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Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey by Reid Mitenbuler

Posted on by Eric Burke

Shortest review ever: buy this book.

Can I say more? Of course. I can always say more. Do I need to? Not really. I’ve read a lot of books about bourbon. I’ve got a shelf full of them. Some are fantastic. A couple are really, really bad. Some just spit out the same marketing myths you’ve heard over and over. Some have amazing amounts of original research. Some of them are interesting, but dry. Others are entertaining, but empty of real information. 

Bourbon Empire is one of the rare ones that is both entertainingly written and full of interesting information. This was a book that I couldn’t keep to myself. On more than one occasion, I had to stop and read passages aloud to my wife. 

The parts that I especially enjoyed were the comparisons between times when a lot of people needed to make money on bourbon in a short period of time. Namely the years right after Prohibition and today. It seems a lot of the same techniques for “quick aging” were tried by post-prohibition distilleries trying to compete with imported stocks of fully matured whiskey as are being touted today by craft distilleries needing to compete with large stocks of fully matured bourbon. I won’t spoil the chapters for you, I really want you to read them yourself.

Most books on bourbon can’t help at least bringing up the mythical origin stories that most bourbon brands insist on surrounding themselves with. Some celebrate them as the honest truth. Others take pride in pointing out that they are damn lies. The difference here is that the myths are celebrated while they are being debunked. They are mentioned. They are poked, prodded and examined from various angles and then they are celebrated for being good, though not true, stories. 

So, go out right now to your local bookstore—or if you are like most of America who no longer has one go to Amazon—and buy this book. Reid Mitenbuler has crafted a book that is a pleasure to read and will teach you something to boot. Maybe enjoy it with a nice bourbon.


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