While writing these lines I’m sitting in my very comfortable chair, with a glass of BenRiach 12yo Sherry Wood by my side. This will be my first (Whisky) book review but there will be more in the future. Unfortunately this book is only available in German, but if you are able to read and understand German -at least a bit- I’d challenge you to get this little book about Whisky. If you want to read my review in German, klick here.
But before I start, here are the “specifications” about the book. The title translates literally to “Water of Life – An introduction in the spiritual aspect of Whiskys”. It can be found on Amazon and some other bookstores as well as directly at the publishing house “EOS” on www.eos-verlag.de. The ISBN is 978-3-8306-7766-6 and was written by Dr. Dr. Wolfgang F. Rothe. A review I read the other day on Facebook mentioned that the form factor of the book is very similar to that of the “Whisky Bible” by Jim Murray. Coincidence? I don’t think so – neither does the other reviewer.
Why is this book so interesting? Well, I’ll try to explain. The author is a roman catholic priest, who likes Whisky at least as much as I do (or probably even more). I got to know him from “Der Whiskybotschafter” a German Whisky magazine, where he publishes various articles about Whisky and Scotland. I find it interesting in what way he combines his catholic faith with his passion for Whisky. The synthesis he is able to create is a very organic one, nothing set up or only facades. He is for sure not that kind of person who “preaches water and drinks wine” (or in that case Whisky) as you might think.
The author starts the book with something that might seem trivial, at least for us Whisky enthusiasts, the history of Whisky. This chapter is followed by two chapters, one about the making of Whisky and the other one on how to choose a proper Whisky if you are new to the topic. Father Rothe even suggests that a Whisky expert may skip these chapters, but I read them anyway 😉 He uses a very easy to read and plain language to explain how Whisky is made. No fancy “Mambo Jambo”, and if he has to use a specific -not common- term he explains it very well. That’s great for everyone who wants to get to know Whisky. If you are looking for in depth information’s you should probably visit a distillery in Scotland and ask them. These chapters are written for those who want to start exploring the “aquae vitae”.
In the next chapters you will explore how to taste a Whisky properly. Father Rothe uses the tasting process and the involved organs (eyes, nose, palate, …) to combine them with their spiritual and deeper meaning in life. Of course he uses the theology of the catholic church, but even if you aren’t a Christian or believe in something completely different, you will find that his words and his line of thoughts are quite “over-confessional” and appealing. He then reflects on some other useful attributes you could (or should?) develop for the tasting of Whisky, like “mindfulness”, “maturity” and yes, even “pleasure”! Also he shows how these attributes can be incorporates into our own life and how to profit from these.
In the end you will find some prayers – I would have been surprised if not – and a chapter you might call a warning, although it’s more a good advice on how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol in general and Whisky in particular. Therefore Father Rothe uses some references from the bible (I would have been disappointed if not), not against the consumption of Whisky per se as you might expect but on how to properly and responsibly enjoy Whisky. Well, they didn’t know Whisky back then but they had wine and other enjoyable things. And, at least according to this little book, it is absolutely okay (even for a Catholic!) to discover and enjoy the “Spirituality of Whisky”. And that’s something I’m going to do now. Let’s see what the BenRiach 12yo Sherry Wood will taste like after that nice and enjoyable lecture about the “Water of Life”…
Conclusion: This is a very nicely written boot about the -IMHO- very best Beverage in the world. Do you have to be a faithful person to like this book? No, you don’t. But you should be at least somehow a spiritual person. If you are a rationalist it could be a little bit hard on you, but give it a try. It won’t hurt!