Book Reviews Maggie Kimberl

Book Review: The Little Book of Whiskey

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning cookbook author and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris who has taken her professional knowledge of cooking and travel and rolled it into The Little Book of Whiskey. This tiny hardback is packed with basic information in snackable form, complete with quotes about whiskey, recipes using whiskey, and more. It doesn’t go quite as in-depth as many of the whiskey books being published these days, which makes it a great introductory book for those just dipping their toes into the whiskey pool.

This book gets right down to business in the basic process of how whiskey is made, from mashing to fermentation to distillation, which is all basically the same process across the many different styles in the world. Then Balslev goes on to outline what differentiates the different styles of whiskey made throughout the world — malted barley for Scotch along with often wine barrel or bourbon barrel aging, 51% corn for both bourbon and Tennessee whiskey with an additional charcoal filtering process for Tennessee Whiskey, and so forth.

Throughout the book there are great quotes about whiskey by celebrities and other notable people, “Civilization begins with distillation,” said William Faulkner, while Ava Gardner famously said, “I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.”

There are basic notes about how to enjoy your whiskey, from what glass to use to whether to add ice or water to the exact method for sniffing, sipping, and swallowing the water of life. These are the things that are often hotly debated among aficionados of whiskey. But everyone has to start somewhere, and the Glencairn, which the author recommends for neat pours, is a great choice of glasses no matter who you ask.

There is a table of contents in this book to help readers navigate right to the section they are looking for. However, one thing is notably missing: a bibliography or references for where this information all came from. It’s always nice to be able to find further reading on a subject, especially in a basic introductory text such as this.

There are instructions for hosting a bourbon tasting with friends followed by recipes, which comprise about two-thirds of the book. Whiskey caramelized onion soup au gratin sounds like a fabulous new recipe to try for the fall, while chocolate whiskey pound cake with whiskey cream sounds like a delightful holiday party treat. In all this book contains 25 recipes divided into appetizers and sides, main dishes, desserts, and cocktails. There’s also a handy reference chart for measurement conversions in the back.

The Little Book of Whiskey is available now at $9.99. It would make a great stocking stuffer for the new whiskey lover in your life as well as a great gift for the whiskey lover who loves to cook with whiskey.

Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

Maggie Kimberl is a spirits journalist focusing on whiskey culture in the United States, though she considers herself to be 'geographically blessed' to live in the epicenter of the bourbon world, Louisville, Kentucky. When she's not covering the bourbon beat you can find her browsing through vintage vinyl with her kids or tending to her homegrown tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and check out her blog.

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