Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

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Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Nov 20, 2004 10:38 am

Bluegrass, Belles, and Bourbon: A Pictorial History of Whisky in Kentucky by Harry Harrison Kroll. New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc., 1967, Contents, Index, Illustrated, pp. 224.

This book is one of the classics of bourbon history. Kroll is a master wordsmith who tells an interesting story and in this volume he tells many interesting stories. Each chapter really is a stand alone article about a different subject in bourbon history. To add to this great narration he has added many illustrations to each chapter. Some of the photographs are indeed seen only in print in this book. The book's only drawback is that Kroll get a lot of his information from the marketing departments of the distilleries. This means that some of the stories are based more upon legends than history.

Kroll has chapters that discuss many distilleries and people that are ignored in many of the books today. There are familiar names such as "The Mark of the Maker", "The Caw of the Crow" and "The Hill of Heaven". There are also chapters titled "Grand Old Name H. McKenna", "The Ghost of Old Tom Moore", "A Medley of Medleys" and "The Last of the Great Old Distillers". This last chapter has an interview with Pappy Van Winkle and that alone makes the book worth having in your library.

This is a book that should be part of every great bourbon library. It has its flaws but it is still a very interesting read filled with many facts.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby bunghole » Sat Nov 20, 2004 8:17 pm

:read2: Thanks for the review Professor Veach! :thumbright: This is yet another volume I need to get my hands on.

:arrow: ima :read2:
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Unread postby bunghole » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:12 am

I've been attempting to plow through this work. I just don't like this guys style of writting at all. I find it hard to believe he was a professor of english, and had written many other books. There is so much meandering about and the almost constant digression is annoying to say the least. His photos are nice enough for an amature. The best in the book were taken by other folks. Lin Caufield's work is nothing short of great.

:arrow: ima :cigarnut:
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Unread postby cowdery » Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:10 pm

I agree with Linn about Kroll. I never found that book very useful.

But any photograph with the name Caufield on it is going to be great. Louisville has a tremendous asset in the accumulated photographs of the Caufield and Shook Studio. It truly was commercial photography raised to the level of art.

http://special.library.louisville.edu/display-collection.asp?ID=299
- Chuck Cowdery

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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri May 23, 2008 9:24 am

Jeff,
The old photographs in the book alone are worth $2.50 (plus shipping I assume). I found the book interesting and worth owning, but it is not one I refer to very often. I would say this was the first coffee table book about bourbon.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby cowdery » Thu May 29, 2008 1:42 pm

Because of this thread, I searched for and ordered a copy of Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon. I haven't looked at the book since I researched the documentary back in 1991-92. I didn't care for it very much because I found a lot of it inaccurate, so my answer to the observation about McKenna's distillation proof is that it probably was simply wrong.

The best book I know about barrel-making (cooperage) is The Cooper and His Trade, by Kenneth Kilby, which is readily available.

My list of recommended bourbon and related books can be found here.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:34 pm

Yes, it is a very worthwhile book.

I misread your earlier post as meaning that you knew the book but couldn't find it.

I don't believe there is a review of it here. I cite it in my book and on the books page on my web site.
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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:45 pm

I admit that it is not one of my best reviews but I think you need to look at the title of the thread. I remember writing that review while working on a busy Saturday morning at the Filson. Maybe I should re-do the review since nobody can find it. I could have written more.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:35 pm

I think Jeff was asking if there's a review of the cooper's book. I couldn't find one.
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Re: Book Review: Bluegrass, Belles and Bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:49 am

Chuck,
I do believe you are right. My mistake. Still I think the book review could use some work.
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