Carla Harris Carlton is a talented writer and editor who has worked for the Courier-Journal newspaper here in Louisville, but most people outside of Louisville will know her for her “Bourbon Babe” blog. Her blogs are always fun to read and very informative. This book is her first book in hardcover print and she has done an excellent job with its creation. Carlton has a couple of other books published electronically. I look forward to seeing her write other books on the subject of Bourbon.

Carlton also has an excellent palate for whiskey. Her blog often includes tasting notes of whiskeys she has tried and she is a frequent taster for private barrel selections. I have always enjoyed her tasting notes on her blog and private barrel selections she has had a hand in picking.

Barrel Strength Bourbon: The Explosive Growth of America’s Whiskey, Carla Harris Carlton, Birmingham, Al.: Clerisy Press, 2017. Contents, Introduction, Appendices, Index, illustrated, pp.209.

Barrel Strength Bourbon is a book that focuses mostly on the modern distilling industry. There is a chapter about the history of the industry and another chapter about making Bourbon, but the other five chapters deal with the growth of the industry and enjoying Bourbon. Carlton looks at the business side of Bourbon with production figures from 1967 to 2015, a look at the long-established distilleries and many of the newer distilleries in Kentucky. She dedicates a chapter to the Bourbon Tourism business that has grown in Kentucky over the last 25 years and a chapter on tasting whiskey. The chapter on tasting has a flavor wheel as well as a very good description on how to taste whiskey. Finally, she offers a chapter titled “Double Barreled: Betting on Bourbon’s Future”. Carlton does not have a crystal ball to tell what the future of the industry holds, but she provides interviews with several distillers about their opinions. Needless to say, it is a very optimistic chapter. 

The book is in hardcover and well illustrated with many full-color photographs, charts and maps. The photographs come from a variety of sources from distilleries to Kentucky Tourism. It is a beautiful looking book. It is well designed and includes a couple of appendices. The first is a glossary of terms and the second consists of cocktail recipes and their stories of origin. There is an index but no bibliography. The historian in me would like to see a bibliography. The source used in writing a book can be very helpful when researching a subject from the book. 

Carlton has written a very good book about Bourbon. I would recommend it to anyone looking to purchase a book for a new Bourbon enthusiast or bartender. The glossary of terms is an informative quick reference for people unsure of a term’s meaning. I love seeing bars with a collection of books on the back bar. It tells me that the establishment wants to educate its staff and customers. This should be one of those books.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller