I have known Brian Haara for several years and I have always respected his knowledge of the law in regard to the distilling industry. I was quite pleased when I found out that he also had a love of history. This book combines those two interests in what I consider one of the modern classics in Bourbon history books. Haara represents legal cases in a manner that is understandable to the non-lawyer and reveals how the legal cases shaped American law. It is an interesting read.

Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America, Haara, Brian F. University of Nebraska Press, 2018. Introduction, Contents, Notes, Bibliography, Index, Illustrated, pp. 182.

This book delves into court cases that involve the distilled spirits industry. The author lays out the nature of the case in a very clear manner, discusses the facts leading to the court cases and then explains the holdings of the case, and how that ruling changed the laws of the United States. These are all very important historical facts to know in order to understand the nature of the Distilled Spirits industry of today. There is a forward by Fred Minnick, followed by a chapter on Bourbon History that helps the reader to understand where these cases fit into the modern industry. The book is well indexed and has many illustrations and Haara also places tasting notes of some of the modern versions of the products involved in the case.

Haara starts off painting a broad picture with discussions of trademark laws and Bourbon regulations that affect the industry as a whole. He then gets into specific with cases such as the one involving James E. Pepper gaining the rights to own the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery when his father died. Pepper was still a minor and had to go to court to claim his inheritance. 

The cases presented in the book cover a wide range of history from the 19th century up to the 21st century and includes cases about brands using sourced whiskey. He discusses cases dealing with the distilling process as well as marketing the brands. Haara has done an excellent job covering all points of interest in the spirits industry.

The tasting notes are well written and do add interest to the book for those less interested in history and more interested in drinking Bourbon. However, I would say even those wanting the tasting notes are going to find themselves drawn into reading about the legal cases. Haara has illustrated the book with black and white images of many original documents, labels and advertisements that are relevant to the case being discussed. They often help the reader to understand what is going on in the case, but I suspect a few of them were added simply because they are cool bits of history. 

Bourbon Justice is a must-have book for any Bourbon library. I would also recommend it as reading for anyone thinking about opening a distillery. It will help them understand why laws were made and why they should follow the regulation in branding their products.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller