I'm really enjoying this book. I haven't finished it yet, but I have an unusual style of reading non-fiction books: I scan the whole book quickly, then come back to different parts that attract my attention or if other parts don't seem to "make sense". Eventually I read every word of the book, but what I learn from it that way is more internalized than if I just took it sequentially the way it's published. One challenge I have (not always successfully overcome) is to avoid doing the same thing in my writing.
So I haven't "finished" the book yet, nor even come close, but it's certainly fascinating. I won't say "refreshing", of course; anyone who finds themselves surprised or suddenly sees logical answers to the questions left open by our popular notions about the "whiskey rebellion" (and other American Revolution issues) either isn't familiar with Our Fine Website
or has only been looking at the pictures. Mr. Hogeland has produced a delightful (if somewhat roughly written) narrative about the very themes I've been hammering away at in this and other venues for nearly eight years now.
That began when -- very early in our relationship -- Mike Veach pointed out to me that we should not necessarily take everything we read at face value. On an another internet forum, (where some of us here helped develop this discussion format) a newcomer to the world of bourbon had asked about its origins. And I, with the supreme confidence that comes from having recently read something about it for the first time, proudly announced that, as a result of the whiskey rebellion, the Scotch-Irish settlers of western Pennsylvania were driven down the Ohio River and into Kentucky.
"Not so!" exclaimed the future hall-of-fame'er, "Most of Kentucky's distillers came across the mountains. Have you ever noticed that not a single old bourbon family name came here from western PA?". He was correct, of course, and thus I learned to begin paying more attention to what makes sense and what doesn't, rather than simply accepting as fact whatever explanation was most commonly published.
I also noticed that, despite the occasional Joseph Finch or Sam Thompson, most of the distillers who DID settle in Pennsylvania all seemed to have such fine, old Scotch-Irish names as Overholt, and Boehm, and Schreve, Guckenheimer, Schenck, Foust, and so forth. To this day, it seems like just about every "official" source of American whiskey history I know points to such Scotch-Irish settlers*
as bourbon's and rye's original distillers; and until William Hogeland's book becomes as successful as I hope it will, those same "authorities" will continue to attribute the origins of Kentucky bourbon with refugee tax-evaders from Pittsburgh.
By the way, many of the books I've read even get that part wrong, describing the farmer/distillers as Scotsmen and Irishmen, instead of Scotch-Irish -- another national group altogether, more properly called Ulstermen. If you're not sure of the difference, simply contact your nearest IRA/Sien Fein representative and they'll be happy to explain it to you. Let's just say that they probably weren't putting out any special St. Patrick's day bottlings. knowwhadduhmeanvern?