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Henry G. Crowgey, Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking

This is one of the few scholarly works on the history of whiskey in America. It came out 38 years ago, yet the University of Kentucky Press keeps it in print because it is darn good.

All too often, those who write about whiskey rely heavily on information and accounts provided by whiskey companies. Why this questionable practice so seldom is criticized we won’t speculate upon.

Suffice to say, though whiskey company materials are helpful, they cannot provide the full story. Could an author tell the whole story of automobiles in America solely by mining the archives of Ford, GM, and the like? Of course not. The result cannot help but be partial in both the denotative and pejoratively connotative senses.

Crowgey got his hands dirty. He read letters from people in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, he dug up long out of print newspapers, scouring both the news and advertisements. He got hold of production and sales figures, government records, and eyeballed maps. In short, he did an awful lot of work in order to enable him to paint a full picture of who made Bourbon, how, where, and why.

We called this book “scholarly,” but that label should not ward off the common reader. Crowgey’s Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1971) is an easy read and is very entertaining. Anyone who wants to claim any knowledge of whiskey in early America should grab hold of a copy.

You may read more about this book or order a copy by surfing here.

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