Hughes - Survival of the Fittest

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Hughes - Survival of the Fittest

Postby lexkraai » Sat Nov 02, 2002 10:50 am

Hi all (and apologies for cross-posting)

I received a review copy of above book from the publisher (Tempus). Here my comments.

It's a book that focuses on distillery history rather than the whiskies. So don't expect much in the way of tasting notes. After the obligatory chapters on whisky making and whisky regions, the bulk of the book gives histories of the 88 distilleries that were actually operating at the time of writing (since then 4 Pernod distilleries have been mothballed so the count is down again). The histories vary from a paragraph to roughly a page in length and are accompanied with quite a number of photos, several of which I haven't seen before. Interspersed with the distillery histories are histories of several well-known blends, for as far as those blends are 'linked' in one way or another to a specific distillery (e.g. Strathisla - Chivas, Glenrothes - Cutty Sark, Lagavulin - White Horse, etc). Call me a cynic, but I can't shrug off the feeling that those blend histories are disguised ads; they don't really serve a purpose (IMHO) in a book focusing on the history of distilleries (leave them out and the book loses nothing is another way of looking at that).

The distillery histories are given in the order of establishment (oldest first). For the establishment date, the earliest date mentioned in Moss & Hume is taken as fact, even if Moss & Hume make clear that they have found no evidence to support that claim (M&H indicate that by the phrase "Said to be established ....").

One thing that I was a bit disappointed by (but that may very well be because I am a biologist and would like to see things treated in-depth). The main title of the book is "Scotland's Malt Whisky Distilleries" and 'Survival of the Fittest' is the sub-title. With such a sub-title (and me being a biologist; I've just started reading volume 1 of Darwin's ultimate biography), I would have expected some sort of discussion as to why out of the hundreds of distilleries that were established over the centuries, those 88 survive today. The intro hints at that, but nowhere is there any real attempt to explain why hundreds failed and some survived (of course, the reasons are many and complex). Still, the expectation was raised by the sub-title.

In summary, a book that reads easily and is well-produced (paper, lay-out, photo quality). For someone who already has a good whisky library the book probably doesn't add anything (besides a few 'new' photos). For someone who has one or two whisky books (say Michael Jackson's Companion or something similar) and wants to know more about the history behind the individual distilleries (but not as detailed and in-depth as Moss & Hume), this would be a nice addition.

Cheers, Lex

[This message has been edited by lexkraai (edited 02 November 2002).]

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Postby Iain » Mon Nov 25, 2002 10:16 am

I didn't like the photo quality Lex - the colour images have a "washed out" look which spoils the appearance of the pages.

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