Baby D's Bagels
$20 Worth of Food and Drink for Only $10

March 13, 2013

Mr. Bourbon

Historian Michael Veach traces bourbon’s heritage in ‘Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey’

Michael Veach stands up from behind the stacks of books on the table and clinks a pocketknife against a snifter glass. A crowd of more than 50 abruptly ends their conversation and gathers around. It’s time to taste some whiskey that Veach has been holding onto for an occasion such as this — the launch of his book on the history of bourbon, “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage.” He digs the knife’s blade into the dry, worn cork of the bottle. His eyes are wide with anticipation, like a kid awaiting presents on Christmas morning. This is Old Crow whiskey that he believes was put into the barrel around 1912. It’s a pre-Prohibition relic, and he’s eager to share it with anyone brave enough to try it.

The flavor is musty and burns all the way down. There’s a strange flavor of clove that lingers. Veach swirls it around the glass, gives it a nose, and throws it back. He smiles, satisfied and wanting to dissect each and every flavor. But for now, it’s back to the table to sign books and shake hands with friends, co-workers and bourbon industry bigwigs.

Mike Veach is the associate curator of Special Collections at the Filson Historical Society. He’s also the leading bourbon historian in town — probably the only one. “I always tell people I’m the luckiest student to come out of the University of Louisville,” he says of the title. “It’s such an unplumbed field of history. I really hope the book inspires some future generations of bourbon historians to look into things even deeper.”

“Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey” is a concise look at how bourbon came to be, and it follows the spirit throughout significant moments in U.S. history, including the Whiskey Rebellion, the Industrial Revolution, Prohibition, WWII, a popularity surge in the ’50s followed by a decline in the late ’60s and ’70s, and how its future is shaping up. Veach stresses it’s not a comprehensive history, by any means, but rather an introductory course on the subject. “I didn’t want to scare people off,” he says. “I got my first review from Drinkhacker.com, and they said that if there was ever a Bourbon 101 class, this would be the textbook, and I agree with that.”

Veach has been researching bourbon for more than 20 years. After graduating with a master’s degree in medieval history with a secondary field of public history, he came to the Filson as an intern and got pulled into a paying project by United Distillers to archive papers and artifacts. He now teaches classes and seminars on the history of bourbon and runs the Filson Bourbon Academy a few times a year, attracting a wide range of pupils, from the curious imbiber to professional bartenders and future distillers. He also is on a first-name basis with most of the distillers in the state and is often pulled in on consulting projects.

Asked which came first — the love of bourbon or the love of history — Veach sits back and contemplates. “That’s a tough question. Being a Kentuckian, I’ve loved bourbon for a long time. But probably history, because I was always good at history, even in grade school.”

It’s a good time to be into bourbon. With the recent classic cocktail trend in bars across the country and Kentucky’s tourism push with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Urban Bourbon Trail, Veach stays busy. He’s part of a panel at this month’s Bourbon Classic and has committed to hosting seminars in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., this year. So what does he attribute bourbon’s popularity to today? “I think there’s a lot of different things that have brought bourbon back,” he says. “I think bourbon was coming back before the cocktail craze hit. I think mostly you were getting people who were drinking whiskey for the flavor, not just something you knock back. People started treating bourbon like they treat wine.”

So Kentucky must have the potential to be the Napa Valley of bourbon, right? Veach quickly answers no. “There’s too much of Kentucky that is still Bible Belt, that thinks anything to do with whiskey is evil. As a result, we have some of the most antiquated laws in the nation. The industry pays a lot of taxes in Kentucky, and it really hurts. We get half a million visitors a year already to the distilleries, and the potential is that we could do 10 times that.”

As for the future of bourbon, Veach believes it will be impacted by smaller craft-distiller operations, much like the beer industry. “I don’t know if it’s going to be the future, but it will have an impact on the future,” he says of specialty products like single-barreled bourbons. “Don’t get me wrong — Jim Beam white label will always continue doing what it’s doing. But for those who want a super premium product, the bigger distillers might pick up what some of the craft distillers are experimenting with.”

When asked to name his all-time favorite bourbon, Veach jokes it’s any that is free. “What are you buying me?” And although he thought the 1912 Old Crow he cracked open this evening was decent, he’s tried some doozies in his day. “We did an Old Rip Van Winkle bottle at the Filson back in 2002. This was a Van Winkle from Prohibition — not the stuff they’re bottling now,” he explains. “The best descriptor I heard that night was: ‘It tastes like the gauze a dentist puts in your mouth after they pull a tooth.’ Kind of a coppery/iodine/musty flavor. The funny thing is that I’ve had other Rip Van Winkle bourbons from that era, and they were really good. It goes to the fact that to keep the brand alive, they would put anybody’s whiskey in the bottle. I’m sure it was two different distilleries.”

The oldest bourbon he’s ever tried was a rye whiskey that went into the bottle in 1884, and he says it held up pretty well. And when not drinking bourbon, Veach prefers a decent beer. “I’ve always enjoyed a good glass of Guinness or a British ale. I enjoy some of the hoppy beers, although I don’t consider myself a hophead.”

As a man who is dedicated to history, Veach likes to keep it simple. He spends his days among the dusty books and artifacts at the Filson, and prefers you just drop by for conversation instead of email. In fact, he has never owned a cell phone and does not have cable TV. “People accuse me of being a Luddite,” he laughs. “My theory is: I like cell phones, and I think it’s really handy when I can get a hold of the plumber 24/7. I just don’t want the plumber to be able to get a hold of me 24/7.” And no cable? “I don’t have cable, because I refuse to pay money for something that’s going to rot your brain. To me, cable is the ultimate insanity. Give me $80 a month, and I’ll find something that’ll rot your brain that will be a lot more fun!”

Michael Veach will be signing copies of his book on April 25 at Vines & Canines and May 25 at Carmichael’s Bookstore. He’s also leading bourbon seminars April 16 at the Filson and May 15 at the St. Matthews library.

It is perfect time to make

By maher2014
It is perfect time to make some plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy. I have learn this put up and if I may just I want to counsel you few fascinating issues or advice. Maybe you can write subsequent articles regarding this article. I wish to read even more issues about it! العاب فلاش

Berita Liga eropa Liputan6

By beritaterbaru
berita persib bandung terbaru
berita mitra kukar terbaru Nonton siaran langsung bola online di nobar tv online NOBARTV

berita sepak bola terkini Liputan6

By beritaterbaru
berita klasemen liga inggris terbaru
berita liga eropa terbaru
berita persik kediri terbaru

Nice post. I learn some

By ronan1122
Nice post. I learn some thing tougher on distinct blogs everyday. Most commonly it is stimulating to learn to read content from other writers and exercise a specific thing there. I’d would rather use some together with the content in my weblog no matter whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a link in your web weblog. Many thanks for sharing. Relationships by Eagle Book Clubs

You make so many great

By ronan1122
You make so many great points here that I read your article a couple of times. Your views are in accordance with my own for the most part. This is great content for your readers. carte psn gratuit

I read that Post and got it

By ronan1122
I read that Post and got it fine and informative. Please share more like that... Thai Food Delivery Singapore

I high appreciate this post.

By ronan1122
I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information? bubblegum casting

I have been reading out many

By ronan1122
I have been reading out many of your articles and i must say pretty good stuff. I will surely bookmark your site. bubblegum casting

i read a lot of stuff and i

By ronan1122
i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future.. http://www.rebelmouse.com/lindaallenyeastinfectionnomore/

I am very much pleased with

By ronan1122
I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article. Gartenbau

That drink is in some league

By peterparker
That drink is in some league of its own. I bought last Monday for the family reunion. Not many people have tasted that before. They loved it. They asked me who referred the drink to you. I said nobody because there was not much choice in the shop. ms outlook mail

It is a great website.. The

By ronan1122
It is a great website.. The Design looks very good.. Keep working like that!. interim vacatures

Good

By hanler
The odd doohickey is that I’ve had further Rend Wagon Winkle bourbons from that date, furthermore they were actually beneficial. It goes to the deed that to hold the character existing, they would put anybody’s alcohol in the flask. writing script