View Full Version : _Red Likker_, by Irvin S. Cobb

10-27-2002, 13:34
I am indebted to whoever mentioned this book. It took me a while to find it through a used book store online, and it took a while longer before I got around to starting to read it. Once I started, I found myself rearranging my life around it. I intended to write a short review immediately after I finished it a week or so ago. I hope my recall of details is accurate at this point.

It is a novel with a copyright date of 1929. Many aspects of the story reflect a long-ago time, sometimes wistfully, sometimes painfully. In fact the story begins a couple of centuries earlier, but the heart of the story begins in the mid-nineteenth century.

Needless to say, bourbon is a major factor in the development of the story line; Col. Atilla Bird, the main character, is the founder and operator of the Old Blockhouse Distillery, in existence from around 1865 through the climax of the book, during Prohibition.

He is a brave and honorable man, although some of his ideas would be widely condemned today. He believes that producing quality bourbon is an honorable calling, and he has little patience with those who condemn its moderate use or those who produce cheap substitutes.

His sense of honor leads him to make what most of us would call difficult choices regarding his family, his business, his property, and his life, and yet he makes those choices automatically, as a reflection of who he is.

This is a classically structured novel, of a style I don't think anyone writes any more. It builds to a shattering climax, even as Col. Bird grows old and infirm, and ends with a denouement that is probably even more touching today that when it was written.

I have deliberately refrained from describing specific events in the plot so as not to spoil it for the new reader. I wish you luck in finding a copy; I won't be turning loose of mine.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

10-27-2002, 18:42
Excellent post and review. Dave, are there any indications in the book about how bourbon tasted then?

10-28-2002, 00:15
Yes. In one pivotal scene Col. Bird awards Old Blockhouse a Five Pants rating!

Just kidding... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

To answer your question honestly, no, the book's only flaw is a lack of tasting notes. However, one might infer from the enjoyment that drinkers of the fictitious Old Blockhouse experienced that it was a fine bourbon for its day.

Even Col. Bird's teetotaler sister comes to find that ... No! I refuse to give away an important plot element!

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

10-30-2002, 17:55
Without giving anything away either, let me just say that the climax of the story is based on some actual historical events involving the distillery at Forks of Elkhorn in Frankfort, KY.

10-30-2002, 18:59
This is a book I must find. I am interested in trying to pinpoint key social and historical events about straight whiskey including how it actually tasted.

In Michael Jackson's "The World Guide To Whiskey" (1988), Michael quotes Bernard De Voto, who would have been writing in the immediate post war era: "True rye and true Bourbon wake delight like any great wine with a rich and magical plenitude of overtones and rhymes and resolved dissonances and a contrapuntal succession of fleeting aftertastes. They dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response".

A pretty fair description, of, say, Knob Creek or Van Winkle Rye...

But query: how much Bourbon and rye today really is red in colour?

Most seems brownish more than red. Russell's Reserve is fairly russet-coloured though, are there any others?

10-30-2002, 20:53
ORVW 10 lookslike red wine to me, the are others, they just dont spring to mind.


10-30-2002, 21:43
Bulliet frontier whiskey is a real red color. I was told that the old time stuff was more red than brown.

10-31-2002, 09:11

Yes, you are right about the color of the whiskey in the "OLDEN DAYS". I been researching some of my records for Brenda....(Her family of Burks Distillers)..In some of the records that date back to 1896 Sam Elliott speaks of tasting the "red" in color whiskey....Sam writes in very good favor of "every" distillery that he visits.....He does not say a bad thing about anybody or anything......but if you read closely you can almost tell which one he likes the best.....

Two bourbon trivia questions......

1. Who were the first seven to Distill whiskey in Nelson County? (Shortly thereafter everbody and their brother put up a still)....I will let ya know the obvious one....Jacob Beam.....

2. Who was the first? It was not Jacob Beam.....This one was quite a surprise...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

10-31-2002, 10:44
A guess and only a guess , Boone Brothers.

10-31-2002, 11:51
Good guess Brother Bobby!....

This special suppliment on distilleries was published in 1896....I will post it in history sometime...

Wattie Boone his brothers and Old Uncle Johnnie Boone ran the distillery...If I have my directions right it was located near the Old Seagrams distillery that burned down in the early 70's in Athertonville...They were kin to Daniel Boone....He also mentions that the first settlers of Nelson County was Issac Cox along with about 25 others....

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

10-31-2002, 16:29
Did I say guess? what I meant to say was , I knew it all along! Too late for that.... My brother lives close to Nazereth Mother House and there is a historical marker out there about Issac Cox and his settlement that predates Salem......( Later renamed Bardstown....for William Bard) And those are my ancestors ... They probably drank enough to give a good beginning to the bourbon industry. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif