SCIENCES

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey

Viking. May 2015. 320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670016839. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698145405. BEVERAGES
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Despite whiskey's origins in European cultures, the story of bourbon is especially American; Congress affirmed its national character decades ago. The book opens at that point, then jumps back to the early days of colonization when abundant corn was used to produce New World variations on Old World spirits. The author successfully intertwines the changing nature of bourbon production and consumption with major historical events, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and Cold War, touching on issues such as taxation and patriotism. Abundant and even surprising detail is bundled with sharp writing that doesn't hesitate to criticize (a modern bourbon's aroma is likened to a garbage bag of sugar melted in a microwave). Centuries of U.S. history are filtered through a whiskey bottle for the enlightenment and entertainment of readers.
VERDICT This terrific account of the rich heritage behind a classic American beverage is recommended for those who enjoy reading histories of foodstuffs of all sorts.
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