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Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and its whiskies Paperback – 6 Jun 2005
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Andrew Jefford writes so beautifully that I suspect he could make a history of galvanised steel bolts seem graceful and absorbing. And so this is not simply an appreciation of whisky, but a voyage into the history and geography of a tiny Scottish island (Daily Mail)
The attention to detail and thoroughness of this book brings the distilleries so vividly alive that you can almost smell the whisky. Thoroughly recommended to whisky connoisseur and dabbler alike (Birmingham Evening Mail)
There's no better book about these whiskies than Andrew Jefford's PEAT SMOKE AND SPIRIT... Jefford is an excellent writer... In PEAT SMOKE AND SPIRIT, Andrew Jefford has written a compelling narrative that succeeds on every level (Mid-Atlantic Brewing News)
If ever there was a book to read on a cold - possibly moonlit - night with a stiff dram beside you, then this is it. Irresistible (Scotland on Sunday)
A cracking social history of Islay which might have been dreamed up by Robert Louis Stevenson. There are shipwrecks and betrayals, acts of great heroism and enormous folly. By the end of this exceptionally well written book, you will have the sense of knowing much of this island, and a very strong urge to go there for a wee dram or two (Evening Standard)
A dram good read... Jefford's descriptions of the drinks themselves are almost as delicious as some of the flavours he evokes (Hampstead & Highgate Express)
A read for the taste buds...Although the book is likely to be read by the discerning drinkers of malt whisky, the appeal of Jefford's writing is to far more than Scotch tipplers (Canberra Times)
I defy tea-total imbibers not to be bewitched and beguiled by Jefford's deft and spirited writing... For anyone who loves a dram, this is essential reading (Oxford Times)
An intriguing history (Melbourne Age)
The pages simply resonate with detailed portraits of the whiskies, the characters who produce them, and the landscapes which have fashioned this most precious of beverages (Clive Platman)
A wonderfully evocative book that tells the story of Islay's whisky and reflects a place and a taste never to be forgottenSee all Product description
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I recently re-read it just before I actually visited Islay and I have to say that Andrew Jefford did a brilliant job of capturing so much of the spirit of the place and its whiskies. It would be lovely to see an updated version but the tone, spirit and history of Islay is all intact. Maybe updated stats on the distilleries would be enough to update it.
I think it's great that one book can cover the very nerdiest details of the distilleries and their processes, but also recount in beautiful, affecting prose the stories behind the whisky. The chapter on shipwrecks is particularly moving.
If you love Islay whiskies, you simply must read this. And if you have a chance, visit the beautiful place itself.
For starters, author Andrew Jefford offers some good background information about whisky distillation. His description of wash and spirit still design is relatively brief yet quite informative. I learned more with his words than from many of the other, more expensive, books in my library. While knowing the ingredients and brewing process is pretty basic, the narrative is interesting and refreshing. Then, he covers distillation in a way that other whisky writers just don't quite match.
Turning to the core of the book - about Islay. Quite impressive! He's sandwiched descriptions of each distillery in between background material about Islay. About as close as one can get without actually going!
The descriptions of each distillery were quite thorough with both history and information on the style used by each. Jefford helps the reader to understand that whisky is an art rather than science. There is so much that we don't understand about what goes into a memorable whisky - and Jefford helps us to understand why through his descriptions of each operation. The water is often cited by distillers - not necessarily according to what he writes. The amount of peat, the grain and so on all may or may not be a factor and this book gives a good feel for that reality. At the end of each distillery's chapter is a list of hard facts - quite useful when making comparisons or considering whether to purchase a particular whisky. Also interesting is that he is able to be critical about a distillery without being negative - if the reader isn't reflective some good points might even be overlooked.
The chapters about Islay's people, history and geography are valuable - whether one does or doesn't visit this unique part of Scotland.
My greatest complaint is the book's lack of a detailed map or maps. Fortunately, my copy of the Islay Ordnance Survey map (#60) made up for that lack. Without the detailed ordnance map the oh-so-many different places that Jefford mentions/describes can get jumbled in the mind. I recommend having a copy of the ordnance map if you like detail.
One last thought, I usually inhale books at the rate of several a week. It was impossible with this one - it took me about three weeks to get through "Peat Smoke and Spirit". I didn't mind and never felt like giving up. It was just that there is so much to digest. I'm not complaining - to me that's the sign of an excellent work. I must confess that I skipped over some of his vocabulary - usually I run to my dictionaries. He seems to be using colloquialisms that have yet to find their way into dictionaries - well, ok - that's his style.
So thank you very much Andrew Jefford, you've brought me almost as much pleasure as has a glass of Ardbeg distilled in the `60s! I recommend this book!
A fabulous buy and tremendous value for money.
Can easily be used as a reference book since much of the information pertains to the production process of any Scotch malt whisky.
Whisky, history, people, culture, nature, politics, geology are all here. Well written, very readable. Needs a better map.