Cover Image: The Terroir of Whiskey

The Terroir of Whiskey

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

As a WSET wine & spirits students, currently awaiting results for my Level 2 exams and working with spirits brands, namely whiskey, gin, and cognac, I was excited to read this book and his perspective having the experience of growing up creating whiskey. I'm sure as the book has been published, the difficulties in digital formatting have been corrected so charts are able to be read; this was impossible to follow in the ARC and that was unfortunate as it was something I was interested in. In all, the book is dry and reads like a textbook; in fact, I'm sure that 90% of this was Arnold's thesis paper for the degree he earned. 

I would not recommend this book for someone with a mild or new interest in whiskey; the technical details may be overwhelming, but certainly a whisky aficionado could be intrigued by the premise. Despite the author's efforts, studies, and experimentation, the truth is that terroirs of grain would not make economical sense as a talented blender can certainly create the notes they want in a whiskey without needing to source specific grains from various terroirs. This was demonstrated to me by such a blender as I discussed the author's thesis.  An interesting premise, for certain, but the author's voice lacks engagement to hold a reader's attention for any long reading period.
Was this review helpful?
A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"Terroir" is a "somewhat controversial concept with an unsettled definition." It is essentially a French descriptor for how crop flavors are influenced by the environment (soil layers, topography, climate, etc.). As master distiller at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., maker of the TX Whiskey brand, Rob Arnold is spellbound by terroir. And Arnold himself is a study in terroir--almost all of his mother's side of the family worked in bourbon.

Arnold undertook a years-long process to educate himself about how environment affects product, ultimately writing a Ph.D. dissertation for Texas A&M's plant-breeding program on "how genetic and environmental forces influence corn-derived flavors in whiskey." In an industry that commonly uses co-op and commodity sales, TX Whiskey is one of a rising number of distillers sourcing grains from one farm to understand better environmental impact on flavor.

Arnold's thesis research forms the backbone of The Terroir of Whiskey, an in-depth look at crop growth, fermentation, distillation and aging of wine and whiskey. The wine industry--known for using terroir--was where Arnold began his immersive journey to show a correlation in whiskey. His world travel to wine and whiskey producers, discussions with makers, tastings, analyses and conclusions make for heady reading. Arnold smartly and capably writes for the distiller, educated taster and novice alike, breaking issues into lay language as necessary (even using Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil to explain). Arnold provides specifics for the reader to taste along with him, resulting in a full sensory educational experience.
Was this review helpful?
I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

As a person who enjoys a good single malt on occasion, and who geeks out over foodie trivia and history, this book was very much my sort of thing. Rob Arnold is a master distiller for TX Whiskey who has in recent years researched ways and means to utilize the concept of terroir in the whiskey of Texas. Terroir is flavor distinct to the ingredients and environment of a place. In Texas, and many other places, it's not uncommon for grains from a wide swath of an area to be mixed together in a silo. Arnold explores how going with specific suppliers can change a whiskey's flavor, and then goes deeper into the concept as he travels across America and into Ireland and Scotland to understand how ingredients, cooperage (that's the barrels), and the very whiskey makers influence the final, delicious result.

This is a very interesting book all of the way through. In the middle when it gets deep on the very chemical make-up of flavor, it became a MUCH slower read for me, but it never ceased to be intriguing. More than once, as I read with my husband in the room, I called out with a, 'Hey, did you know...' The very end of the book has a helpful guide for creating your own unique whiskey tastings, too. 

Really, an excellent book for anyone who enjoys whiskey and is interested in understanding the hows and whys behind that enjoyment.
Was this review helpful?
I only got about 2-3 chapters in. The book was super interesting, but the formatting was completely messed up, which made it really uncomfortable to attempt to read. Random things were made bold. Tables were messed up. Lots of random line breaks. 
Would definitely be interested in reading it, if the formatting were fixed, though.
Was this review helpful?
The Terroir of Whiskey is a fascinating read and perfect for any whiskey enthusiast or a novice looking to learn more. The book is filled with a wealth of information and discusses a side of whiskey most people attribute to merely a ”wine” thing. Rob Arnold breaks down the importance of terroir in whiskey making and how it truly impacts the taste of the finished product.
Was this review helpful?
Date reviewed: August 22, 2020

When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation,  superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. 

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Turn over a bottle of wine and you may well see a reference to its terroir, the total local environment of the vineyard that grew the grapes, from its soil to the climate. Winemakers universally accept that where a grape is grown influences its chemistry, which changes the flavour of the wine. A detailed system has codified the idea that where the grapes are grown matters to the wine. But why don’t we feel the same way about whiskey?

The master distiller Rob Arnold reveals how innovative whiskey producers are recapturing a sense of place to create distinctive, nuanced flavours. He takes readers on a world tour of whiskey and the science of flavour, stopping along the way at distilleries in Kentucky, New York, Texas, Ireland, and Scotland. 

Arnold puts the spotlight on a new generation of distillers, plant breeders, and local farmers who are bringing back long-forgotten grain flavours and creating new ones in pursuit of terroir. In the twentieth century, we inadvertently bred distinctive tastes out of grains in favour of high agronomic yields—but today’s artisans have teamed up to remove themselves from the commodity grain system, resurrect heirloom cereals, bring new varieties to life, and recapture the flavours of specific local ingredients. The Terroir of Whiskey makes the scientific and cultural cases that terroir is as important in whiskey as it is in wine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Rob Arnold is the master distiller at the TX Whiskey distillery and a third-generation member of the whiskey industry. He is the coauthor of Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey (2016) and is a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding and genetics at Texas A&M University.

(I don't often put info about the author in a review but in this case, it was awesome!) 

This is not a book for the casual reader but if you are into whiskey, bourbon, scotch, etc. you will inhale this book. It makes total sense that terroir affects whiskey and other spirits and it is well explained in here. The book is not too technical and I do wonder, as a librarian, if this book is part of his thesis? (What a cool way to "research" by going to places and checking out distilleries...I rarely left the library for my thesis.)  The research is meticulous and understandable and this is an incredible book on the subject.

This book, along with a great bottle of whiskey (and some whiskey-stones)  would make a great holiday gift as it comes out on December 1st.  I know that I would never turn my mouth down at that gift!

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🥃🥃🥃🥃🥃
Was this review helpful?