THe Evolution of the Bourbon Whiskey Industry In Kentucky, by Sam K. Cecil. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company, 1999, Second Printing, 2001. Contents, Preface, Index, Illustrated, pp 160.
The Distilling Industry in Kentucky has vaery rich history that dates back to the first settlers coming to the state. It is also a very chaotic history with companies selling out to other companies with brands ending up split between multiple companies in the process. It is also filled with many myths and legends that add to the marketing of bourbon, but distract those who wish to know the history. Sam Cecil has made an attempt to put order to this chaos in his book.
The first edition released in 1999 had some faults that were corrected with the second printing. The most glaring fault was the lack of an index. It was truely hard to find what you were looking in this chaos for without an index. The ilustrations in the second edition were also done with a better quality process and are clearer and crisper in the second printing.
There are some short chapters giving brief histories of the industry as a whole, the Kentucky Distillers Association and Master Distillers, but the real heart of the book is the individual histories for the distilleries. They are listed by county and by their registered distillery number, or numbers, as in many cases. The problem there is some of the information is not quite correct. Cecil relied heavily upon the Coyte collection at the University of Louisville archives. This collection was donated upon the death of Coyte who was working upon his own distilling history book and his notes are often incomplete or have wrong information that needed to be followed up with other sources. An example of this is the Moore and Selliger, Max Selliger & Co. RD #1&2 of Louisville. Cecil states that Schenley bought the distillery (the present Bernheim Distillery) from Selliger's estate in 1933. The truth is Selliger did not die until 1938, but had sold the distillery to two Chicago businessmen, Gerngoss and Schwartzhaupt in 1933, who in turn sold it to Schenley in 1937.
Sam Cecil is a very good historian with a long background in the distilling industry. He worked for many years at Maker's Mark and has first hand knowledge of that distillery's history. He is also well know at the other distilleries in the state and is an excellent source of information about distilleries of his era. His problem with the book is that he attempted a task that would daunt a person of half his age. The results is a book with some flaws, but still a book that is a must for any distilling library.