Book Review: 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die by Ian Buxton

Ian Buxton, known for his regular articles in the two main print whisky periodicals, Whisky Advocate and Whisky Magazine, published the first edition of his “desert island list” of whiskys, 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die in 2010. It was then revised in 2013 after a sequel (of sorts), focusing on whiskies from countries other than Scotland was published in 2012 (101 World Whiskies to Try…). While both books include whiskies from all over the world, the original focuses on “Old World” whiskies, with 70 from Scotland alone, while the “World Whiskies” book has only a handful of Scottish whiskies. Buy both, and you have an impressive to-do list of 202 whiskies to try before you croak!

The book, as its introduction insists, is not a “best of” list, nor any kind of awards show in print. Mr. Buxton has chosen whiskies that he believes every lover of brown spirits should, at least once in their life, sample. The selections range from Crown Royal and Cutty Sark to Hibiki 30 and The Balvenie PortWood 21, although the author insists that every whisky in the book is widely available (no limited editions or single-cask bottlings). To taste every product in the book would be to undertake a full education in whisky, and come out the other side a good deal richer in experience (and a good deal poorer in actuality!).

The book is laid out in a simple, easy-to-flip-through format and in a pleasantly small size. Each whisky recommended (in alphabetical order) has a color bottle image, some tasting notes, a few stats, and a few paragraphs about the whisky and what earned it inclusion in the book. The prose is witty and lighthearted, and Mr. Buxton offers some good information along with his opinions.

I do disagree with Mr. Buxton on a few items – I don’t share his positive view of Crown Royal, BenRiach Curiositas, The Black Grouse, Bruichladdich ‘The Laddie’ 10, Cutty Sark, or his inclusion of two Dewars, four Highland Parks, and both Hibiki 17 and Hibiki 30 (!!). Also, some of his choices are hard to find (Van Winkle Rye?) or already out of date (good luck finding Flora & Fauna bottlings of Mortlach 16). Rest assured, however, that my copy already bears a number of checkmarks, and it would be a jaded whisky drinker indeed who couldn’t find some inspiration for his next drink within these pages.


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  • Nice, I will have to grab these books. Now, on to your disagreements, rumor has it Black Grouse has been changed in the past couple years (Not sure exactly when, so it may have changed by the time you reviewed it).

    The peat and smoke has been tamed down a bit to give it a more balanced taste. I’ve only had the new version, but I found it quite enjoyable for what it is, a relatively cheap blend.

    It might be worth another look. I haven’t been able to find Black Bottle in forever, and I think I liked Black Grouse better than Finlaggan, so it’s certainly the cheapest peaty scotch I can find nearby.