View Full Version : Jim Murray's Complete Book of Whiskey
Curious if anyone out there has read this, and if you have what you think of the coverage therein. I'm particularly interested, of course, of what you think of his Bourbon and Rye whiskey sections.
I have this book, and also his "Classic Bourbon Tennessee & Rye", which is more recent. If you want strictly Bourbon and Rye coverage, then "Classic Bourbon Tenn & Rye" is probably a better bet, as it goes a bit more in-depth. However,
JM's Complete Book Of Whiskey is still a damn good read, and includes fascinating bits about Scotch and Irish as well.
Jim Murray is not shy about his opinions, which makes him endearing to readers. (Unless the readers work for distilleries :) )
I enjoy the hell out of Murray's writing--unless I have to edit it and he was in a hurry, and then it's a pain in the neck. Jim does say what's on his mind, God bless him, and will stand up to the distillery people and say it again if they ask him about it. I enjoyed this book, particularly the Canadian section, where I learned a whole lot.
Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon
Jim really loves rye whiskey. After all, as he says, you just can't hardly find any of it in Britain or Europe. That does tend to color his judgement a bit -- he doesn't care as much for the wheated whiskies that I love, such as Maker's and the Stitzel-Weller brands. But once you take that into consideration, he's pretty fair. And very clear (Jim leaves no doubt at all about how he feels -- I like to think I'd be the same if I were writing comparisons for a book). I actually brought a bottle of Corby Lot 40 (from Canada, but hardly what you'd call a Canadian Whiskey -- this is 100% malted rye!) with us when we went to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown last September... just in the hopes that he might have been there and we'd get a chance to talk and taste it. We didn't. Of course it's true that he rates one of my favorite "cheap" bourbons, Colonel Lee, as the worst rotgut he's ever tasted, but then I guess no one can be right ALL the time... :-)) [grin].
I found the book in a bargain bin some time ago, and have been using it as a sort of tasting guide ever since. I've found him pretty much spot on -- I especially owe him for convincing me to try Old Crow and Rebel Yell, two bourbons I never would've tried without reading his write-ups. (Oddly enough, the one area where I think he's off-base is Canadian whiskey. I know even less about Canadian stuff than I do about bourbon, but he really likes Crown Royal, a whiskey I can't stand, and sort of dismisses Canadian Club, probably my favorite of what I've tried. But that's a subject for a different board.)
There have been a few of us--myself, Gary Regan, Mark Waymack, Jim Harris, Michael Jackson--who have gone around to all the distilleries and interviewed everybody. No one struck fear into their hearts like Jim Murray. I would get these reports--"he's been here, he's said this, he's going to write this"--it was hysterical.
I don't know how I wandered into this corner of the site. Whilst Corby's Lot No. 40 *is* a fantastic whisky, I'm sorry to report that it is not 100% malted, like the Old Potrero. The ratio of malted to unmalted is about 15% to 85%, according to Mike Booth master blender for the Canadian Whiksy Guild line. Mike calls the Lot No. 40 "Canada's Laphroaig" and I'd have to agree with him. It's a whisky people either love or hate.
Please join in Canadian Whisky discussion at "Beauty, eh?" http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/beautyeh
Heh-heh, I do believe it was *you* who told me it was 100% malt. Or at least that whatever rye was in it (I had thought 100% rye until your response) was 100% malt. Now it looks as though even that isn't correct (since the total rye content is obviously more than 15%). That would have been in the "Canadian Rye (off topic)" thread of the Rye forum (where this probably should have been; sorry Jim).
I still agree with you that it's a fantastic whiskey. When I think of rye flavor, I usually don't think of the strong, tart flavor that most high-rye-content bourbons seem to have. Although I do enjoy that flavor, what I think of as "rye" is a certain "grassy" undertaste that reminds me of mowing the lawn. Much of our lawn is ryegrass, and the aroma of that is what I associate with "rye". Of the American ryes, Old Overholt has the most of that flavor, but it's common to all of them. In Lot No. 40, however, it fairly leaps out of the bottle at you. You'll have to put me with the people who love it. I tried the Alberta Premium and wasn't impressed at all. I also tried a bottle of Ketterling's 3-Grain, which was a lot better. I think it gives a pretty good example of what someone would do with a corn-rye-barley grain mash if they really wanted to create WHISKEY instead of BOURBON (see next paragraph). We were going to visit the Ketterling distillery when we were in Niagara (it's only a couple miles away), but they don't offer tours on the one day we had time to go. We also located Quinte, where the Lot No. 40 distillery is located, but it would have taken nearly five hours each way to get there.
Thanks for the invite to your new "Beauty, Eh?" website (uh... Bushido MacKenzie??). I see RyanStotz is already there. I signed up, but I haven't got the confirmation email back yet. The site looks good. I have to admit, I'm not all that taken with Canadian whiskey yet. Most of what I've tried seems rather bland, and of those that do have some notable flavor, the trend certainly seems to be more toward Scotch (which I deplore) or Irish than toward Bourbon. Actually, that would only make it more accurate as a whiskey in my opinion. I have a couple radical ideas about the validity of bourbon as a whiskey, but you'll have to ask me that one offline <grin>. I'll visit the site, though, and maybe my tastes will change as I learn more.
See my reply in the appropriate forum.
Thanks for taking it over there. Good idea.
So... how about that Jim Murray? Has anyone had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman? Linda & I have met authors Mark Waymack, Sam Cecil, Sally Campbell, and Gary & Mardee Regan, all at Kentucky Bourbon Festivals; through this forum we've chatted with Chuck Cowdery. Jim, along with John Hansell, is someone I'd really like to spend some time with. So, does anybody here know him?
"So... how about that Jim Murray? Has anyone had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman? Linda & I have met authors Mark Waymack, Sam Cecil, Sally Campbell, and Gary & Mardee Regan, all at Kentucky Bourbon Festivals; through this forum we've chatted with Chuck Cowdery. Jim, along with John Hansell, is someone I'd really like to spend some time with. So, does anybody here know him?"</font>
I don't "know" him but I did have the pleasure of meeting him at WhiskyFest last year. We debated the merits of Glenmorangie's Ardbeg 17yo release with which he was intimately involved (much to the chagrin of the Buffalo Trace folks at the booth). I found him to be totally unpretentitous and very personable. He conceded that I had some valid points and welcomed the opportunity to defend his position. At no time did I feel he was "talking down" to me and we finally agreed to disagree in a very amicable manner. It was a pleasure to have some time to chat with him one-on-one. I've included a pic of the two of us shaking hands post-debate.
FWIW, I have also chatted with Michael Jackson and can't echo my above comments.
I have spent many hours with Jim Murray and he is a very good guy. I like his book and he writes very good tasting notes even if he is a little light on his understanding of American History. They don't come any better than Jim.
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