Shelley Sackier isn’t your average whisky writer. In fact, after reading her book, I’m not sure she would claim that title at all, at least not without a healthy amount of humorous self-deprecation and wordy wit. And that’s what makes her book Make it a Double so engaging and, frankly, unique among so many other spirits books. While you can find any number of tracts that thoroughly lay out the history and/or production of whisky, Ms. Sackier’s book is more about the whisky-lover’s journey, the wisdom they gather along the way, and the importance of those kinds of passions to a fulfilling life.
I had the good fortune of receiving my sample copy right before a trip to Scotland, and it made for a very timely and entertaining read on my flight across the pond. I have somewhat of a short attention span, so I was pleased to see that this book is more a collection of the author’s essays and blog posts, well-organized but with few chapters exceeding four or five pages, so it’s as easy to digest in small chunks as it is in one long sitting.
The subtitle essentially let’s a reader know what they’re in for – From Wretched to Wondrous: Tales of One Woman’s Lifelong Discovery of Whisky. The book spans an entire life of whisky appreciation, from the author’s first unimpressed sip of scotch to her obsession with Scotland and growing fascination with whisky that culminates in her current “dream job” as Director of Distillery Education at Reservoir Distillery. The progression isn’t entirely linear or entirely focused on the author’s personal experiences. Interesting and humorous bits of Scottish history and whisky lore are sprinkled throughout, juxtaposing the more serious elements of the book like Ms. Sackier’s trepidation and insecurity during her internship at Bruichladdich. And it’s all written with a comedic irreverence in wonderfully wordy prose that imbues the book with a truly engaging charm.
There is a little bit in Make it a Double for everyone whether you’re looking for a travel guide, a history book, a how-to on whisky production, or even a bit of self-help. And while you can find lots of that stuff in other books, Ms. Sackier’s assemblage is first rate. The tall tales are of a variety that you only really get from some of the best Scottish distillery tour guides. And for those who really want to learn something new, a series of essays dubbed “The Extra Bits and Bobs” offers up an easily digestible overview of some of whisky-making’s more technical dimensions while the four-part “Belly Up to the Bar” series is one of the more thorough and entertaining approaches to proper whisky drinking that I’ve encountered.
Finally, time for the obvious accolade. Make it a Double stands out in the current spirit literature cannon for its author’s unique perspective. Almost all whisky books are still written by men, so it is of course refreshing to see a female writer wade into these waters. But Ms. Sackier does more than just write about a subject that her gender has rarely approached. She details, with both humor and soulful introspection, what it is like to be a woman pursuing a passion for whisky, not just as a hobbyist but as a real authority in an industry that has only recently begun to grow more inclusive. It’s an invaluable lens through which to view our current state of global whisky hysteria and her success, even with its many challenges both personal and external, is a promising sign for the future.
A- / $24 [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]