|Feat. a shameless plug for my favorite local bookstore|
The introduction to this book is pages long, detailing what it will and won't be about, and it is such a well written introduction that I almost missed getting onto my bus: luckily the bus driver stopped and asked if I wanted in, and smilingly commented about how I must be reading a really good book to be so enthralled with it. "It's a book about whisky!" I chirped, probably looking a bit too happy.
When a publisher contacts an author to write a book about Scottish whisky--research expenses included--I doubt anyone in their right mind would say no.
Neither did Banks, who took off to the task with an unsurprising number of friends offering their help.
The result is a book that by title sounds like a whisky connoisseur's delight, but is more of an autobiography of adulthood antics involving alcohol, book fairs and cons, fellow skiffy writers and editors; it's about Banks's love of cars as he drives down the wee roads toward distilleries, about nieces snickering when he falls off a dock unceremoniously. And puns. All of this is tied up in the love of whisky, or what particular whiskies evoke in the author.
In the end, that's what senses are: subjective. One man's dram is another man's nightmare from college. There cannot be a perfect drink--it is only perfect to you, with perfection built up from all the experiences surrounding the tasting. Although Banks's tastes lie on the more expensive side--which he sheepishly admits--he does warn dear readers not to let their wallet guide their taste buds, and to be on the lookout for a drink they truly like.
Raw Spirit is a down-to-earth narrative of having a good drink and the professionalism that goes into distilling one, peppered with loads of self-deprecating anecdotes and sudden politic outbursts (Banks was commissioned to begin research right at the start of the Iraqi war--he reserves the words "shite" and "fucking" pretty much exclusively for these little paragraphs).
And, as usual with Banks, the whole thing is just marvelously written. The only bits I noticed glazing over were parts where he's in love with his cars, simply because I could not care less.