Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009

I promised a review of this year's Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009 a few weeks back. Ingvar Ronde, the editor of the Yearbook, told us from the outset that the 2009 Yearbook's Japanese section had been significantly cut back from 2008's excellent chapter. In the latest edition, there are six rather than 11 pages devoted to Japan. Some of the reduction is accounted for by smaller photographs but there are significant losses in some parts of the text. Hideo Yamaoka and Taylor Smisson's succinct but informative introduction to Japanese Malt Whisky has gone missing and the individual distillery entries have lost some of the excellent detailed data that was present last year. That said, the information has been updated, with a new entry for Ichiro Akuto's recently opened Chichibu distillery. There is of course a wealth of excellent information about the whisky world outside Japan.

What I always value about the Yearbook is its accuracy. It provides a comprehensive view of the entire whisky world. I often find that books of this sort come up short if you carefully read their information on particular subjects. This is particularly common when it comes to Japanese whisky, where the author is often winging it a little in a linguistic environment in which they have little or no expertise. I have never found this sort of problem with the Yearbook, perhaps because Ingvar has had the good sense to seek the help of Japan based experts like Hideo Yamaoka and Taylor Smisson.

I understand that this year's Japan chapter was abbreviated because Hideo and Taylor were busy with other work and could not devote the time necessary for a complete update. It is essentially a condensed version of 2008 with some news added, which still makes it one of the most reliable and thorough sources of information on Japanese whisky currently in print.

Ingvar writes: "It is our intention to present an expanded section on Japanese whisky in the next edition of the year book." Can't wait.

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