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Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage Hardcover – February 18, 2013
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"Historian Michael R. Veach has done the research necessary for a factual but readable history of Kentucky Bourbon. He has crafted it into a storyteller's envy that is both enjoyable and well told."―Al Young, Brand Ambassador, Four Roses Bourbon and author of Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend
"Manages to make the history of Bourbon entertaining while providing plenty of insight into how the spirit has gone from lowbrow to top-shelf...A must-read for any Bourbon lover."―Wine & Spirits
"[...] the book to to add to your whiskey library if you can only choose one this year."―Epicurious.com
"If you haven't had the pleasure of attending the [Bourbon] Academy, I encourage you to enroll. Until then, reading Mike's book is a close aproximation. This is no dry historical tome (pun intended). Like the Academy, the book takes you on a fascinating journey from the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s to the bourbon boom of today, commandingly demonstrating the spirit's inexorable tie to the history of Kentucky. Each chapter is a fine mix of conversational narrative, historic documents and photos, and pull-out boxes of trivia. ― Bourban Babe"―Bourbon Babe Tumblr
"The text highlights often over-looked aspects of the industry, such as the technology behind the spirit's production―and includes a few of Veach's own theories that may even surprise bourbon afficionados."―Smithsonian Magazine
"Veach's factual interpretations and possible explanations for myths are quite welcome on a topic with so few other experts... Veach is without question an expert on bourbon whiskey...This book is certainly accessible to a general audience, and is a quick and hearty read for those interested in the history of American whiskey...any library interested in collecting Kentucky history, or Appalachia and the American South more broadly, may also find this text valuable."―Tennessee Libraries
"Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey...does more than tell the hisotry of Kentucky bourbon...Veach's concise history will appeal to popular readers, those consumers who enjoy craft bourbon and whiskey tourism. Teachers of United States history will also find much to like about this book."―Ohio Valley History
"Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage, by Michael R. Veach (University Press of Kentucky), is a masterpiece by one of the country's top Bourbon authorities that merits a prominent place in dad's library."―Stone Mountain Lithonia Patch
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The author also gives a nice discussion of how sweet and sour mash differ and why they yield slightly different end products. One of the bits of trivia included that I found interesting was what the difference in spelling of WHISKY and WHISKEY implied. The lore is that WHISKY spelling supposedly implied distillers who originally had ties to England as Canada and Scotland, while those allied with the colonists as the Irish spelled it WHISKEY. It turned out to be marketing lore, but it still makes for a good story.
The manufacturing principles of distilling with many early recipes are given.
What I found to be a most interesting section was on some of the early innovators in the business of making bourbon and even how bourbon supposedly got it name. For instance we learn that a Louisville physician named Jim Crow made several improvements to the distilling process and was credited with using a thermometer to record the temperature which allows greater accuracy in distillation and allows various cogeners to be included thereby affecting the desired end flavor; he also was credited with using a hydrometer to more accurately assess the true ABV level; and he used litmus paper at various steps in the process to prevent bacterial buildup from spoiling a batch. We also learn that central Kentucky is famous for its bourbon due to the limestone filtered water which is low in iron content thereby giving it its distinctive taste. We even learn how Kentucky whiskey differs from Tennessee whiskey, again this is marketing hype more than anything else.
We are introduced to George Remus, called "the King of bootleggers." He was a lawyer who owned a string of pharmacies, and after prohibition was enacted, he decided he could make much more money making his own booze than buying from the few legal distillers enabled to sell to pharmacies, which could only dispense the precious spirits with a doctor's prescription. George also thought of a neat gimmick of hijacking his own insured shipments and then reselling it at much higher prices than he could in the pharmacies. He made about 40 million in the 1920s. He was eventually sentenced to two years in jail, during which time his wife Imogene filed for divorce. George wasn't too happy about what Imogene had been doing while he was behind bars. He got out before the divorce could be finalized; hunted her down; killed her then pleaded insanity and got off. He died of natural causes in 1952. Is that a cool story or what.
We learn about Hiram Walker and how his Canadian whiskey morphed into a club whiskey [and what that means] called Canadian Club. There is much more in the story of bourbon whiskey than I briefly covered in this short synopsis. Highly recommended and greatly enjoyed while sipping my own favorite Kentucky bourbon.
This is a very well researched, very well written book covering a few hundred years of Bourbon in a book you can read in a weekend. Thanks to the author for taking the time to not just cashing in on the recent Bourbon boom.