RAW SPIRIT (In Search of the Perfect Dram)

By Iain Banks


A book review by Franz Scheurer


Self-confessed petrol head, suburban climber and acclaimed writer Iain Banks landed the job of his life, when he was asked to review and visit all distilleries in Scotland known for Single Malts in search of the ‘Perfect Dram’ using as many different forms of travel as possible.


Now Iain Banks is a writer who appointed his agent by the fact that all applicants served tea or coffee and one smart lady Laphroaig (after all, a way to a Scotsman’s heart is through his liver). He also already owns a gaggle of Porsches, BMW M5s, vintage Jaguars and the like. So the opportunity to do some serious drinking (all in the name of research, I’m sure!) and elude a few speed cameras on the way was far too good to knock back.


The lonely quote at the beginning of the book “Everything in here is true. Especially the bits I made up” sums up the author as much as the yarn. Not that Iain went out of his way to make things up, it’s more a case of ‘can’t quite remember what exactly happened last night, or yesterday, or this morning. I suppose a dram or two got in the way…


It takes Iain half the book to find a definition for ‘dram’ that he is happy with:

“A dram is a measure of whisky that pleases both the host and the guest”.  It takes the rest of the book, several GWRs (you will just have to read the book to get this one) and, yes, you guessed it a few hundred more drams to find the perfect dram… or does he? I noted with interest that the chapter naming went from an easy understandable ‘These Drugs of Subtle Virtue’ to ‘The Awemsys of Azshashoshz’.


This book is a must read for any single malt aficionado. Despite the serious drinking there are just as many serious descriptions of every distillery you’ve ever heard of (and then a few), whisky history and the whisky-making process. It’s a must read for anyone planning a driving holiday in Scotland as the descriptions of the landscape and the roads that get you there leaves you panting in anticipation. It’s also a must read for anyone who simply likes a good yarn.


I thoroughly recommend it… better get myself another dram, now!


Published by Century in 2003

ISBN 1 844 13195 5