With “A Glass Apart,” author Fionnán O’Connor hasn’t just given us a primer on Irish whiskey. He provides a master class on the subject, and does so with the gravitas of a university professor and the tone of an everyday drinking man.
The book is even structured like a college textbook. First, in the section entitled “Appreciation,” O’Connor talks about how to nose and taste whiskey without ever being a whiskey snob about it. O’Connor says, “If it’s a swelteringly hot day and you feel like having your Redbreast on the rocks, you’re not going to bring about the apocalypse.” He tackles the flavors and aromas found in whiskey, and how those notes find themselves there.
Then O’Connor explains whiskey production in a way that will teach whiskey newcomers a thing or two, but will also keep whiskey enthusiasts interested. Grains, yeast, pot still shapes, types of barrels and other distillation processes are covered here. Sometimes, he can get a bit geeky, and that’s okay by me.
O’Connor then gets into the big pot still whiskies, as well as the Cooley and Midleton Distilleries. Accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful photos by Ove Grunnér, this section features flavor notes and histories for the big classic Irish post still whiskies like Redbreast expressions and Green Spot.
Speaking of history, a look at Irish whiskey’s past is given its proper due. O’Connor recounts the glorious heights of the Irish whiskey industry, it’s unfortunate lowly period and it’s recent revival. The book ends on a high note with a look at the companies and distilleries born in this new world-wide interest in Irish whiskey.
“A Glass Apart” belongs in the library of any serious whiskey enthusiast. You think you know all about Irish whiskey until you read this book. Then you realize just how much of an Irish whiskey novice you really are.
By the way, Mark Gillespie interviewed O’Connor on a recent episode of WhiskyCast. It’s definitely worth a listen.
(Thanks to Images Publishing for the review copy. Purchase your copy here.)