Monday, June 28, 2010

RAW SPIRIT – in search of the perfect dram

by Iain Banks

Everything in here is true, especially the bits I made up.

“Banksie, hi.What are you up to?”

“Well, I’m going to be writing a book about whisky”.

“Your what?”

“I’m going to be writing a book about whisky. I’ve been, umm, you know, commissioned. To write a book about it. About whisky. Malt whisky, actually’.

“Your writing a book about whisky ?'

“Yeah. It means I have to go all over Scotland, driving mostly, but taking other types of transport – ferries, planes, trains, that sort of thing – visiting distilleries & tasting malt whisky. With expenses, obviously”.

ardbeg distillery islaycaol ila distilleryedradour

“You serious?”

“Course I’m serious!’ 


“Oh yeah”.

………Do you need any help with this?”                                                                                                             

Iain Banks, starts Raw Spirit with the above commentary, perfectly describing how a whisky lover would feel, if given the job of researching a book on their favourite drink. More commonly known for works of fiction such as, The Wasp Factory and Consider Phlebas (written as Iain M. Banks) he is widely acknowledged as one of Britain's greatest living writers & as a Scotsman is passionate about the  Whisky. In this book he combines Books & Whisky with a third love, Travel, the result being, he, along with a bunch of fellow travellers “some svelte, some burly, some vintage, some just over the top”, journey across Scotland, by planes & cars, by bikes & trains, by ferry & on foot. Searching remote shores & hidden glens to get to as many Distilleries as he possibly can. It’s a tough job, but as he puts it:

Someone’s got to do it, & I’m damn sure its going to be me”


Malt whisky is made in some of the most beautiful, rugged inaccessible areas of Scotland, with some of the least modern methods of transport, resulting in a lot of planning & a unique  view of his homeland “its a journey of a 1000 cheers & subsequent wobbly walks”. Along the way he meets people engaged in a centuries old tradition & manages to imbibe, along with a vast quantity of malt, some knowledge of the traditions, practices & eccentricities that make up the live blood of whisky & the distilleries that produce it

This book is hilarious, full of sharp witticisms, sparkling prose & that staggering imagination that has brought critical acclaim to his novels, but more importantly this book is full of the joy & excitement of someone given the chance to do something that they love.


If you want to learn about “the daft customs & superstitions”, if you want to know how to pronounce those Scottish names properly (Bunnahabhain = Boonahavin), or if you want to learn where your favourite malt is from, this is the book for you. If you want discover something new about Scotland & it’s people, this may be the book for you & if you want to have a laugh, read a popular writer just having a riotous time & find out if he can survive it, this is definitely the book for you.

Find out if he can survive the research !


Chaz said...

This looks fantastic, and well worth digging out a copy. I may even join him in a wee glass while reading it...

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Chaz, it's well worth seeking out & as to that glass, pop over to the Ye Olde Parrish Tavern & check out a favourite -