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Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey Paperback – May 10, 2016
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"Reid Mitenbuler pulls aside the curtain of puffery to show us the spirit’s history, as well as how the stuff is actually made, who controls the industry and where it might be headed.... [Shows] the business of liquor to be every bit as fascinating as the fictions in which the distillers love to swaddle themselves."—Wayne Curtis, Wall Street Journal
"An engaging and thorough exploration of the history of America's national booze."—Playboy
"Bourbon Empire digs deep to divulge the truth about the people donning bourbon labels—James C. Crow, Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, to name a few—and unravels the often-questionable practices of bourbon business. It’s in these moments of historical shenanigans that we find Mitenbuler’s true talent. He doesn’t slam bourbon brands for misleading consumers with marketing. Mitenbuler simply writes the truth."—Fred Minnick, Parade
“An illuminating, well-paced narrative that will interest students and imbibers of the wee drap, American-style.”—Kirkus
“Mitenbuler’s prose is relaxed and mellow with a shot of wry; his entertaining, loose-limbed narrative revels in the colorful characters and droll hypocrisies of capitalism at its booziest.”—Publishers Weekly
"Abundant and even surprising detail is bundled with sharp writing that doesn’t hesitate to criticize.... This terrific account of the rich heritage behind a classic American beverage is recommended for those who enjoy reading histories of foodstuffs of all sorts."—Library Journal
“Bourbon Empire is a lively, rowdy tale of swindlers and smugglers, connoisseurs and craftsmen. Reid Mitenbuler is a talented storyteller whose wide-ranging curiosity takes us to Civil War battlefields and prison cells as well as cornfields and world-famous distilleries. Truly fascinating, and a must-read for whiskey lovers!”—Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
“Bourbon Empire is more than just whiskey history. Mitenbuler demonstrates, with clear, witty and incisive prose, how the drink shaped, and was shaped by, the history of American capitalist society. It is a book that whiskey fans, historians and students of American business will enjoy, and learn much from.”—Clay Risen, staff editor, The New York Times and author of American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye
“A must have for every bourbon enthusiast from beginner to expert. A book that finally tells the true story of our beloved bourbon, putting in perspective its important role in American history. Bourbon Empire has it all, demystifying the good, the bad and the ugly.”—Sean Brock, Chef/Partner of McCrady’s and Husk
“In finding the facts behind some of bourbon’s most cherished fables, Mitenbuler has unearthed true tales that are even better than the tall tales. A fresh look at stories we thought we knew.”—Lew Bryson, managing editor, Whisky Advocate and author of Tasting Whiskey
“Reid manages to juggle his skepticism and enthusiasm in this carefully researched and lovingly written history of America's spirit. He peels back layer after layer of filigree, searching for the real story, which is as much the story of American business, politics, advertising, and immigration as it is the story of bourbon.”—Max Watman, author of Harvest and Chasing the White Dog
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Reid Mitenbuler has written about whiskey and drinking culture for the Atlantic, Slate, Saveur, Whisky Advocate, and other publications. He lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York.
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So it was a pleasant surprise to enjoy this book so much. That’s because Bourbon Empire is not just a history of bourbon, it’s a history of America. With a keen eye for a good story, and prose so good you’ll find yourself reading it twice, Reid Mitenbuler goes beyond the rough and ready frontier folk whose names have been pasted on the bottles apocryphally to tell his readers the truth about America’s founding drunkards, plucky immigrants, ruthless capitalists, earnest reformers, Prohibition-era bootleggers, Madison Avenue bamboozlers, and modern-day chemists in lab coats.
Unabashed five stars. All my friends are getting Bourbon Empire for Father’s Day. I only wish Grandpa could have read this book.
Additionally, this book is grounded heavily in the current atmosphere surrounding whiskey, which is great if you're reading it 2015, but may be a little less powerful in the future (barring any updates to the text.)
Spectacular history of bourbon in the US. Mr Mitenbuler not only analyzes most brands and their lineage, but also focuses on the movers and shakers that made American bourbon what it is today, for better or worse. For example, I didn't even know that Old Crow used to be a high end bourbon in the mid-1900s. It's simply amazing to read how many bourbons rose to prominence then just as suddenly fell out of favor, and which ones rose from the ashes in present day. As bourbon has now seen a resurgence in popularity, I'd highly recommend picking up, if not at least to have some cool facts to bring with you next time you go to the bar. Just don't be that guy who goes overboard and will only drink Pappy Van Winkle.