Book Review: Hacking Whiskey by Aaron Goldfarb

Over the past few years, whiskey has transformed from an anyone/anytime drink to a thing to be treasured, consumed only neat in a glencairn glass in optimal conditions to best enjoy and note every passing scent and flavor.  Add water – a travesty!  Add ice – you’re out of my will!  Add soda – may a curse descend upon you and your heirs! Now Aaron Goldfarb has come along to turn all of that on its head. In his new book Hacking Whiskey, he instructs you on how to mess with your whiskey, and I mean really mess with it.

He starts with some rather mild stuff – vattings, infinity bottles, doing your own barrel aging and finishing projects. But the next thing you know he’s fat washing bourbon with foie gras and making leather infusions (yes, leather!?!).  He adds hops to whiskey (poor folks’ Charbay?), he smokes it, he makes whiskey vinegar and whiskey soap. He even has a method for raising the proof of low-abv whiskeys using dry ice. This is crazy fun stuff, with an emphasis on fun. 

I don’t know how many of these experiments I will try, but they are great fun to read about, especially the most outlandish ones.  Goldfarb, who regularly writes about whiskey for a number of publications, is one of my favorite whiskey writers – he’s got an informal style with a good dose of sarcasm; even his opening blurb about how to spell whisk(e)y is hilarious. And I love this note about Old Crow’s namesake: “James C. Crow was a doctor…He also may have invented the sour mash process, but you don’t care.”

And while Goldfarb may make fun of stuffy whiskey geeks, he includes many geeky references from Poor Man’s Pappy to California Gold to those guys who make lamps out of old whiskey bottles. He’s got shout outs and quotes from numerous whiskey folk – professional and amateur alike, from High West’s David Perkins to Bourbonr’s Blake Riber; even TTB gadfly Wade Woodard gets a mention.

So if you’re interested in infusing, smoking, hopping or otherwise abusing your whiskey, this is a book you will definitely want.  But even if you’re not sure about all of that, if you’re a whiskey fan looking for a good read, I’d highly recommend this book…and who knows, you might just end up making Pappy Jell-O shots.

Hacking Whiskey is published by Dovetail and listed for $20.  It releases on September 25.