Book Review: Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

This book by celebrated American whiskey critic Fred Minnick begins with a foreword (penned by James Beard award winner Sean Brock) advising readers to pour a healthy glass of liquid history and soak up all the knowledge it brings to the table. While the word “comprehensive” doesn’t begin to scratch the surface regarding the wealth of information contained in this book, the phrase “healthy glass of liquid history” feels fitting. And that glass is filled to its brim.

The author devotes a fair portion of the book’s early chapters to separating bourbon fact from bourbon legend. Regarding the latter of the two, even the seasoned bourbon aficionado is likely to come away from this read impressed with the staggering amount of mythos surrounding a beverage with origins already known to embody a degree of ambiguity. As for the facts, there are plenty of them, with historical records and accounts cited and excerpted wherever possible, to distinguish both book and author as fonts of well-researched knowledge. With the subject being as multifaceted as it is, the book has something to offer every reader, no matter where your bourbon-soaked interests lie. The aficionado curious about making bourbon is treated to up-close views of every stage of bourbon’s creation, seeing how distillery practices and brand management have changed through the ages. The history buff will enjoy unpacking the multitudinous positions of social economic, and political influence bourbon has wielded over the years, and learning how often brothers and countrymen found themselves at cross purposes over its production and regulation. The trivia hound will enjoy soaking up factoids like how oak-charring techniques first came about and what year has been called the single worst year for bourbon.

By turns academic and anecdotal in its delivery, the book weaves together fascinating aspects of bourbon’s existence, from its birth through its death and resurrection. The resulting tapestry unfolds to examine the effects, be they good or ill, wrought by each stage and the role each has played in forging the beverage now beloved by so many. Casting a hopeful yet unvarnished glance toward bourbon’s place in the market of the future, Minnick has crafted a book that is difficult to put down once you begin reading, a quality that promises to be doubly true for anyone possessing even a passing curiosity or affection for the spirit known as bourbon.

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
ISBN-10: 0760351724
ISBN-13: 978-0760351727 

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