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American Still Life: The Jim Beam Story and the Making of the World's #1 Bourbon Hardcover – August 15, 2003

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American Still Life: The Jim Beam Story and the Making of the World's #1 Bourbon + Beam, Straight Up: The Bold Story of the First Family of Bourbon + Maker's Mark: My Autobiography
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How does a sour mash corn whiskey brand go from being a Kentucky family's "adjunct farming activity" to founding a corporation that ships over five million cases worldwide each year? Pacult (Kindred Spirits: The Spirit Journal Guide to the World's Distilled Spirits and Fortified Wines) extensively researched the story of the Beam family, which is just as much a 19th- and 20th-century American history. The young country's struggles with slavery, Prohibition and war, its sociopolitical maturation and its shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy all come into play. A prolific spirits writer, Pacult has an expert's grasp on the topic, which carries the book through its slow periods. Upstanding citizens to a man, the Beams don't always make for scintillating reading-no scoundrels, no scandals-and only Jim Beam's grandson Booker Noe, the refreshingly blunt, six-foot-four, 360-pound former master distiller, emerges as a character with any color. Trying to keep all the Beams straight might make readers feel like they've just downed a few shots of the bourbon itself. Most interesting is Pacult's examination of American popular culture and its effect on the bourbon business: how bourbon became declass‚ in the 1970s, the venerable spirit losing out to sexy newcomer vodka (and its inadvertent pitchman, James Bond), and how scotch whisky's rising popularity in the 1980s fueled the production of bourbon's answer to the single-malt, the small-batch bourbon. The book could use a few more colorful details, however, such as the bit about temperance activist Carry Nation and her ax attacks on taverns.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

How does a sour mash corn whiskey brand go from being a Kentucky family's "adjunct farming activity" to founding a corporation that ships over five million cases worldwide each year? Pacult (Kindred Spirits: The Spirit Journal Guide to the World's Distilled Spirits and Fortified Wines) extensively researched the story of the Beam family, which is just as much a 19th-and 20th-century American history. The young country's struggles with slavery, Prohibition and war, its sociopolitical maturation and its shift from the agricultural to an industrial economy all come into play. A prolific spirits writer, Pacult has an expert's grasp on the topic, which carries the book through its slow periods. Upstanding citizens to a man, the Beams don't always make for scintillating reading - no scoundrels, no scandals - and only Jim Beam's grandson Booker Noe, the refreshingly blunt, six-foot-four, 360-pound former master distiller, emerges as a character with any color. Trying to keep all the Beams straight might make readers feel like they've just downed a few shots of the bourbon itself. Most interesting is Pacult's examination of American popular culture and its effect on the bourbon business: how bourbon became déclassé in the 1970s, the venerable spirit losing out to sexy newcomer vodka (and its inadvertent pitchman, James Bond), and how scotch whiskey's rising popularity in the 1980s fueled the production of bourbon's answer to the single-malt, the small-batch bourbon. The book could use a few more colorful details, however, such as the bit about temperance activist Carry Nation and her ax attacks on taverns. (Aug.) (Publishers Weekly, June 16, 2003)

"...It's a fascinating glimpse of American political history..." (Drinks International, December 2003)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471444073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471444077
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.9 x 10.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Bourbon is my vice. There, I said it. And I should say, after many many meetings with various professionals, I say it very well. Here, let me say it again...Bourbon is my vice.

One of the staples of the Bourbon scene is, of course, the fine products from Jim Beam. As much an American success story as any others you could name, the Beam family took the Bourbon industry and, as documented in this book, pretty much bent it to it's will. But they did so not via soap-opera-style intrigue and backstabbing, but through honest and forthright dealings with both their peers and the public. While members such as Booker Noe inject some relief, overall the portrait is that of a steady and patient family, willing to do things right without rushing or cutting corners...a necessary philosophy for success in the Bourbon world.

The writing is clear and approachable, with logical organization and evidence of meticulous research. Pacult is to be commended on what I think is the definitive work on both the family and the product they create. Part industry manual, part dynastic biography, this book hits to a number of bases and hits well. It is not a jiffy-read insta-published book. No this, like the spirit that inspired it, deserves to be savored and enjoyed.
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American Still Life: The Jim Beam Story and the Making of the World's #1 Bourbon
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