Disclaimer: I consider Fred Minnick to be a friend and in my statement of ethics I promised to disclose when I am reviewing one of my friend’s products and to only review them when it was truly something I really liked. This is one of those times.
This past February, when I first heard that my friend Fred Minnick was writing another book, I was excited. I preordered the book, knowing nothing about it. Didn’t know the topic, didn’t know the length, intended audience, anything. I preordered the book because I like Fred’s writing style and because I’ve enjoyed his other books immensely.
I ordered it, then I forgot about it. At least until I started seeing reviews pop up online. The reviews were good and so I was excited when it arrived in the Amazon box with a couple other books that I’d ordered.
My first impression was that the publisher did a nice job on the book. I like hardcover books, but hate the hassle of dust jackets. This had no dust jacket. The cover art was printed on the cover. I opened it up and was immediately hit with the smell of the printed page. Wonderful. I was liking the book already and I hadn’t even started reading it yet.
I wasn’t let down once I did start reading it either. Though this is a book targeted less at the bourbon enthusiast and more at the bourbon novice, I still found a lot of interesting bits to the book. It starts with a breakdown of certain well known bourbon-industry myths. This leads you into a quick overview of bourbon history and politics, both the celebrated and the shameful.
After we learn a bit about how bourbon as a concept came to be what it is today, we learn about how bourbon as a product comes about. There are two chapters about the ingredients and processes of making bourbon.
To this point, the first hundred pages or so, the book will be as interesting to enthusiasts as it is to novices. After this though, if you are the type of bourbon geek who already takes notes and has a well developed palate the next hundred of the book may not be targeted at you. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t read it, but since it is more about how to train your palate, the tasting notes may not be up your alley.
Before you pass this section by though, let me tell you this. The tasting notes are presented in an interesting manner. First they are broken up, not by company or brand but, by what flavor component the author felt was most dominant. After that, tasting notes for specific bourbons are presented along with details about the distillery and distiller that produced it, what the mashbill is, where those grains came from, barrel entry proof, how it was aged, the number of barrels used in a batch and even what filtration method was used. This is a set of geeky tasting notes and they are the part of this section I enjoyed the most.
The last bit of the book is the appendix. As a history buff, this might be the section I will be referring back to most often. It is a short history of each of the major and many of the smaller bourbon brand names. It makes a wonderful finish to the book.
Throw in a few worksheets, the sidebars with fun tidbits and recipes, and the wonderful photographs and this is a book that is hard not to recommend to bourbon lovers of any experience level. It runs about 230 pages but is a quick and fun read. I finished my copy in about 4 hours or so. MSRP is $22.99, but I preordered mine on Amazon for a price of $11.24. Be sure to shop around.
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