Spirits Books Roundup

A large part of my whiskey adventure consists of tasting, but there’s always an element of learning involved. I love to educate myself on all aspects of whiskey. Thank goodness for spirits books. Sure, there’s lots of information online, but books seem to have stricter editorial guidelines which means they can be trusted more. Having read a few spirts books lying during the pandemic, I wanted to share a quick blurb for each. Thanks to the authors and publishers for sharing review copies.


American Whiskey, the latest book from Whiskey Reviewer owner and Managing Editor Richard Thomas, is an exciting journey of our native spirit. On his website, Thomas is a whiskey nerd at heart, but remains a tough yet fair critic. In my view, that critical approach lends Thomas a higher level of trust when it comes to the age old question, “should I buy this whiskey?” It also serves him well in American Whiskey’s format, which showcases more than 300 whiskeys. Additionally, Thomas gives some background on the distilleries. And he’s not just looking at the big boys. American Whiskey also dedicates a large portion to craft distillers, the ever-growing segment of the American whiskey industry that receives some much needed attention. Though American Spirit may seem like a standard approach to the modern whiskey book, Thomas’s knowledge of the category sets this book apart.


Go ahead and toss our your cocktail books. Kurt Maitland’s Drink: The Ultimate Cocktail Book is here and should be your new cocktail recipe reference. Okay, don’t throw out your other books. The Whiskey Reviewer Deputy Editor put together a massive collection of cocktail recipes, history, and more. When I say massive, I mean MASSIVE. Maitland features more than 1,100 recipes. This is less a book and more a tome. Thankfully, the author breaks down all this information in a well organized, easy to read format. Maitland has an encyclopedic knowledge of spirits. I know this firsthand – he’s the person who got me into Scotch whisky. Every time he visits New Orleans and we get together for a dram, I learn something new about whisky. Seriously… every time. Drink accomplishes the same for cocktails. There’s something here for cocktail novices and industry veterans alike.


There are people who know bourbon and people who know bourbon. Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler fit in the latter category. Their new book, Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon, explores bourbon tasting, presentation, food pairing and more. This is interesting to me, as I rack my brain trying to think of a way to host a nice bourbon tasting. It’s gotta be more than just peanuts and crackers. Stevens and Reigler take a deep dive into the subject, getting as specific as place settings, decorations, and presentation. This book should be studied before you host your next bourbon tasting. Thank you Peggy and Susan for this. You’ve just brought my cocktail party to the next level.

Review: The Glendronach 15

Photo courtesy of Glendronach

Let’s talk about The Glendronach 15 for a sec. This 15-year-old expression seems to have a LOT of fans. Seemingly moreso than any of the other distillery’s expressions. In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to taste a few other Glendronach whiskies, but this one’s eluded me… until now.

Similar to its other siblings, this single malt whisky has matured in both Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso Spanish Sherry casks for at least 15 years and has been bottled at 46% ABV.

The nose is a great example of a sherries malt. Both lush and vibrant, it features hints of red fruit and orange peel as well as toffee and dark chocolate. Tastewise, it’s like a warm cardigan (hey, it’s a Taylor Swift reference) on a cool night. Hints of dried fruit, honey, and orange peel coat the palate, making way for subtle waves of baking spice and dark chocolate. The medium-length finish leaves lingering notes of Angostura bitters and honeyed fruit.

All in all, a well-crafted whisky. The Glendronach 15 manages to walk a tight rope between vibrant and decadent, something hard to accomplish for a sherried malt. I’m so glad to have been able to taste this luscious whisky. This is one of those times I wish my sample was a 750mL bottle instead of a 100mL one. Now I’ll need to explain to my wife why I’ll be buying even more whisky. There’s just no more space in the whiskey room. Maybe mentioning Taylor Swift in my notes will help my case. Who knows. Enough rambling – this one’s an easy recommendation.

Thanks to The Glendronach for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Four Gate Batch 7 (River Kelvin Rye)

Photo courtesy of Four Gate Whiskey Company

Seven year old barrels of 95/5 Indiana rye whisky presented at barrel proof (113.2 proof). That’s Four Gate’s latest release, their first rye, on paper. But you have to look deeper to get the full picture.

Four Gate is known for its skillful blending as well its penchant for barrel finishing. A quick perusal of their website will show you some of their quirkier barrel finishes – ex-sherry rum casks, curaçao gin casks, and on and on. Especially interesting is their occasion use of split-stave casks, where barrels are constructed with alternating charred and toasted staves.

River Kelvin Rye, which is batch 7’s official name, is a straight rye whiskey presented as a peek of what they’re working with for the near future. It’s their base whiskey that will be later finished in their split-stave barrels this holiday season as well as ruby port-rum barrels in 2021. Given their fantastic past releases, I can’t wait for these upcoming ones.

But first, how’s the rye?

Nicely aged is my first thought. That famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, 95% rye 5% malted barley mash bill from Indiana can start to seem familiar with its particular dill note. Not so much on this rye. The rye grain shines on the nose along with hints of brown sugar, red fruit, and vanilla. It’s surprisingly not too sharp and not too spicy. On the palate, caramelized fruit and brown sugar are complemented by toasted rye grain and slightly astringent oak. There’s a touch of dill and a little earthiness underneath. The long finish delves into sweet and spicy territory with a lingering sweet oak note.

Four Gate River Kelvin Rye is a delicious, balanced rye whiskey on its own. The thought of barrel finishing this rye in the future is simply mouthwatering. The whiskey nerd in me won’t allow me to buy this whiskey without purchasing the two future releases and vice versa. I want to compare and contrast to taste just what the barrel finishing adds to this wonderful base rye. And if you happen to fall into the percentage of folks who don’t care for barrel finishing in their whiskey, Four Gate batch 7 will easily quench your thirst for a solid, well-aged rye whiskey.