Neat: The Story of Bourbon and Blanton's Straight From the Barrel

Last night, I settled in with my glass of Wild Turkey Rare Breed to watch Neat: The Story of Bourbon, a documentary about bourbon. I rented it off of Amazon, but it sounds others have it as well. 

I don't really have much to say about it. It heavily features Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, Denny Potter of Heaven Hill, Marianne Barnes of Castle and Key, Brent Elliot of Four Roses, Freddie Johnson of Buffalo Trace and bourbon historians Chet Zoeller and Mike Veach. There were also segments on various bartenders, a farmer, a team of archeologists, and a few other Master Distillers. Oh, and there was a segment about a guy and his wife who have a bar in their basement. They hold parties. The segment also followed him to a store where he goes and buys bourbon that doesn't make it to the shelf.

Oh and Marshall, Minnesota native: Steve Zahn. He, um, lightened the mood?

So here's the thing. This wasn't a bad documentary by any stretch of the imagination. I loved seeing the passion that Marianne Barnes spoke with. I could listen to Jimmy Russell read the phone book and be happy. And Freddie Johnson is a national treasure. I was confused by the addition of Steve Zahn. The movie was beautifully shot and had a serious tone until his segments hit and then it abruptly switched to goofy. The tonal switch was jarring. The couple with the bar in the basement was filler that could have easily been cut since it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. 

But overall, it was worth the $6 I paid to rent it.

I did make a mistake though. My wife chose Rare Breed to watch with it because we knew that Jimmy Russell was featured in the documentary. I completely forgot to tell her that Freddie Johnson was in it too. If I had, we could have enjoyed the subject of tonight's other review while listening to Freddie tell the story of how his father and grandfather had a hand in its creation. If you've been on one of his tours, you may have heard the story, but if not I'll leave you with a teaser to either watch the movie or go on one of his tours. It's a good story, and I don't want to steal it.

Blanton's Straight from the Barrel

Purchase Info: £70.79 for a 700 mL bottle from MasterOfMalt.com ($98.78 US at today's exchange rate).

Details: 63.8% ABV. Barrel 885, dumped 7-13-17, aged in warehouse H, rick 14.

Nose: Caramel, wet rocks, cinnamon, nutmeg and just the tiniest hint of chocolate.

Mouth: Oily mouthfeel. Sweet and spicy with butterscotch and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and spicy. Dry and floral. 

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Thoughts: Even at $100 plus shipping, I am already planning to buy a second bottle. I love this one. 
 


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Bourbontucky on DirecTV

Do you have DirecTV? Can you get it? Do you have a friend who has it who would be willing to let you camp out on their couch for an hour and a half? You might want to look into it.

DirecTV recently produced a bourbon documentary and is currently showing it on the Audience channel (channel 239). I watched it this past weekend and it is well worth watching. 

The show is roughly divided into three parts.

Part one is all about the bourbon. The history, the distilleries. There are interviews with about every distiller you’d want to hear. It has Jimmy Russell, Fred Noe, Jim Rutledge, Harlen Wheatly, and Chris Morris. They talk to corn farmers, coopers and still makers. You see beautiful video of bourbon in glasses, production floors, aging warehouses, and corn falling through a grate. You learn about the yeast, the fermentation, the stills, bottling and some history. In depth looks at Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses and Makers Mark are interspersed with stories from Jimmy Russell, Fred Noe and Jim Rutledge. We learn why Four Roses will not put out a flavored bourbon and how Jimmy Russell used to keep an eye on Fred Noe while on the road. The highlight of this section was footage of the Heaven Hill fire. This is something you hear about every time you go to Kentucky, but which I’ve never seen footage of. Video of rivers of fire running downhill into buildings. Stories of cooperation and genuine love. Horrific and beautiful at the same time.

Part two is about other people in Kentucky who are making money off of bourbon. A Louisville bar owner tells you about Beam decanters. Specifically mentioning one that I happen to have. A chef in Louisville talks about how he collaborated with Jefferson’s to make a bourbon. Bourbon Barrel foods is mentioned. Wes Henderson from Angel’s Envy talks about finishing and blending. DISCUS and Bourbon Women help to transition to part three.

Part three is all about bars and retailers across the country. This is the part you can fast forward through. Every interview was about as follows: "We couldn’t give this stuff away ten years ago, now we charge way too much for you to try it. We like bourbon. Yay bourbon." It comes from retailers in DC, bars in LA and hipsters in Brooklyn. 

Part four is about the consumers…oh wait. Nope. This is the documentary's major failing. While everyone interviewed was a fan of bourbon, none were people who weren’t also advertising their business where they make money off of bourbon. It would have been nice to hear from fans of the product who have nothing invested but love. 

Overall, if you can, I’d recommend pouring a good bourbon and figuring out a way to watch this one. It looks like it is currently showing on DirecTV On-Demand or on Audience (Channel 239) on February 9.