Sam K. Cecil, Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey

Sam K. Cecil is not your typical book writer.  He took up his authorial pen (or keyboard) after decades of working in the Kentucky whiskey industry.  He worked for T.W. Samuels, heaven Hill, J.W. Dant, and Maker’s Mark.  Clearly the man knows his whiskey.

Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey (Turner Publishing Company, 2010) provides a brief history of Kentucky whiskey.  The novice will glean much from Cecil’s brisk prose.

What we whiskey-hounds find most attractive, though, is the books lengthy list of entries on Kentucky distilleries.  These thumbnail sketches run from pages 89-292.  This feature makes the book a keeper for our reference shelf.

You may order a copy of Sam K. Cecil’s Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey (Turner Publishing Company, 2010) here.





An Interview with Bill Owens, Editor of The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits


Bill Owens teamed up with Alan Dikty to produce The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits (Quarry Books, 2009).

It is a very handsome book loaded with beautiful photographs and illustrations.  It provides the reader with an introduction to distilling and how spirits differ.  The book also gives the reader a feel for the burgeoning small distilling movement in the U.S.

Bill is the founder of the American Distilling Institute, the mission of which is “to disseminate essential information regarding the art and science of distilling.”

We managed to nab Bill for a short interview.  He had just returned from Europe, where he spent three months visiting artisanal distilleries and cooperages.  Click here to listen to the interview.

And click here to take a closer look at The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits.


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.


John R. Hume and Michael S. Moss, The Making of Scotch Whisky: A History of the Scotch Whisky Distilling Industry

This book was first published in 1980, and has been updated and republished a couple times since.

Put bluntly, this is the most authoritative text on Scotch whisky we have sever seen. It is not a quick or light read; it is 368 total pages — 229 pages of smallish text, 110 pages of notes and tables, and the rest is the index. Serious students of whisky should have this book in their libraries. (Rating ****1/2)

Click here to get your copy of The Making of Scotch Whisky: A History of the Scotch Whiskey Distilling Industry (Edinburgh: Cannongate, 2002).


Get Whiskey: A Global History!

Check out’s new book!

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Book description:

In Whiskey: A Global History, Kevin R. Kosar delivers an informative, concise narrative of the drink’s history, from its obscure medieval origins to the globally traded product that it is today.

Whiskey: A Global History explains what whiskey is, how it is made, and how the types of whiskey differ. With a list of suggested brands and classic cocktail recipes for the thirsty reader, this book is perfect for drink and food enthusiasts and history lovers alike.