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Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit Hardcover – 24 Apr 2014

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Product Description


“[A] raucously entertaining history. ... Drink deeply from Huckelbridge’s free-flowing stories, and you’ll soon be besotted with the honeyed history of bourbon.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A mirthful, erudite appreciation of bourbon and its striking history. …. [An] entertaining tour d’horizon of bourbon’s birth and long, healthy life. … Huckelbridge knows his bourbon. … A snappy history of the popular spirit’s rise and continued ascent.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A wonderfully entertaining look at American history as seen through the lens of Kentucky’s famous brown water. A must read.” (BILL SAMUELS, JR., President Emeritus of Maker's Mark Distillery and 4th generation Kentucky bourbon maker)

“Made from New World corn and Old World techniques, Bourbon is the American Spirit. Dane Hucklebridge takes readers on an intoxicating romp through the history of bourbon from its humble colonial origins to its craft-driven current revival.” (EDWARD J. LARSON, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History)

“A witty and informative account of America’s much-loved national beverage. Dane Huckelbridge is the sage of sour-mash.” (JOHN BAXTER, author of The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France and The Most Beautiful Walk in the World)

“Pour three fingers, crack open Dane Huckelbridge’s Bourbon, and prepare to be taken along on a strange tale of moonshiners, gun-slingers, hair-metal bands, and Brooklyn hipsters. The results: smooth.” (PAGAN KENNEDY, New York Times Magazine columnist)

“Refreshingly entertaining. ... Tells our nation’s entire tale with a big splash of Kentucky’s finest. You’ll learn a f*ckload about the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, the Civil War, the Wild West and beyond, and you’ll actually enjoy it.” (

“Informative. ... What part hasn’t bourbon played in American history? And what does that corn-based spirit say about this country’s character? Huckelbridge has done a well-researched but laid-back job answering. (Memphis Flyer)

“Sure, you might have enjoyed a sip of bourbon before. Possibly on Bourbon Street. While eating a bourbon-glazed pork chop and wearing bourbon-scented aftershave. But until you read this 288-page historical treatise on the amber nectar, you’ll never know the whole story.” (UrbanDaddy)

“An engrossing song to America through an alcoholic beverage.” (Washington Post)

“Let’s raise a glass to Dan Huckelbridge for putting together the definitive history of bourbon, the penultimate American whiskey.” (Sacramento Bee)

Bourbon would be a delightful companion to take along on a trip to... the great Kentucky distilleries.” (

“Although Bourbon is most certainly a history book, you won’t even realize [it]. That’s because Dane Huckelbridge brings bourbon to life with the sort of witty, character-rich zeal AMC writers might employ if they took over the History Channel.” (Toledo Blade)

Bourbon the book, like bourbon the drink, has a special spirit. ... Lighthearted, friendly, easy to take and enjoy. ... Try it; you’ll like it.” (Lincoln Journal Star)

From the Back Cover


A Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Bestseller


Few products are so completely or intimately steeped in the American story as bourbon whiskey. As Dane Huckelbridge's masterfully crafted history reveals, the iconic amber spirit is the American experience, distilled, aged, and sealed in a bottle.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9cf74498) out of 5 stars 50 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c990b10) out of 5 stars '51% Corn' 18 April 2014
By VA Duck - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Bourbon: A History..." by author Dane Huckelbridge lives up to its title - chronicling the corn-based spirit from the beginning of "hard spirits" at the hands of Raymond Llull in 1265 to bourbon's (trendy) "small batch" distillations. Once free of historic connection to generic 'spirits' the book follows the life of American Bourbon from George Thorpe's 'letter' in 1620 (1st documented reference) into the "Whiskey Rebellion" of 1791, through "The Great Experiment" of Prohibition to the modern resurgence of high quality small-batch bourbons. Huckelbridge insists on a 'swaggering' (?) style in his prose that at first captivates, then becomes annoying and finally ends at the Epilogue in guarded acceptance given to a good story, well told. Here is an excerpt containing the style, be the judge of its entertainment value to you because there are ~288 pages of this:

"Almost mind you. Because before bourbon can settle its spurs fully in the modern world, there are still a few wild corners of the country left to be tamed, and still a fair number of whiskey drinkers out on the range who know more about six-shooters than they do about stock prices. And thanks to the new fangled railroads, getting there is only a hop, skip, and a few whistle stops away. So saddle up and get ready, because the west didn't get Wild by sipping Coca Cola, and America didn't cut its teeth on Dentyne gum. Long before there was a car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot, there was a saloon on every corner and a bullet with your name on it. Hi-yo, bourbon! Away!" (pg.143, loc. 1566) (even the text is 'at least 51% corn'.)

The read is punctuated with a good number of illustrations that add interest and tie the text to the nostalgic past. You will, however, be disappointed if you expect a 'technical' education on bourbon, details such as: variances in the recipe, the distiller's art, specific effects of aging, the nature of the oak's chemical contribution, the analysis and comparison of its modern examples, etc., are not here (or very lightly treated). (For that, Cowdery's Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey is much better.) More about the 'concoction' of the spirit itself and a bit less of its cobweb filled ancestry might have made this read more fulfilling. In any event, this is a recommended read, but take the title literally - this is a HISTORY of Bourbon - the All-American corn mash whiskey.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c8795ac) out of 5 stars Fun read, but with some real weight. 7 April 2014
By Christopher R. Beha - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It's written in such a snappy, engaging style that you almost don't realize how much research has been done. It's a great book to buy a friend who likes booze but it's also a serious work for those interested in the history of Appalachia or the Scots-Irish in America.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c8794b0) out of 5 stars Great read, and lots to learn 26 May 2014
By Magnus von Koeller - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well-written and informative. What more could you ask for? This is an easy read and entertainingly written. I truly enjoyed reading this, which I don't often say about non-fiction. But what's more, and what surprised me, is that there's actually a lot of heft to this book. Bourbon really is intertwined with American history, so there was lots to learn in here, particularly for an immigrant like me. Who knew that George Washington operated a Whiskey distillery? This book is well-researched, well-written and informative. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cb1006c) out of 5 stars A Top Shelf Read! 25 April 2014
By Paul Stinson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To write such a stylish and eye-opening history, it would take a first-rate raconteur, an assiduous scholar, and - perhaps most importantly - a red-blooded son of America's heartland. Clearly, Huckelbridge is all three.

His keen eye for detail vivifies bourbon's rich history, while his extraordinary gift for storytelling makes for a thoroughly entertaining read. Like cool branch water to any of Bardstown's best, Huckelbridge's prose is the perfect accompaniment to the history itself: wholly realized, refreshing, and revelatory.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c8797c8) out of 5 stars A page-turner! 27 April 2014
By A reader - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I never thought I would call a nonfiction book a page-turner, but this one really is! I bought it for my husband as a gift but ended up reading it myself after it kept making him laugh out loud. The author is a witty guide through the surprisingly fascinating history of Bourbon. Highly recommend.
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