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101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die

Expert Ian Buxton catalogs the globe's most essential drams

by Julie Wolfson
on 04 October 2012
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Building on his already immense knowledge, whiskey expert Ian Buxton continues the enviable job of tippling his way across the globe. In his follow-up spirits directory, "101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die," Buxton shares his favorite bottles from Tasmania to Honshu and Bangalore to Cork, offering insight on the spectrum of heritage, innovation and variety in the world of whiskey.

Most of the pages in Buxton's latest edition read like personal short stories. He chronicles his 101 choices in one-page descriptions with tasting notes filling the book alongside anecdotes about whiskey heritage and distillery discoveries. Other pages have helpful resource information about newer world regions where whiskies are made including Amrut from Bangalore, likening their potential to the now-booming Japanese whiskey industry. He muses on the humorous evolution of the names Germans have given their whiskies, and praises varieties like Owl Single Malt from Belgium, Three Ships from South Africa and Teerenpeli from Finland.

Buxton culminates each page with informative and clever tasting notes. From the flavors and aromas picked up in the nose, he recommends exploring the Jameson expression beyond their standard bottles and goes on to describe the Jameson Gold Reserve as "honeyed sweetness followed by oak and spice." Each page ends in entertaining finish notes with descriptions like the "hints of spent fireworks" he senses in the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey. It's hard not to smile when reading his characterizations of the lingering flavor of Bakers 7: "On and on it goes with a smashing chocoholic crescendo."

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In "101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die," Buxton also includes a few surprising choices, like the Glen Breton from Nova Scotia aged in ice wine casks. Other whiskies have unique backstories, including Tuthhilltown Spirits, whose unconventional approach to maturing the Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey from New York involves playing loud rap music for the aging barrels with the goal of making the liquid vibrate and inducing color and flavor from the wood cask.

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Buxton did include some offerings from his native Scotland including Highland Park—he's a fan of "all of them!"—and shares an image of the Highland Park 50 encased in seaweed-like silver armor made by jewelry designer Maeve Gillies. Though Buxton's books generally do not champion the most expensive collector's editions, he surprises readers with a 102nd recommendation: the Johnny Walker Diamond Jubilee—priced at £100,000 a bottle. The company gave the first one to Queen Elizabeth II and made only 60 available worldwide, with all of the proceeds benefitting the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Fund.

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Each page leaves a few empty lines for the readers to add their own notes, a clear challenge to start buying and tasting this diverse group of spirits. Far from a list of the most exclusive award-winners, Buxton makes careful calculations of 101 bottles that tell a story of place, process and innovation.

"101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die" is now available on Amazon.

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