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Matching Books with Whisky

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If I have learned one thing in my few years as a writer it is that a worrying number of those who work in publishing enjoy single malt whisky.

My own utterly unempirical research has concluded that the number is so high that it seems likely that there is an intimate relationship between books and whisky, and that the whole industry may be propped up on alcohol. I've seen whole bottles polished off at parties as quickly as the canapés. I've known of editors who have reached for bottles stashed away in their bottom drawers (for what reason - a terrible, error-plagued manuscript to work on, perhaps? - I could not say).
With this in mind, I have set about matching up various types of books with various types of whisky, in order to guide the uninitiated through the correct etiquette.

Crime or a dense historical thriller.

These are novels to be read on a winter's evening, or when the rain is lashing against your windows, when you dream of warm fires. Your imagination is currently stumbling across the fourth body, which is stuffed behind a church altar. I'm thinking anything from Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose to CJ Sansom's Shardlake series; and we could extend this to general thrillers or military fiction, too - anything that takes your head somewhere dark.

What these books require is a strong, dark whisky. For this job, I'd recommend two bottles: Ardbeg 10 Year Old and the Laphroaig 10 Year Old.

Let us make no mistake: these are powerful single malt whiskies, with a heavy peaty flavour. Both of these are strong, will bring you to your senses (after they first knock them out of you), then the fire will be safely in your belly. Not for those of a nervous disposition - just like the books really.

Romantic fiction all the way through to Jane Austen.

Not only is it sexist, but it is just plain wrong to say that women don't enjoy a dram (just ask my editor). However, there is a big market in fiction steered towards women - from classic romance to chick lit to stories about those historical courtesans.

Forgive me if I think we need something indulgent for these types of books; something sweet, something... sexy perhaps? Whisky can indeed be a sexy, sensual beast. At the lighter end of the scale, I'd recommend something sweet like the Macallan 10 Year Old (I'm personally not a huge fan of this, but I think for newcomers to whisky, and for those with a sweet tooth, this is a lovely start - full of rich, plum, creamy sherry flavours.)

For the more sophisticated lady, look no further than the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old, which is practically a glass of Christmas cake: sweet, spicy and orangey.

I would have first suggested some of Bruichladdich's First Growth series (which are finished in wine casks from some of the best vineyards in France), but these aren't widely available. If you do stumble into a specialist, then you must try one of these (especially the Château Margaux finish, because this is as sexy as whisky can get).

Classic fiction and poetry.

Stately books, which have a refined elegance about them: a quality that has marked them out in time. From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to the likes of Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party short story collection, these are refined books indeed.

I'll not do the obvious here and suggest something like a Port Ellen, or even really old whiskies (I don't wish to get a second mortgage to buy some of these, and probably neither do you). So instead, I'll suggest the Yoichi 10 Year Old.

Now, the Japanese know a thing or two about whiskies, and they produce some of the most highly regarded single malts in the world. What more could you want to accompany some of the most statesmanlike novels of our time but a wonderfully balanced and elegant dram? This is a very well constructed, sophisticated whisky, which has a very crisp, clean taste. You could also add to your list a Bruichladdich 12 Year Old, which has wonderful - stately - floral notes, an elegance that's hard to come by.

Nature writing, gardening books, the great outdoors.

From Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica to turning over the veg plot with Alys Fowler's The Edible Garden, these books are all about exploring the practical and sensual sides of the natural world. They're often summer books, too, so why not some summer evening drams with which to kick back in the garden?

I'd recommend the Glenfiddich 18 or Yamazaki 12 Year Old. These two whiskies are full of gentle, sophisticated fruit flavours. While the Yamazaki has a wonderful aroma of apples, the Glenfiddich has strong notes of oranges and plum jam, but isn't too sweet. They both have very delicate, light, but complex flavours. They both evoke nature effectively.

So there we go - that's a start. Go forth, explore, sip and read. Why not buy a bottle and head to your local library or bookstore? No? I'm sure the booksellers probably wouldn't mind sharing a dram with you. These are tough times, after all. In the meantime, if you have an secret recommendations for good drams, then don't be coy about it - do share.

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