Bourbon — Sam K. Cecil

Hey. Do you like bourbon? I like bourbon a lot. It’s always been of a mild shame to me that the men in my family prefer the smoother stylings of Canadian whiskeys to the more robust corn-fueled liquors we produce here in the south. Now, as to whether Kentucky or Tennessee makes the finer product, I abstain from any definitive opinions (although a particular favorite brand of mine comes from Kentucky) because, as Sam K. Cecil’s book Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey shows, there are many, many, many distilleries of bourbon (and that’s just in Kentucky alone).

Cecil’s book aims to be a comprehensive cataloging of every bourbon distillery in Kentucky, and he devotes over 200 pages to brief histories of these distilleries — a full two-thirds of the book. And while his stories are hardly dry, I found myself thirsty for more of what leads the book, an overview of the history of corn alcohol in the South that winds through days of yore to prohibition problems, from running moonshine under the Volstead act to the brass tacks of bourbon business after the repeal. Cecil incorporates many images in this section, including pictures of the distilling process, excited drinkers, and more than one vaguely racist advertisement. It’s a fun, snappy summary, delivered with love. As the bulk of the book — the detailing of Kentucky distilleries, county-by-county — attests, Cecil knows his stuff. Bourbon is hardly the kind of gimmick book that one often encounters when alcohol is the subject, nor is it for casual fans of the brown stuff. Serious drinkers only. Bourbon is new in trade paperback from Turner Publishing.