaustive work, this large format book is loaded with enticing maps, gorgeous photography, and tasting notes about whiskies from Scotland and whisky-producing countries around the world. Of particular value are the clearly organized and well-explained double page flow charts explaining malt production, grain production, Irish pot-still production, and Kentucky & Tennessee whiskey production.
Return to the Glen – Adventures on the Scotch Whisky Trail
Richard Grindal, Photography by Catherine Karnow
© 1989, Alvin Rosenbaum Projects, Inc., Chevy Chase, MD
About 160 pages
For anyone lucky enough to spend time in the area of the Highlands called Speyside, soaking in the weather, the land, and especially the people, this book is like a personal photo album and diary. Tales of time spent with distillery folks at all levels, kilted bagpipers, sheep farmers, rock climbers, and fishermen are all woven into the fabric of this part of Scotland. Through Grindal’s words and Karnow’s photos, we end a game of golf at St. Andrews with a dram, hire our own gillie to cast a line in the right spot of the River Spey, and move into the kitchen to do a bit of Scottish cooking. Recipes are included for dozens of goodies, including Crepes Mary Stuart, Tweed Kettle, Skye Delight, and Cleikum Club Lobster.