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Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram [Paperback]

Iain Banks
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Aug 2004
As a native of Scotland, bestselling author Iain Banks has decided to undertake a tour of the distilleries of his homeland in a bid to uncover the unique spirit of the single malt. Visiting some of the world's most famous distilleries and also some of its smallest and most obscure ones, Banks embarks on a journey of discovery which educates him about the places, people and products surrounding the centuries-old tradition of whisky production. Using various modes of transport - ferries to the islands, cars across the highlands, even bicycles between bus stops - Banks' tour of Scotland combines history, literature and landscape in an entertaining and informative account of an exploration in which the arrival is by no means the most important part of the journey.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (5 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099460270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099460275
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. He gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels. Iain Banks died in June 2013.

Product Description


"...In the final judgement, it does what every good book should manage to do ... and what a hundred other books on whisky (and a thousand other books on Scotland) have signally failed to do: makes you want to go for a drink with the author" (Observer)

"Studded with bracing shots of pure insight and eloquence. And he's sound on the scotch as well" (The Independent)

"It’s a very readable and hugely informative book, and Bank’s gentle humour permeates the pages" (Time Out)

"It’s an engaging piece of work, part love letter, part memoir" (Esquire)

"A beautifully realised fusion of travelogue, social commentary and drinking guide. Scotland's most famous export is decanted into full-bodied, humorous prose." (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

Join bestselling Scottish science-fiction writer Iain M Banks on his tour of Scotland's whisky distilleries, and a journey of self-discovery, as he searches for the perfect dram. An ideal book for fans of whisky, the Scottish Highlands and humurous travelogues. A Scottish Bill Bryson.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great soujourn 24 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ian Banks has a lovely style and the presentation of the countryside, the politics, the food etc as well as the distilleries is great
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56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Curate's Egg 30 Dec 2003
Raw Spirit is three-books-in-one. I like single malt whiskies a lot and bought the book in anticipation of reading a well-written, informative and amusing tour of the Scottish distilleries and their products. I was not disappointed; Iain Banks' travels to all of the major (and many of the minor) distilleries are well-described, informative and (to the extent that his views on the whiskies sampled agree entirely with my own) accurate. Unfortunately the distilleries, their whiskies and the beautiful (and beautifully-described) countryside around them take up less than half of the book. The remainder consists of (a) anecdotes concerning Mr. Banks' friends, family, youthful (and often not-so-youthful) pranks, and cars, and (b) rants on the Iraqi war, the current state of British vs U.S. politics and the wisdom of legalising drugs. The former, although largely irrelevant to a book on whisky, are clearly of interest to fans of Mr. Banks and his novels, but would have been better kept for an autobiography. The latter, however, are totally inappropriate in this book. I happen to agree with most of what Mr. Banks says, particularly on the derogation of British sovereignty to U.S. (a.k.a. neo-con) hegemony, but these are complex issues and totally out of place in this book where the superficial "rant-and-rave" treatment they get can only be a distraction. This is a book that started with an excellent idea but was highjacked by a self-indulgent author, a publisher's deadline and current events, leaving only a taste of what it could and should have been.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Bill Bryson on acid 29 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
If I had to sum up the late, great Iain Banks in one word it would be this; unpredictable. I came to this book shortly after the author sadly passed away, so knew it would remain his only published work of non-fiction, and all the more interesting for that.

Iain was a novelist, not a technical writer. His tools were character and incident, not
production charts and spreadsheets. The idea of writing a guide to malt whiskies was just the jumping-off point for a idiosyncratic look at the search for perfection, the thing that drives human beings on, even though we know, paradoxically, that the things we make and build will never achieve it. It is seeing how close we can get that makes our lives worth living.

This is a book about the journey, not the destination. And what a journey it was! Face it, a book about a guy taking the 'bus to various Glagow off-licences in search of bargain booze was never likely to enthrall the reader. This is more like Bill Bryson on acid.

Iain lived life to the full and it shows in this work - Raw Spirit indeed! Forget the negative reviews. If you enjoyed Bank's novels, don't miss this unique memoir of a life less ordinary.

RIP Iain. You will be sadly missed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By jannert
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I know there are many grumbling negative reviews of this book, but I liked it a lot.

I think it's important to read this book with an open mind. The folks who commissioned Iain Banks to write this guide to Scottish single malts were not just interested in him delivering a soberly (!) comparative guide, but also must have wanted his own brand of incisive, accessible, writerly charm to accompany it. I think he's delivered both. This is the Banksian shot at Zen and the Art of Whisky Appreciation. This is a book to be read at leisure, maybe taking notes, maybe not.

While intersposing amusing anecdotes about his foibles, his friends, his love of cars and driving, and a certain degree of political engagement - his research for this book began at the start of the present Iraq war - I think "Banksy" has also managed to provide an extremely reliable guide to the individual flavours of Scottish single malts and to the process of making them.

What comes across is his rather unexpected (if you're familiar with his fiction) kindly and constructive nature. At no point does he disparage any of the malts he's been encouraged to review. Instead, using his writerly gifts for precise, unpretentious description, he gives us a very accurate impression of the way each of them tastes. I can certainly attest that his descriptions of the few single malts I have tasted myself are spot-on. He also makes it very clear what kinds of tastes he prefers (strong!) and leaves the reader to decide which ones to try, without passing unfavourable judgement - although he is very quick to praise his favourites. In fact, my very favourite single malt is one which he does not favour himself, but he has certainly described it perfectly. This makes me trust his judgement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it, followed it....had a great tme 14 Mar 2014
By Rob R
Iain Banks was a fantastic Author may he rest in peace. Mind he probably would want peace would he:-) This is a very well written, humorous and informative book. My wife bought it for me because of my love of the single malt and Banks himself, read it years ago and waited until we bought a lovely white MX5 and we took to the Great Wee Roads of Scotland following some of the journey that Banks took, and inspired by his love of his home country. We had just a wonderful time. Thank you IB yet another great experience brought on by your writing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not for me
Published 1 month ago by Luke
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, enlightening
Great book, enlightening, entertaining, informative, amusing. Not without flaws (Mr Banks seems to have taken his own affluence without question) but a GWB (Great wee book) to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alastair Walsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Neither travelogue, nor social commentary, nor drinking guide.
The rear cover quote from the Independent on Sunday describes this book as "A beautifully realised fusion of travelogue, social commentary and drinking guide". Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brockers
3.0 out of 5 stars near miss
Iain Banks is a Scot who loves Scotland and shares that in many of his books, especially this one. So far, so good. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Neil Carmichael
5.0 out of 5 stars shahi
Loved this book and Bank's description of the different whiskies. It was like hanging with a friend and a good bottle of whisky.
Published 9 months ago by Shahi Hussain Sikdher
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality
I mistakenly bought this thinking it was 'In Search of the Perfect Dream' - but, typical of Iain Banks it's a surprise a page. Well written in typical Banks style.
Published 11 months ago by Margaret Ette
2.0 out of 5 stars An 'ok' blend
Ok for a novice to whisky but quite smug and self-aggrandising for my tastes.
Definitely 40% abv, chill filtered and heavy on the caramel.
Published 11 months ago by J Sammon
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book about life when you're well off in Scotland
I think we now know why this author sadly died young. He lived life to the full and enjoyed it. If you live in London this should be required reading. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Wildfire
5.0 out of 5 stars RAW Spirit in search for the perfect dram.
Bought for an uncle so don't know how it has gone down, not as smoothly as a drop of the hard stuff. I will probably re-order for other whisky mad friends.
Published 13 months ago by margaretdavy
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment
Informative but above all entertaining book, exploring the world of malt whisky, Scottish roads and cars, but the much-missed and lamented Iain Banks. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
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