Book Review: The Book of Classic American Whiskeys

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Book Review: The Book of Classic American Whiskeys

Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Oct 24, 2004 11:16 am

The Book of Classic American Whiskeys by Mark H. Waymack and James F. Harris. Chicago: Open Court, 1995. Contents, Preface, Bibliography, Index, Illustrated. Pp.238.

Waymack and Harris are not professional "drinks writers" - They are college professors specializing in ethics and philosophy respectively. They have the "day job" and wrote this book because they enjoy bourbon and its history. These facts alone make me respect the book more than one written by a professional "drinks writer". They do not have to depend upon keeping the people in the industry happy to make their living. If they write something seen as offensive to a distillery manager or a brand manager, they do not have to worry about being denied access in the future as revenge.

The book starts off with a brief history of the distilling industry in the United States. This is followed with a brief description of how whiskey is made. Next is a chapter describing each modern distillery, a brief history and tasting notes on some of the products made at the distillery. There is also contact information for distillery tours. The following chapter does the same for Tennessee. The last chapter discusses how to hold a tasting and then gives some cocktail recipes and recipes for cooking with bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. All chapter have photographs to help illustrate the content.

Waymack and Harris did a fair job at what they wrote. They are not "professional drinks writers" so some of their tasting notes seem rather bland in comparison. They did a decent job at researching the history and were the first writers to question the Jack Daniel claim to being the "first registered distillery". They visited the distilleries, talked with people, and did do some additional reading and research. The results is a book with history that does not simply echo what the marketing departments told them.

This book is a good starter book for a library. It is interesting and informative, but brief. Starting with The Book of Classic American Whiskey will provide a good background when delving into deeper books on the subject.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby angelshare » Mon Oct 25, 2004 7:26 pm

This book really got us into American whiskey. We bought it shortly after it was published, and, after reading this plus the Regan book, we were hooked for life. I seem to remember Chuck describing the treatment of the distilleries as "fawning," which may be. I must admit, we read this in a very naive state, in awe of the artistry of bourbon making and oblivious to the business side of things. Still, we go back to it as a reference from time to time, and I think it holds up.

It didn't help much with your trivia contest, though, Mike! :lol:
Dave & Tina
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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Oct 25, 2004 7:32 pm

Speaking of the Book of Bourbon....

I have to admit some prejudice for this book and the Book of Bourbon. I helped the writers with their historical research. I helped Jim Murray as well with his book but I still have to laugh at his statement that "Kentucky won its independence from Virginia".

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