It seems reasonable that after discussing the author I should discuss the book from which he is currently best known. The Whisky Bible is an annual release which has been going on for at least the last 10 years. Editions from each year are still available from the author’s website at www.whiskybible.com
The book is quite simply a collection of tasting notes of whiskies from Scotland the around the world. Each item which has been sampled gets anything from a sentence or two to an entire paragraph dedicated to it in the book in very small font. Where a blog post of mine for example will have an entire post with photos and background research stretching to 500 characters or more Jim Murray will condense into a couple of lines. All of this knowledge is combined with a score which is broken down into nose, palate, finish and complexity with 25 marks for each section. The highest scores for each category are combined together (at the beginning of the book) to give the awards which marketing departments crave.
I guess at first sight I don’t really understand the book. Essentially the format and knowledge is available on the internet for free. Sites like Whiskyfun.com or whiskyviking.com offer the same quick fire format on an expansive collection of whiskies all for free. Now it is unfair of me to say someone shouldn’t be able to make a living from doing something others do for free. It is impressive at how successful Jim has made his niche and there is aspects which I agree and commend.
Throughout the book you will notice that he doesn’t rate whiskies based purely on age, or exotic cask influence or some other fad which takes over marketing departments. Many a blogger has got caught up being seduced by such bells and whistles but not our Jim. In general he appears to rate whiskies which taste like whisky and cask maturation which is sensitive to the underlying spirit. You have to respect someone who stands by what they believe in year in and year out.
Overall though it is not a book I would buy for myself and I suspect most people who have been trying whiskies for a number of years will be the same. Indeed, if I was a betting man I would wager that a large percentage of purchases come from people buying something as a gift when they have run out of ideas but know the recipient likes a dram.