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Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel Hardcover – April 29, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
Born in the mid-1800's and orphaned at the age of fifteen, JD immediately found himself working in a local Tennessee distillery manufacturing some of the highest quality spirits in the region from men who were the best in the business. He was known as the boy distiller.
In his early twenties, he had the opportunity to partnership with his mentor and the rest as they say is history.
It was not easy though. For decades he battled revenuers, the government, corrupt officials, temperance groups and later the prohibition movement. Even with these many adversities throughout his life, philanthropy was his middle name.
Peter Krass has uncorked an imbibing read of a unique man and the times in which he lived.
I think this was a very worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in Jack Daniels and/or the Lynchburg, TN area.
With a dearth of documentation regarding Jack Daniel, there is a consequently low number of resources for anyone interested in learning more about the legendary distiller. As such, Mr. Krass' effort represents a great opportunity for fans of the brand but it fails ultimately to deliver for a few key reasons. Most glaringly is Mr. Krass' inconsistency in presenting Jack Daniel, his brand, and those related to it. The hallmark of a great biographer is objectivity in terms of tone and content; Mr. Krass fails to deliver the former while vacillating greatly with the latter.
Given the author's self-proclaimed love of the whiskey in question, I mistakenly assumed that Mr. Krass' viewpoint would be favorable as it pertains to the Jack Daniel brand. Instead, it varied wildly between moments of blatant pomposity (particularly when the author references living residents of Lynchburg and their speech patterns) and of trite condescension (especially with a brief discussion of the Tennessee Squires in which the author references the group's communications as being, "...corny but well-meaning" and embodying a, "...folksy tone [that] is ubiquitous"). Regarding the company's marketing efforts, Mr. Krass regards them as featuring, "...local folks, evoking a slower-paced, simple lifestyle with good old boys sittin' around, shootin' the breeze, whittlin' sticks, and watchin' the whiskey age. Some ads even flaunted the hillbilly culture." (Krass p. 229).
Though occasionally favorable, the overall tone that Mr. Krass takes towards Jack Daniel and his brand is one of poorly masked derision--odd given his status as a biographer and the subject matter of this particular work. While Mr. Krass' information is both interesting and invaluable to a Jack Daniel's fan, it is unfortunately mired in poor writing structure and delivered with surprising inconsistency. The writer, mid-chapter, will often disembark upon a tangent only to abruptly return to his original aim never to bring up the rambling aside again. Though occasionally entertaining I found it to be mostly distracting and displeasing.
Overall, the wealth of information in Blood & Whiskey was new to me and, despite the way it was written, I found it to be both interesting and worth reading. With that said, if you have high expectations or hopes going into your reading of this book then you might wish to dampen them. This is not a book lauding Jack Daniel; it is, at its heart, an effort to throw shade at the legend of Jack Daniel by way of discrediting and devaluing most of what is known about the man, rendering it nothing more than clever marketing by the now-parent company Brown-Forman. I was expecting, at best, a well-written read about one of my favorite figures in the liquor industry that mirrored my level of enthusiasm; at worst, I hoped for a strictly objective, disconnected history of Jack Daniel, the distiller, and the empire that he created.
Blood & Whiskey fell somewhere outside of both with occasional snobbery, an overuse of detail (at times) battling with questionable sources (also at times), and a blatant disregard for traditional biographical conventions most notably missing being the aforementioned objectivity. Mr. Krass' attempts at jovial, colloquial tones left this reader grossly wanting; his strengths manifested solely during moments of recanting well-documented historical aspects. Even then though the middle of the book felt more like a look back on the Civil War than a book about arguably the United States' most influential and beloved distillery of whiskey.
Given the scarcity of tomes on the life of Mr. Daniel (Blood & Whiskey happens to be referenced almost solely on the Jack Daniel's Wikipedia page), I would recommend Mr. Krass' book solely on those grounds. I'm sure that time will deliver a superior, far more enjoyable read than this and so I would suggest awaiting its arrival.