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on 22 December 2003
Jim Murray is, according to many whisky aficionados, the premier writer on whisky. He has visited virtually every distillery in existence, and has an unsurpassed knowledge and love of whisky.
His latest book is tall and narrow, the same size as Michael Jackson's Pocket Guide to Beer, so it can be carried along to stores when purchasing whisky. And this is Murray's intention: the book is written as a buying guide for the consumer. Unlike in his previous books, Murray gives numerical ratings to the more than 2000 whiskies he evaluates, a number from 0 to 100, broken down into numbers for nose, taste, finish and balance, each receiving up to 25 points. Although numerical ratings will help whisky drinkers and store owners, he knows that many in the industry may be unhappy with his ratings.
Murray intends his guide to become a yearly publication that will be supplemented and updated throughout the year on the web site [...]
The book begins with introductory material, including a review of the whisky year, as well as a three-page diatribe about "The Evils of Colour Prejudice", meaning the adding of caramel coloring to whisky. Murray claims that colorization degrades the taste of whisky and in many of his reviews, even very positive ones, he claims that the addition of caramel has taken its toll on the whisky's quality.
The book's beginning also contains Murray's award winners for the year in 19 categories, with overall whisky of the year being George T. Stagg bourbon. He then lists, in four pages, all of the whiskies that received a score of 93-97. (One omission: Longmorn 15 year old, to which he gives a score of 93, is not on the list.) Only two whiskies receive a 97, George T. Stagg and Old Malt Cask Ardbeg 1975 Aged 25 years (bottled Oct 00), "without a shadow of a doubt ... the two best whiskies it has ever been my luck and privilege to taste in nearly 30 years". Along with many expensive and rare whiskies on this list are found widely available relatively inexpensive whiskies. Receiving 94, for example, along with Old Malt Cask Ardbeg 1975 Aged 24 years and Laphroaig 40 year old, one finds Glenmorangie 10 year old, Dalwhinnie 15 year old, and even the Canadian Seagrams VO, which I'd guess is most often used as a mixer.
Scotch whisky, including single malts, grain whisky and blends, accounts for about 70% of the book's contents, the remaining 30% being devoted to American, Japanese, Canadian, European and world whiskies. There was no room in this edition for Indian and other Asian whiskies, but Murray hopes to accommodate these in future editions. The book concludes with a Stop Press section evaluating late bottled and additional whiskies, a glossary, and advice on how to drink whisky.
As always, Murray's writing is personal and passionate, and the book makes for fascinating reading. His commentary is by turns lyrical, colorful, provocative, angry and funny (see his review of Littlemill Dunglas, to which he gives a rating of 17).
Jim Murray is a romantic about whisky whose writing draws one into his intense devotion to the drink. For someone beginning to explore the world of whisky, as well as for the whisky expert, this book is a must.
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on 31 December 2010
Jim Murray's bible is, as the other reviewers have highlighted below, a dependable, entertaining and above all helpful guide for whisky drinkers. It's significantly more useful than Lamond and Tucek's 'The Malt Whisky File', which has far too many label photos and a dearth of text. I don't think the lack of images in Murray's Bible is a disadvantage and I plan on buying the book every year from now on.
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on 5 March 2012
I consider myself something of a whisky fanatic and I've drunk my fair share and more. Initially I was impressed by the density of this book, you'll need good reading glasses and a strong light to make it out. Having delved deeper however there seem to be several problems,
The quality of the information for each whisky varies hugely from a complete dissection of the character to the flippant: "I say! Sherry anyone?" as a complete review of a particular bottle. Whilst the author may think it adds character and levity to the book it also makes it frustrating. When one looks up a potential purchase and finds less helpful information than might be found in any random novel opened to a random page it does make the reader wonder why he bothered to buy the book in the first place.
The scoring is also bizarre the author appears particularly hung up on sulphur and occasionally caramel additions. But any whisky which manages to avoid these pitfalls is guaranteed a good score. For example, Sainsbury's Basics Blended Scotch Whisky, a whisky I was unfortunate enough to try and I can guarantee is neither pleasant nor much like whisky, receives a score to indicate it is "Average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed". This habit pushes most the remaining whiskies into roughly 10% of the possible 100% scale. This in turn means there is, according to the book, little difference between a great Speyside and a mass produced under-aged bottle at a fifth the price. If that were true any whisky drinker could save himself a fortune by buying bottles of Tescos value single malt for the rest of his life. I won't be.
Finally despite the book being apparently dense there are many notable omissions from the new 2010-2012 bottlings. The space is filled largely with rare if not non-existent bottlings from years ago. Most of which are impossible to source unless you have some particularly good contacts. A good use of space? I think not.

All this aside though when the author does provide useful information it is very good. And if one sticks to the high-high-high end of the scores you are guaranteed a nice dram. Just a pity, with a little more thought and discrimination this could have been so much more.
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on 5 February 2014
An interesting collection of opinions, although rather heavy on esoterica that you and I will never see in a shop. I would have appreciated a bit more information about the distilleries and the main expressions that can actually be bought in shops. The opinions are his own, so no one can complain of an absence of modesty (in my humble opinion). However the book is either not edited, or was edited by someone after drinking a lot of whisky. The spelling and other mistakes are so glaring you get quite distracted. I suspect a lot of what has found its way into the notes was transcribed directly from the napkins it was written on.
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on 24 October 2006
This is a must have guide if anyone is to embark on a journey into whisky. The tasteing notes are of course personal but informative and on a occasion very entertaining! This is an almanac of whisky and covers both the everyday, the special and the very rare whisky types. If you love whisky you'll love this book.
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on 23 January 2011
this is a must for anyone who wants to know more about whisky worldwide- especially for single malt fans,.. a new update annually-you may not agree with Jim`s opinion of some drams,but you can certainly broaden your knowledge with this.
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on 13 January 2014
It's a handy little book to keep in the pocket for sure. However, I find Jim Murray hard to like: humble he is not. And. I don't. Personally. Like. His writing style. Clunky, bombastic, didactic and pretentious at times. I also think his scores are a bit of a waste of time, it seems almost all the whiskies get between 80 and 95 points. They can't ALL be that good surely? I think the lowest score he gives is still about 60.

I don't think he's funny either - not in the way that Ian Buxton is funny. He tries though, with several crass and tasteless 'jokes', most notably: 'Virgin bourbon 15 years old - the kind of bourbon you want to be left in a room with'. Seriously...?

There are also some woeful typos: 'Achilles heal' (!), 'Stan Laural...Marylyn Munro' (!), 'bursting at the seems' and even worse 'loan voice'. There are plenty more... Can he not afford a proof-reader?

So, Jim Murray 2014 is an ok pocket reference book but not something I would recommend. He may think he's a great whisky writer and guru, but in my book he's nowhere near as good as the real heavyweights such as Charles Maclean, Michael Jackson, Dave Broom and Ian Buxton. Imagine Michael Jackson writing as badly as this! I can't take him seriously, but it's ok, he obviously takes himself seriously enough: 'whisky legend and colossus' indeed (in his own words). Is he having a laugh?
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on 28 November 2013
Jim's annual update is now a fixture on my shopping list. The continuing perception and humour of the author after tasing and re-tasting so much whisky, leaves me breathless!
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on 26 January 2011
Great reference book. Quite small (albeit thick) and very comprehensive. Not as up-to-date as I would've expected with some very special bottlings from mid-2010 missing from the reviews, but still very worth the money.
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on 14 July 2014
Bought this for my husband and he thoroughly enjoys delving in and reading about the various whiskies that he has been bought! Makes for very interesting reading .... all I need now is more space for the bottles!
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