Occasionally, this Beer Fox has the opportunity to present another perspective within the world of the barley-based beverages of beer, mead, or whiskey. Hans Offringa, World-class whisky authority and author from Zwolle, the Netherlands, has generously contributed his review of 99 Drams of Whiskey, a 2009 volume by Kate Hopkins, published by St. Martin's Press. Mr. Offringa is a revered author and translator, and has written several books on the subject of whisky, including Whisky & Jazz, A Taste of Whisky, Scotch Whisky (a set of 3 with tasting glass), Nightcaps, The Legend of Laphroaig, and The Road to Craigellachie. He was a contributing author to World Whiskies, Beer Hunter Whisky Chaser, Whisky (Eyewitness Companions), and the 2nd Edition of the Dutch Whisky Almanak, and has tirelessly translated (into Dutch) entire award-winning books by Michael Jackson, David Wishart, and Carol Shaw.
Review Written by: Guest Author Hans Offringa
Title: 99 Drams of Whiskey
Author: Kate Hopkins
Publisher: St. Martin’ s Press – New York – 2009
Hardcover with dust jacket, 308 pages
Price: US$ 24.95
Listening to people who are passionate about and understand the finer nuances of flavors and aromas is always an enjoyable pastime for me. When they write about it with panache and humor, taking you on a virtual tour in their perception of the world of whisky, it is even more agreeable. When you have turned the last page, you crave for more.
This is what I felt after having finished 99 Drams of Whiskey, subtitled The Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink.
Kate Hopkins is a celebrated food blogger and columnist. Her website http://www.accidentalhedonist.com bears testimony to that. Time Magazine considered it one of their 50 Coolest Websites. I am glad she decided to dedicate an entire book to my favorite drink, instead of using her blog, releasing snippet by snippet over time.
On the dust jacket’s blurb Kevin Erskine, aka Mr. Scotchblog, nails down this book perfectly in one sentence, “part travelogue, part distillery guide, and part history book.” It seems the author slips in and out of history as easily as she and her spiky travel companion, Krysta, slip in and out of planes and cars on their quest for the perfect shot. Seemingly, since the historical parts are very well researched. The avid whisky reader might recognize many facts, but the way in which the author intertwines Irish, Scottish, Canadian and American whisky history is unique and a dram good read. The tasting notes, placed in separate insets throughout the book, illustrate Kate Hopkins’ vast knowledge about flavors and her experience in verbalizing what our senses discern. The way in which she characterizes the drams tasted is sometimes wickedly funny. The travelogue part of the book serves literally as a means of transport between places visited, history retold, people interviewed and whisky savored.
Any complaints? Well, due to tight planning and bad weather in Oban, the travel companions couldn’t make it to Islay. I would have loved to read about encounters with Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier or one of the other great storytellers on that tiny but influential whisky island. Kate, please go back; don’t limit yourself to Islay but visit the other island distilleries as well. Then write a sequel: Savoring the Scottish Whisky Isles. Oh, and don’t forget to take Krysta with you!
For more information:
99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist's Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink
Photos are (courtesy of Hans Offringa): 99 Drams of Beer bookjacket; Hans Offringa and Beer Hunter Michael Jackson