A friend recently recommended I read a book called The Best Beer in the World: One man’s global search for the perfect pint, saying it was one of the best beer books he’d ever read. So I bought it and agreed, and if you’re into beer as well as spirits, I suggest you take a look.
The book was so good that it sent me looking to see what else that same publisher had produced, and the answer was – a lot of books on food and drink. The first one I wanted to read, though, was Craft Spirit World by Emily Miles. It had been published in 2015 but still sounded as fresh as a daisy, being ‘A guide to the artisan spirit-makers and distillers you need to try’. That sounds like my kind of book, I thought, and a book I ought to read.
Craft Spirit World
Craft Spirit World was impressive from the start, a handsome hardback with a jazzy cover, a smart layout and lots of eye-catching colour photos – just like The Best Beer in the World.
In fact the author, Emily Miles, begins with what she calls ‘A Brief but Relevant Digression’ into craft beer – and it is relevant, with craft distilling going the way that craft brewing went several years earlier.
So, what actually is craft distilling? Well, that’s the title of one of the early chapters as the author tries to come to some kind of agreeable definition of the term. She amusingly points out that trade organisations tend to up the size of their defined limits for production as their members grow and produce more spirits.
Another chapter explains the nuts and bolts of distilling, covering stills, barrels and blending. These aren’t lengthy essays as the book is very visual and the text is punchy – but long enough to cover the subject in detail.
There’s a very good section on how to taste spirits, which is something you might think you know – put it in a glass and drink it. But you need to know what you’re tasting, what you’re looking for, otherwise you might waste a lot of money buying expensive brands that are all marketing but no better than cheaper spirits. For my companion website The Vodka Guy I’ve discovered some really good inexpensive vodkas that taste just as good as others twice the price.
The Best Distillers in the World
The bulk of the book, though, and what most of us will buy it for, is Part 3: The Best Distillers in the World, which she breaks down into sections for the different spirits.
It’s a bold claim but she justifies it by some of the distilleries she describes, including many that I know and respect, like Vestal Vodka, Chase, Leopold Brothers in Denver, St George Spirits in California and Koval in Chicago. They’re all distillers who combine skill with integrity, producing the best spirits they can.
From Absinthe to Vodka, via a few quirks like Moonshine, Poitin and Cornish Pastis, this is an enjoyable romp around some of the best craft distillers out there. It doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive – nothing short of an encyclopaedia could be – but it’s still a hefty 160 pages that anyone interested in craft distilling should read.
Craft Spirit World Author
The one black mark I have against the book is that I couldn’t find anything at all about the author in it. Her name’s Emily Miles and it sounded familiar from drinks publications I’ve read, but I’d like to have known more about her. I couldn’t find a website but did find a LinkedIn profile. There is also something about the author on the publisher’s website:
See the Cico Books website.