Scotland and its Whiskies
by Michael Jackson
Published by Raincoast Books
144 pages, 2001
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The Spirit of Scotland
Reviewed by David Middleton
Michael Jackson has an enviable job. He writes about what most of us just think of as a pleasurable activity, whether it be a social tipple or a weekend bender. He has also set himself an enviable task: to roam the Scottish countryside, tasting the drink for which Scotland has become famous and writing about it in the process. Visiting the places where distillers have been plying their trade for generations, where copper stills create the elixir of the gods. I am, of course talking about whisky and so too -- in loving, gentle, happy tones -- is Jackson. In Scotland and its Whiskies, Michael Jackson traipses through the Scottish landscape stopping at the places that are famous for their single malts and describing just what it takes to make a good scotch, and no doubt downing a few good ones himself -- in order to contrast and compare, I'm sure.
Why "water of life"? Perhaps because distillates were first deemed medicines, a judgment that persists amoung some of us. ...The phrase "water of life" in the context of drinks is not uniquely Irish or Scottish. It occurs in other terms, such as eau-de-vie (used in French as a generic for spirits) and the Latin aquavit (still employed in Scandinavia especially, sometimes spelled akvavit). Vodka, a diminutive for "water", is an abbreviated version from Slavic tongues.
The book itself is more than a joy to look at and Harry Cory Wright's beautifully reproduced photographs describe a Scottish countryside of great diversity, wealth and grandeur. Finishing off the book is a short compendium of whiskies and a brief but useful glossary of terms.
David Middleton is the art and culture editor of January Magazine and, being a good Scot, occasionally enjoys a wee drink.