I have known Fred Minnick for many years now and consider him a friend as well as a colleague. I met him not long after he came to Louisville and started to write about Bourbon and other American whiskeys. I knew after his success with his book Whiskey Women, he needed to write a Bourbon history. A year later, he told me he was working on this book and I am glad he did. I know it is a good book because there are a couple of times while I was reading the book that I thought “I wish I had written that”. Fred is a real wordsmith and an excellent researcher. This is a book worth reading even if you are not into whiskey history.
Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, Fred Minnick, Minneapolis, MN.: Voyageur Press, 2016. Contents, Forward, Introduction, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations, 240pp.
Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey was written by Fred Minnick. Fred has his training as a journalist and photographer, but he is also an excellent researcher and historian. This book reflects Minnick’s skill as a historian with its detailed research but it also reflects his ability as a journalist with its interesting writing style. The book starts with the earliest history and Minnick does go into some detail with the candidates for the first producer of Bourbon. He indicates his personal favorite, but not at the expense of the other people making whiskey at the time. This neutrality is reflected throughout the book as the history moves through the 19th century up to Prohibition, repeal and the years of the twentieth century. Minnick ends the book with a chapter that warns of a “fall” in Bourbon’s popularity.
The book is well designed and well written. It is fully illustrated with many photographs and illustrations such as magazine advertisements. Most are in color, but some are black and white because the original was printed that way. There is an index and if I find fault in this book, that is where I would find it. The index is a mere two pages long. It could easily be ten times that length because of the number of subjects discussed in this book. There are many side bar features of short descriptions of a process or an interesting historical fact.
This book is an excellent addition to any spirits library. Fred Minnick has written a book that will be used by historians for generations to come. It is interesting to read and is very well researched and informative. Every Bourbon enthusiast should read this book.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller