Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last

Penguin Pr. Nov. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780735221253. $27. COOKING
Considering whiskey’s current popularity, a collaboration between an iconic bourbon maker (the third generation of a legendary whiskey family) and Thompson (The Cost ofThese Dreams; ESPN senior writer) had a built-in audience. But even those who are not avid whiskey drinkers will enjoy reading Thompson’s thoughtful, well-crafted words about family. Embarking on fatherhood himself, the author highlights the complex relationship between fathers and sons—what they build for each other and what they owe each other—as he tells how Pappy Van Winkle founded a sprawling distillery in the 1930s; how the family lost control by 1972; and how the quiet Julian P. Van Winkle III persevered to preserve his family’s heritage. Thompson weaves in just the right amount of helpful historical background about the whiskey business, Kentucky culture, marketing tactics, and today’s whiskey fanaticism. Interspersed among poignant and entertaining Van Winkle nostalgia (like the time it rained liquor) are the author’s reflections on his own father figures and the kind of father he aspires to be.
VERDICT A sure bet for whiskey enthusiasts (novices could pair it with Eddie Ludlow’s Whiskey: A Tasting Course), this highly recommended biography has broad appeal for its heartwarming insights on the importance of family.
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