For someone passionate about whisky, a well-chosen book can be a great gift. But given there are hundreds of books on the subject, from the mundane to the sublime, how do you pick one that you know will be appreciated?
As an industry professional of more than 10 years, I’ve read more books on whisky than I can recall. Here are 10 of the best that I have handpicked from my own reference library to cater to all interest levels and budgets. These cover everything from a visual history of thousands of collectable bottles to 100-year-old distillery histories and how-to tasting guides. If you can bring yourself to give them away, these books are going to make you the best gift giver this year.
‘Independent Scotch, The History Of Independent Bottlers’ By David Stirk
Independent bottlers are often seen as the underdogs in the world of whisky, yet they are revered by passionate whisky drinkers. Indy bottlers have the flexibility to release single-cask, cask-strength whisky, and provide a wider range of tasting experiences compared to distilleries’ core ranges. This book compiles histories of all the major independent bottlers, alongside interesting insights into the operational world of whisky casks, making it a book that will please any whisky drinker looking to expand their knowledge.
Purchase Independent Scotch, The History of Independent Bottlers here for £24.95
‘Collecting Scotch Whisky’ By Emmanuel Dron
Weighing in at over 5kg, this is a monumental tome, both in terms of physical size and content. Collecting Scotch Whisky has become the reference book for serious whisky collectors and contains over 2,500 bottles with more than 12,500 photographs spread across nearly 1,000 pages. This book is not for the casual whisky drinker. However, if you are a serious collector (or aiming to be), and want to learn the minutiae of vintage bottles, including everything from the evolution of bottle closures to minor text changes on labels, then this is the book for you.
Purchase Collecting Scotch Whisky here for £310
‘Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024’ By Ingvar Ronde
In its 19th edition, the Malt Whisky Yearbook continues to be an essential annual purchase for whisky enthusiasts. Alongside in-depth contributions from industry veterans, the book boasts a detailed directory of malt distilleries from Scotland and worldwide. It is the perfect companion for fact checking, brushing up on distillery histories and learning about recent developments. A must for every whisky lover’s desk.
Purchase Malt Whisky Yearbook, 2024 Edition here for £15.95
‘Everything You Need To Know About Whisky’ By Nicholas Morgan & The Whisky Exchange
While many publications aspire to be the “definitive guide to whisky” Everything You Need To Know About Whisky does so with grace. The book is a fitting credit to the vast knowledge of the Whisky Exchange and Nicholas Morgan and is a modern-day whisky classic. Containing beautiful illustrations by Jonny Wan throughout, the book effortlessly covers topics as diverse as whether or not casks are a good investment to the magic and mystery of whisky making; this really is a “one size fits all” book.
Purchase Everything You Need To Know About Whisky here for £19.95
‘The Definitive Guide To Buying Vintage Macallan’
Produced in 2002 for the introduction of the Fine & Rare Collection, The Definitive Guide to Buying Vintage Macallan provides distinctive, direct-from-the-distillery insights. This book serves as a window into a historic market, which may now be unrecognizable, but remains fascinating for modern collectors. The book is packed with facts like original RRPs (including for the Macallan 1926 60 Year Old), which makes it a captivating read for any whisky fan, but especially Macallan collectors.
Purchase The Definitive Guide to Buying Vintage Macallan here for £300
‘The Whisky Distilleries Of The United Kingdom’ By Alfred Barnard
How relevant is a book about whisky first published in 1887? It’s not only relevant, but a must for any serious whisky buff. Barnard, in what might be described as a noble feat of whisky enthusiasm (or perhaps a delightful self-assignment), set out to visit every distillery across Scotland, England, and Ireland. His notes, initially featured in Harper’s Weekly Gazette, were compiled into a collective volume in 1887. Illustrated with over 150 pen drawings showcasing distillery interiors and exteriors, the book captures a fascinating snapshot of the whisky world 136 years ago.
Purchase The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom here for £40
‘Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride, The Story Of The World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky’ By Nicholas Morgan
Johnnie Walker is an international sensation; every second it sells 8.64 bottles. The single malt market owes much to the success of historic blends like Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s, and Chivas. After all, blended and blended malt Scotch whiskies make up approximately 88% of the market. Morgan’s account of the history of Johnnie Walker is both thorough and easy to read. Without doubt, the insight into the history of the brand that this book provides will deepen any Johnnie Walker fan’s appreciation of the whisky.
Purchase Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride, The Story Of The World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky here for £16.95
‘The Philosophy Of Whisky’ By Billy Abbott
This is part of the British Library’s “The Philosophy Of” series, and is the perfect introduction to whisky. Abbott writes about whisky in a fun and engaging way and manages to tread the line between being both accessible to whisky newcomers and providing insight that even the most seasoned whisky lovers will appreciate. Throughout the book are interesting short biographies about important historical figures such as Jasper Newton Daniel (now known as Jack) and Rita Taketsuru (without whom we might not have Japanese whisky), alongside answering perennial questions like “Whisky or Whiskey.”
Purchase The Philosophy of Whisky here for £10
‘A Passion For Whisky’ By Ian Wisniewski
Islay is justifiably known as the “Queen of the Hebrides” and Wisniewski’s book about the distilleries on Islay is a brief and easy-reading tribute to the island. Beautifully illustrated throughout by Melvyn Evans, the book offers layers of insight and guidance that is easy to consume. It contains a scientific exploration of the whisky-making process and the sensory perception of flavor, as well as covering each of Islay’s distilleries. Rather than simply presenting an exhaustive history of the distilleries, Wisniewski’s approach makes for both fun and easy readying.
Purchase A Passion For Whisky here for £24.95
‘The Scotch Whisky Industry Review’ 2022 Edition
While definitely not one for those with only a casual interest in whisky, The Scotch Whisky Industry Review offers insight you will not find outside of distilleries’ own spreadsheets. This book features detailed data, analysis and history, covering everything from visitor center attendance, expansions in malt distilling capacity, and fiscal duty ratios. This is one book I only suggest for the professional enthusiast! Issued annually, the information is for the previous complete year’s figures, so while there is some lag, if you want to make data-driven decisions, this is the book for you.
Purchase The Scotch Whisky Industry Review here for £450