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  1. #21
    Novice
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    20

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    I thought I oughta jump in here with my 2 cents re Carson's book. I am not a historian or an industry guy so I can't speak to the accurary of the history or lack thereof. However, as literature, Carson's Social History of Bourbon is my favorite bourbon book. His style is laid back and familiar. No quasi scholastic posturing. Reading it is like sitting on a porch shooting the bull with an unusually informed favorite uncle. I bought my copy by the wasy from http://www.alibris.com, a clearinghouse for antique and rare booksellers.

    I suppose to get the scoop on the ins and outs of the bourbon industry, Sam Cecil's book is the authority supplemented by this board of course.

    Another favorite is Mountain Spirits by a guy named Dabney. It's a fun little romp about the illicit moonshine trade in the deep southeast. A big plus is the extensive interviews with the distillers and bootleggers.




  2. #22
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,610

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    Sam Cecil's source was Whit Coyte, who started collecting information about distilleries after he retired from AT&T. He had no background in the distilling business. Coyte's collection was donated to the University of Louisville, but I think Sam may have his own copy. When I visited him at his home in 1991-92 he had an entire bedroom dedicated to his whiskey materials.

    Sam credits Coyte in his introduction, but another person familiar with Coyte's materials told me that Sam added little to Coyte's work, that Sam's book is essentially Coyte's notes, verbatim. Unfortunately, it seems that both men took everything that came into their hands at face value and were less than rigorous about verification. Sam has the advantage of personal knowledge for much of it, but that probably is the only check on Coyte's less than reliable information. Cecil/Coyte reports, for example, that John Fitzgerald built the Old Judge/Old Fitzgerald Distillery while the (I think) more reliable Claude Bixler letter tells a very different story.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  3. #23
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    Location
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    140

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    "What's wrong with the Regans?"

    Best not to get me started on this topic, but I'll try to be brief.

    First, they haven't a clue as to what they're tasting, claiming to detect common tastes (say, mint or tobacco or "flowery" or "herbal") where they just plain don't exist. If this were limited to a few cases I could just chalk it up to palate differences, but they're consistently bizarre. Take this, for example:

    "On the other hand, Blanton’s, a single-barrel Bourbon made with rye, shows the softer side of this style: Although there’s a touch of tongue-tingling spice present on the palate, there’s far more honey and vanilla there, and it could easily be mistaken for a wheated Bourbon."

    Blanton's mistaken for a wheated bourbon? Not bloody likely. The "honey" descriptor is left as an exercise for the student.

    Second, their grasp of the technical side of the industry is, to be kind, lacking. I don't have either book in front of me right now, but I remember thinking upon first reading their _Book Of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys_ that it was rife with factual errors that would be fixed in the next edition. Instead, when their _Bourbon Companion_ or whatever the hell it's called, came out, it was even worse.

    Finally -- and purely in the interest of time, as I could come up with many more reasons -- they fall into the same trap so many other food/drink writers (beerdom's Stephen Beaumont is the worst offender) do by writing with this air of pseudo-sophistication and elitism that is incredibly off-putting to a number of people. They take something as convivial and proletarian as bourbon and try and turn it into a seven course dinner at Ducasse, and it ain't. Not that bourbon or any number of other beverages can't achieve this level of greatness, but when you take the drink out of its proper context, it loses some of what makes it special.

    The following article on rye, from the September issue of Wine Enthusiast, illustrates my above points all too well.http://www.winemag.com/issues/sept00/sep_proof.cfm. I'm sure they're very nice people who genuinely enjoy imbibing bourbon and other spirits, but there's no shortage of people like that in the world and none of them feel compelled to write about a subject about which they know precisely squat.

    Stotz





  4. #24
    Enthusiast
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    Nov 2000
    Location
    Frankfort, KY
    Posts
    499

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    I have enjoyed the running discourse, along with the side trips, associated with this topic. It is interesting to note that some of the bourbons you mention hating have received scores in the high nineties from various publications. Some of them have even won bourbon of the year awards, while others have won international best of show awards. The truth simply boils down to what the individual thinks. Just because marketers say something doesn't make it so; you guys maintain your own integrity and I find that refreshing. Keep up the faith! Now about your misguided thoughts pertaining to Weller and Benchmark......

    Ken


  5. #25
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    Ken I could care less about ratings, awards, or medals. I tried Benchmark some years ago. It was cheap; on the bottom shelf in the corner (where it remains to this very day) so I didn't expect it to be great, but I wasn't ready for it to be *so* bad! As for Weller it's not the whiskey's fault, it's me, I just don't like wheaters with one curoius exception - Very Special Old Fitzgerald 12 Year Old. For some strange reason I do like that one and keep a bottle in my cabinet.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  6. #26
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Gary & Mardee Regan

    Hi Ryan,

    Concerning Gary & Mardee Regan's books...

    Well, I guess that will serve as a good enough example of not sucking up to the subject. I don't suppose you could have come up with anything negative to say, to offset all that praise?

    Seriously, I liked "The Book Of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys" (not the sequel so much, though). It really wasn't aimed at the same audience as Jim Murray's definitive work. It's more an introduction into exploring bourbon for folks such as those who I hope are hanging out in this forum reading what us loudmouths (loudfingers?) keep writing. I don't remember whether I read it in their introductory notes or learned it during conversations with them, but neither Gary nor Mardee (nor I, nor any of the master distillers I've spoken with) subscribe to what I call the "tasters' lexography". At the risk of alienating some of my friends who are true believers, I find it silly and more than a little pretentious. It reminds me too much of the wine snobs of the early '70s and their successors, the Single Malt Aristocrats of the early '80s. But the publishers insist on tasting notes. American readers want tasting notes. No notes -- no book. Got it? With an ultimatum like that, even I'd start writing of "hints of chamomile wafting over the nutmeg nuances", or whatever it took.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  7. #27
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Gary & Mardee Regan

    John,
    I agree with you on this. I like the Regan book. They did put more emphasis on the history of the brands and the industry than other books published since then. As far as tasting notes are concerned, I have always said that such notes need to be taken with a grain of salt because everybody has different taste.
    Mike Veach


  8. #28
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Jim Murray\'s Classic Bourbon, Tennessee & Rye Whiskey

    The only rating system I pay attention to is the Linn Spencer system. I might not always agree, but I know it will be very entertaining.
    Mike Veach


  9. #29
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,610

    Re: Gary & Mardee Regan

    I agree to some extent with all of you. I know the Regans and consider them friends. Their fault, as I see it (and the rye article cited is an even better example of this than their books) is that they play to the preconceptions of their editors in order to sell articles. If the editor wants them to uncover a hot, new trend, they uncover one (i.e., make one up). If the editor wants tasting notes, tasting notes it is. If the editor wants recipes, they have recipes. They are writing articles and books for the purpose of selling them and they are selling them.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  10. #30
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Gary & Mardee Regan

    The Regans write books intended for bartenders and for consumers interested in expanding their limited knowledge to include American whiskey. At the time they wrote "The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys" there wasn't any StraightBourbon.com discussion forum; there wasn't any "Classic Bourbon, Tennessee, & Rye Whiskey"; Waymack & Harris' book was published, but not widely available, and so poorly produced that it would never have attracted general public attention anyway. It's a shame that the sequel, "The Bourbon Companion" is such a step in the wrong direction. It's as if the publisher said, "Whatever you were writing, forget it. Jim Murray's book is a hit. Give us something just like that, and we want it Friday!". Even the cover looks like a blatant knockoff. That's not their fault. The fact is, as Chuck pointed out, the Regans sell books. None of the rest of us do.

    What some of us (including Chuck, of course) do is sell magazine articles. Unlike a book, a sort of single-barrel offering which must be everything the publisher wants in one package, a magazine has the luxury of being able to blend (oops, I mean mingle) different writers and styles so as to produce an issue with something for a more widely varied reader base. Chuck, Lew Bryson, Stephen Beaumont, Jim Murray, John Hansell, and the Regans all sell articles to the same magazines. The publishers of those magazines (who, like John Hansell, are often writers themselves) know that some of their readers buy the magazine just to see what Chuck Cowdery has to say and completely skip over anything with Stephen Beaumont's name on it. It's only us warped Bourbomaniacs who study every word written by everyone, including the travel agency ads on the back pages.

    I looked at the Wine Enthusiast piece that Stotz pointed out. I thought it was done well. Obviously, the assignment was to work up an article to spotlight Old Potrero and Sazerac Rye, since they're both expanding their marketing right now and most likely the editor received back-to-back press releases just recently. But I thought the article was entertaining and informative. If it were my magazine, I'd want that article in it. Of course, if American Rye Whiskey was to be the general theme for that issue, I'd also include one from Chuck and, of course, Jim. And if it were really my magazine, there'd be one by Linn Spencer in there, too.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

 

 

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