Monday, October 6, 2014
Bourbon, Strange by Chuck Cowdery
Bourbon, Strange is the long awaited sequel to Chuck Cowdery's Bourbon, Straight, which is probably the best bourbon book out there. Cowdery probably wouldn't call it a sequel, but the new book has a similar format to the old, less a single narrative than a collection of essays thoroughly examining a wide range of topics.
Fans of Cowdery and readers of his blog and his newsletter, the Bourbon Country Reader, will find much that is familiar. There is a general update on the world of bourbon, a list of the major distilleries, a discussion of Non-Distiller Producers (a term that Cowdery, himself, coined for those who don't distill their own whiskey), and a tirade against Diageo that is as fun as you would imagine. For the true geeks, he delves into topics such as the three tier system, the impact of fungus on oak barrels and, rather inexplicably, Kentucky cured ham.
But in his heart, Cowdery is a storyteller, and he is at his best when he is telling the story of American whiskey and the rather odd collection of folks who have made and sold it through the ages. Cowdery's storytelling takes us into the history of many of the most well known companies and distilleries, tracing some as far back as the early nineteenth century. His stories give us a very personal look at the individuals behind the labels and the lives they lived. His stories provide a unique window into the birth of National Distillers, the once great whiskey town of Peoria, Illinois, the importance of Catholics and Jews to American whiskey history and where all those Beams came from.
It should go without saying that if you're a bourbon fan, you need to own this book, but I'll say it anyway: Buy this book!
Bourbon, Strange by Chuck Cowdery ($20.66 on Amazon/Kindle version $9.99)