Whiskey Book Review: Boozehound

Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in SpiritsOver the course of a quick summer vacation I was able to breeze through a very entertaining and educational book called Boozehound by Jason Wilson. The subtitle of the book is On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits, which sums things up very nicely and really reels you in if you're the type of person who reads blogs like mine. The author is the Spirits Columnist for the Washington Post, a great job title if ever there was one, and he also has some local Philadelphia connections - former Philadelphia Magazine writer, teacher at Drexel University, and resident of South Jersey, just over the river. The dry wit and snide humor that I've read in Wilson's columns comes through perfectly in book form, and makes for a breezy, fun read even for non-spirits-snobs.

In Boozehound the author weaves together historical and personal anecdotes centered on spirits ranging from obscure Italian bitters to politically charged Caribbean rums. He reminds his American readers that in many parts of the world spirits are consumed very differently than we are used to, and he tempts us to go out and buy-and-try all sorts of foreign elixirs. Thankfully, if you do end up making a trip to the liquor store after each chapter, the book also includes many excellent cocktail recipes so that you can recreate the drinking experiences it describes at home in your kitchen.

Since this is a whiskey blog I have to give the disclaimer that Boozehound is not particularly focused on whiskey. This doesn't make it any less interesting to the whiskey drinker though because many of the spirits that Boozehound discusses are currently in a state of obscurity, at least in the U.S., much as whiskey has been at different points in time. Tracing the ebbs and flows of different spirits' popularity and their relationships to popular culture is, to me, what this book does so well. Wilson gives praise where it is due - usually but not always to the rare and obscure - and he calls out the overrated whenever appropriate. His editorializing adds a big dash of fun to a very educational book which makes it perfect for summer beach reading.

My only complaint about this book is that it is too short. It's nine brief chapters only allow Wilson to scratch the surface of the world's rare, obscure, and overrated booze. I'm sure he has plenty more stories to tell, and I look forward to a sequel.