Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker

Fred Minnick
Zenith Press, 2015
240 pages
ISBN 978-0760347409

Fred Minnick writes for the Wall Street Journal and other publications, and he is the author of Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey. His newest book, Bourbon Curious, is geared toward the scores of novice bourbon drinkers looking to slake their thirst for credible information about their passion. Bourbon Curious is a refreshing addition to the panoply of introductory whiskey books because Minnick is not afraid to confront the sordid history of bourbon or the fact that much of the misinformation about bourbon is perpetuated by (perhaps well-intentioned) tour guides, marketing departments and corporate managers.

Although there are a lot of whiskey tasting books, Bourbon Curious focuses in on the most important aspect of bourbon: the taste. Tasting notes are organized in four basic categories: grain, nutmeg, caramel, and cinnamon. This categorization makes it easy for both inexperienced and experienced drinkers to focus on a bourbon’s flavor rather than its pedigree or location, and is much more intuitive than sorting by geographic location or mash bill. And happily, Minnick’s tasting notes cover brands in the $25–50 price range, illustrating that high-quality bourbon can be had without breaking the bank.

Minnick’s Bourbon Curious is a well-written, well-researched and well-rounded book for the bourbon neophyte, but he does make a few stumbles. Early in the book (p. 29), Minnick describes sour mash as the process of adding a portion of fermented mash to a new batch of unfermented mash to inoculate it against wild yeast; yet later (p. 79), he describes it as the process of adding a portion of spent wash from the still to a new mash fermentation to adjust the pH. In truth, sour mash can describe both of these practices. This contradiction is one of the challenges of writing about bourbon and its history, which is not a single linear story but a collection of multiple traditions that often used conflicting terminologies. In the end, Minnick’s thesis holds true—the most important thing about bourbon is not where, how or who makes it, or even how expensive it is, but whether you like to drink it.


Whisky: Technology Production and Marketing

Edited by Inge Russell and Graham Stewart
Elsevier, Academic Press, 2014
444 pages
ISBN 978-0124017351

Compiled by the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, and Heriot-Watt University, this textbook covers the science and process of production, equipment design, sensory analysis, distillery design, marketing and many other topics. Laid out in academic style, with comprehensive table of contents, many footnotes, references and a 17-page appendix, this volume gives expert analysis of the topics of most importance to whiskey distillers and also includes where to find the original research that the contributing writers called upon in making their chapters. The list of 22 contributing writers includes master blenders, chemists, distillers, brewers, spirits and beer historians, and professors. Russell and Stewart’s concise editing packs dense information into the text, and numerous charts, tables, graphs and black-and-white illustrations give a full picture of the fermenting and distilling processes. Whether just getting started or already an established distiller; whether reading from cover to cover or for shelving in a reference library, this book is a must-have for serious students of distilling.

This book replaces The Alcohol Textbook (by K. Jacques, T.P. Lyons and D. R. Kelsall, Nottingham University Press. The previous book delved into other styles of beverage alcohols as well as fuel and industrial alcohol production. Whisky concentrates on whiskey production and delves deeper into styles and trends in the major whiskey producing areas of the world; Scotland, Ireland, Japan, North America and India. The contributing writers are Anne Anstruther, Ross Aylott, Tom A. Bringhurst, James Brosnan, John Conner, Jonathan Driver, Shinji Fukuyo, Grant E. Gordon, Frances Jack, James W. Larson, T. Pearse Lyons, Stephanie Macleod, Binod K. Maitin, Mike Mitchell, Douglas M. Murray, Yoshio Moro, Dennis Arthur Nicol, David Quinn, Inge Russell, Duncan McNab Stewart, Graham Stewart and Nicholas R. Wilson.