Last night, I finished a book that had been on my wish list for years. Literally years. For some reason I never got around to buying it even though I had heard very good things about it. But when we were introduced to the author at the Kentucky BourbonFest and saw that she was selling her books, we figured that it was just about time to finally pick it up.
This is not a history of bourbon. This is a history of one family and their bourbon. A pretty famous bourbon family at that. This is the story of Pappy Van Winkle and his brand, Old Fitzgerald. And it is written by someone with pretty good access to the family and their archives, because she is family. As the granddaughter of the famous Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle (and daughter to J.P. Van Winkle Jr., and sister to Julian Van Winkle III who produces Pappy the drink) Sally Van Winkle Campbell is probably uniquely qualified to write this story.
And what a story it is! Written in a very conversational style, this book starts in 1893 as Pappy is first starting work at W. L. Weller. It then steps back and tells you about the Wellers, the Stitzels and the some of the other major characters in the story before heading back to Pappy and stories of his time with the company. The book details his rise through the company, the struggles of Prohibition and the way he ran his company afterward.
The book regales you with story after story. Each entertaining enough that if you aren’t careful, you’ll do as I did and find yourself still awake long after you should be sleeping. The book ends well after Pappy and his company were both gone, touching on the creation of the bourbon named for the man before taking it’s leave of you.
This is a great book for any bourbon lover or anyone who just wants a glimpse into a bit of the history and the life of a very colorful man. Go buy it, you won’t regret it.
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