Book Reveiw: Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times Of Jack

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Book Reveiw: Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times Of Jack

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Oct 19, 2004 7:01 pm

Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel by Peter Krass. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004. Contents, Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations.

This book is not a book published to sell more Jack Daniel's whiskey. The contents of the book did more than raise a few eyebrows at the Brown-Forman Headquarters and in Lynchburg. Peter Krass is a newspaper reporter and not a historian so his approach to the story was to look for controversy and he found it.

Blood and Whiskey tells the story of Jack Daniel and Krass did a very good job looking through old newspapers and courthouse records finding information about Jack Daniel's early life and career. He does a decent job of finding out when he first became a land owner and distillery owner. He points out that Jack Daniel's Distillery was not the first registered distillery. This is no real secret to anyone who ever studied the history of the industry. Distillery Registration was part of the tax laws passed to pay for the American Civil War. There is no way a distillery in Tennessee was going to be the first to register when the state did not even recognize the Federal Government, let alone its right to tax the distillery.

This first controversy was not enough so he decides to add a little with his description of the George Dickel company making them sound like whoremongers and saloon keepers of the worst type. With that done he then questions the claim of Jack Daniel's World Fair gold medal and then Lem Motlow's involvement in a shooting. It makes for some very juicey reading and he does provide footnotes for the information.

The problem with the book is how he uses his sources. He does a very good job of searching for land titles and court cases in which Jack Daniel was involved. The strong point of the book is the early history of Jack Daniel, the person. His other choices of sources are not nearly so strong. He will use the Green biography of Jack Daniel as a revered source in one place and trash it in another. His claims on the World Fair medal are flimsy at best and he should have spent more time researching that subject. He relies heavily upon newspapers and the newspapers of the time were not known for the truth - it was the age of "yellow journalism" after all. It would have been nice to find some other sources to back up some of his claims.

This book is worthy of being in a whiskey library, but it should be taken with some reservations. It is not a marketing piece like the earlier Green biography but the writer did seem to have a bigger goal of selling books than finding all of the facts.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby dgonano » Tue Oct 19, 2004 8:20 pm

Mike,

Once again a nice review.

I need to know the "must have"whiskey books to fill my library, and if possible The bookstores and websites where I can purchase them.
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Unread postby cowdery » Wed Oct 20, 2004 12:21 am

Mike,

Does the book cover why they chose to call their product Tennessee Whiskey instead of bourbon, or whether they were ever told by the Treasury Department that they couldn't call it bourbon? You know the issue.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Oct 20, 2004 9:05 am

Chuck,
The reason why they made Tennessee Whiskey instead of bourbon is because that is what Jack learned to make, or at least that is the only reason given in this book. It discusses the the letter Lem Motlow received in the 40's but the story is pretty much the same as the Green version.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Oct 20, 2004 9:33 am

Dave G.
I plan on writing a series of reviews of books in my library giving my opinion of the book. I would welcome comments from others, even if they disagree with me. That is part of the fun of a forum. As to finding these books, that may be a little difficult. A lot of them are out of print and have been for many years.
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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Oct 20, 2004 10:40 am

Damn Mike! I've not heard of either book! Poor marketing I suspect. Tell us more!

ima - :partyman:
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Oct 20, 2004 11:01 am

The Green biography is the book they sell at the gift shop in Lynchburg. It is pretty much a marketing piece. I have read it since it is in the U.D. Archive, but don't have personal copy.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Nov 15, 2004 12:04 pm

Saturday's Courier-Journal had an article about this book and the controversy it brings to light. It really attacks Brown-Forman making it look like they are responsible for the mis-information in Jack Daniel marketing. To some extent that could be true, but they simply took what was being told by the company when they bought the distillery and brand and ran with it (quite successfully too, I might add).

You can see the article at Courier-Journal.com in Satuday's business section.

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Unread postby cowdery » Tue Nov 16, 2004 2:15 am

I'm shocked...SHOCKED...that a writer would stoop so low as to stir up a controversey just to sell more books.

Let's see, who can I go after...
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby Strayed » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:24 am

I've been reading this book (off and on, depending on when I need to go to the bathro... uh, library) and I'm really enjoying it. I, too, put it slightly ahead of the Green book in believability, but only slightly. Kind of on the same level as Paul Pacult's commercial for the Jim Beam organization, but better written.

My own inclination, not supported by Blood & Whiskey, is that there was once a man named Jasper "Jack" Daniel who made whiskey in Moore County, Tennessee, and who was an important figure in the small, relatively insignificant town of Lynchburg. He owned a distillery, which was actually operated by his nephew and friend Lem Motlow. Distilling was not considered an honorable profession in Tennessee when Jack died, and Motlow bought out Jack's brother's inherited interest in the distillery. He then, I believe, proceeded to fabricate a "Jack Daniel" character who embodied all the traits he wanted his whiskey to have. Pure marketing genius. There was a certain motel-and-gas-station-owner-turned-pressure-cooked-chicken salesman in Kentucky a century later who had a similar approach. Both highly successful. The advertising campaigns (the most important of which was the total fabrication of the "Tennessee Whiskey" classification) was all Motlow, and pre-dated any of Brown-Forman's work.
=JOHN= (the "Jaye" part of "L & J dot com")
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:09 pm

John,
I would say that Jack Daniel was a bit more than what claim, but I agree that it was Lem Motlow that started the marketing campaign that made Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 famous. I disagree somewhat about your statement that he made Tennessee whisky a different product from bourbon. In the late 19th century there were two other large producers of "Tennessee Whisky" - Dickel's "Cascade" and Nelson's "Greenbrier". Tennessee whisky was recognized as seperate product when an article was published in American Chemist Magazine about aging whiskey in barrels. It was recognized as a seperate product before Lem Motlow decided to get some kind of government document.

Motlow's genious was to get the document and run with it at a time that there was no other competition in the category (in reality there is still no other competition).

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