Book Review: The Book of Bourbon

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Book Review: The Book of Bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Oct 25, 2004 7:28 pm

The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskey by Gary Regan and Mardee Haiden Regan. Shelburne, Vermont: Chapters Publishing Ltd., 1995. Contents, Glossary, Bibliography, Index, Illustrated, Pp. 364.


The Book of Bourbon is the results of a very ambitous project. The Regans wrote a book that would tell the history of bourbon, the history of the distilleries and their brands, provide tasting notes for those brands, recipes to cook with and mix drinks with bourbon and information about visiting the distilleries. The succeded in achieving these goals for the most part. The book is designed well and simply looks good on the shelf. It is illustrated with many photographs in both color and a sepia toned antique finish.

The books starts with a chapter on the history of American whiskey distilling. This history is accurate and well researched, but still only a brief sketch of the history. After all it had to fit in a single chapter. They left many of the details for a later chapter where they discuss the brands. With each brand they told some of the history of the brand and the people who created the brand. As a whole, there is a lot of history to be found in the Book of Bourbon.

There is a chapter on how whiskey is made. This chapter is followed by their guide to brands from A to Z. With each brand they discuss the brand of today, give its history and then tasting notes for most of the expressions of that brand. The tasting notes are good but often get a little corney with the decription. They don't try to rate the product (Tennessee and rye whiskey is also found in this book) with any type of scale other than to give their opinion on how it should be used (whiskey and coke, Manhattan or straight).

They devote a whole chapter to tasting whiskey and holding a formal tasting. They also have a chapter for cocktails and a chapter for cooking with whiskey. They finish the book with a guide to visiting Kentucky and Tennessee and how to find the distilleries and other places of interest such as Churchill Downs, The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and The Filson Historical Society. They end with a very good index to make finding information in the book easy.

This is another good book to have in a bourbon library. It has a great deal of information about everything. Its only fault is that it is too short, leaving the reader wanting to learn more.

Mike Veach
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Re: Book Review: The Book of Bourbon

Unread postby angelshare » Mon Oct 25, 2004 8:33 pm

This is another good book to have in a bourbon library. It has a great deal of information about everything. Its only fault is that it is too short, leaving the reader wanting to learn more.


I'm not sure if the "want" is an intentional phenomenon or not, but, either way, I think it is an attribute.

After reading the Regan book, we decided that we had to see the distilleries for ourselves, and we drove to KY in less than six months. Of course, we had no kids then! :lol:
Dave & Tina
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Unread postby YankeeGirl23 » Tue Oct 26, 2004 8:38 pm

Well, being an avid reader I guess this will have to go on my "must read" list. It seems interesting and hopefully it will give me a more broader knowledge of bourbon. Thankfully I had the opportunity to visit Kentucky but sometimes I like to learn by reading and putting my information to good use to match up with my findings . :)
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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Oct 26, 2004 9:02 pm

I agree that reading these books can help you learn a lot about bourbon and they make your trips to the distilleries more interesting. That is one reason I am writing these reviews - so people can have a better idea about what to look for to add to their library. I also have a more selfish reason. I get about a half dozen or so people each year at work who are researching bourbon or distilling history. It will be nice to be able to give them a web site they can use to find these book reviews in one place. I hope others will take time to review or at least give opinions on some of these books as well.
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I like this book.

Unread postby scratchline » Sat Dec 31, 2005 4:15 pm

I've had it since it was issued in paperback and continue to find it very informative and useful. My bourbon spiked chocolate pecan pie is cooking as I type this.

I wasn't crazy about the orange bitter Manhattan, but maybe I'm just a tradionalist. Anyway, I find myself returning to the book for information, recipes, and notes on different bourbon brands. I do wish that the tasting notes were a little more hard-nosed, but they are helpful nevertheless.

I wish they would issue a new edition that would update the distillery info and enlarge the brand notes.

Good general reference.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Dec 31, 2005 8:33 pm

I agree that this is one of my favorite books. A new addition would be a good idea since it has been 10 years since they did this book. A lot has changed in the industry in the last decade.

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