Review: Distilled by Ryan Plunkett

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Distilled is a stunning collection of practical, professional effects plucked directly from the working repertoire of Ryan Plunkett, the resident magician at the famous Chicago Magic Lounge. Like a fine whiskey, this remarkable array of effects has been slowly distilled and refined across real-world performances for sold-out audiences six nights a week.

Filled with over 300 gorgeous photographs across 200 pages of step-by-step instruction, Distilled is a collection worthy of careful study. As noted in the foreword by legendary Magic Castle performer Mike Pisciotta, Ryan has worked diligently to polish this material over time and ensure every detail is accounted for. As a result, these masterfully constructed routines can be immediately inserted into any close-up magic or parlor magic show.

Distilled includes Ryan’s unique versions of classic effects such as his ACAAN-style routine known as “Any Card at Our Numbers” or “Paper and Silk,” his cards-through-silk routine. He also flashes his creativity with more radical departures like “Fan Mail,” a fantastic lesson in great act construction where a selected card ends up matching a card sealed in a piece of fan mail, and “Gravity Deck,” a surreal appearance and disappearance of a deck of cards that the spectator can actually feel in their hands.

Here’s an additional sampling of effects in Distilled:

Ace on Top – Ryan openly admits this is bound to be the most popular and performed piece from the book. It is a true worker constructed with an elegant array of sleights and counts that are fairly easy to perform. Despite openly changing the order of an assortment of cards, the cards always impossibly find their way back to their original positions.

Any Card at Our Numbers – This is a fantastic opener for formal card magic shows. A spectator is offered a choice of two decks. They choose and shuffle one. Despite thoroughly mixing the deck, a card impossibly appears at the same number in both decks.

Magnetic Silver – A remarkably visual take on the Magnetic Coins plot. By removing the discrepancies that sometimes impeded the original versions of the effect, Ryan has developed a complete routine that allows you to convince your audience that two regular coins have become magnetically attracted to each other, among other feats of impossibility.

The Time Machine – A deck of cards slowly travels back in time in Ryan’s unique take on a Triumph-inspired plot.


The first thing that came to mind when I thumbed through the pages of Distilled by Ryan Plunkett, resident magician of the famous Chicago Magic Lounge, was… WOW. If you’ve followed my magic reviews over the years you’d know that I do appreciate good books over video downloads. There’s that quiet savouring of the pages within the gems, and you simply get a lot more when you allow yourself the time to read. The contents in this book are solid, so I can understand why my friend, fellow Singaporean, Harapan Ong has nothing but good words for this.

You get 212 pages in this classy hardcover book, which boasts over 300 excellent photos shot in full colour. While most of the routines are for cards, there’s a couple of coin tricks too. Bear in mind that these are taken from Ryan’s actual formal repertoire at the bar where he works, so there’s prep involved for most of the routines. Some also require you creating gaffs. But trust me, they are all practical and professional, and perfect for both close-up and parlour. I truly enjoy his way of thinking and the unique plots presented in the book, like Fan Mail (your audience’s freely selected card matches what’s found in a piece of fan mail) and Gravity Deck (your spectator feels the deck in their hands start getting lighter and lighter before it vanishes).

Distilled is best suited for the intermediate magician who already has mastered basic sleight of hand. The production value far exceeds my expectations and I’d gladly pay more for this. If you’re a magician looking to take your skills to the next level, Distilled by Ryan Plunkett is the right investment to make. Since most of the world is in lockdown anyway, take your time to savour these ten routines with a good glass of whisky. Bravo!


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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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