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Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  447 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Popular history with a whiskey-soaked edge: Bourbon is Dane Huckelbridge's artful and imaginative biography of our most well-liked, and at times controversial, spirit, that is also a witty and entertaining chronicle of the United States itself.

Few commodities figure as prominently or as intimately in the story of the nation as bourbon whiskey. Its primary ingredient was di
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by William Morrow
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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  447 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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May 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tried-and-failed
It wasn't BAD but it didn't really grab me. I like drinking bourbon better than I like reading about it, apparently.
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, nonfic, history
This was such a fantastic book! I loved it and give it two enthusiastic thumbs up. And Bourbon isn't just for bourbon aficionados. Yes, the book focuses on bourbon, but it covers quite a bit of American history as it goes, making for an entertaining read for history lovers too. I picked this up because I'm married to a bourbon aficionado and I think this book has made me into one too!

The author starts with the man who is credited with creating the distilling process for hard liquor. Now, yes, I
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When I poured through my massive American History text in high school, there was a mere glossing over on the role of whiskey in the Whiskey Rebellion as well as the correlating taxes that would help shape the financial infrastructure of our fledgling country. Mentions of whiskey were peppered throughout the pages, but I now know that I could not have possibly begin to comprehend or appreciate the scope of the impact of bourbon without having actually tasted and savored it.

Huckelbridge's tone th
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's popular history and then there's popular history. This was, sadly, the later. I found Huckelbridge's book at best shallow and at worst a simple account of bourbon's past and it's relationship to the American "spirit." The book's footnotes were interesting but I found the book as a whole under-sourced (or at least the citation list was thin) and then historical allusions a bit simple. It's a rapid account of 250+ years of history (in about as many pages). While this gives the reader a sen ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This sumbitch can write. What an intensely packed and informational tract on the dubiously noble are of distillation. I'd love to meet this fella and throw back a few. This was such an enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining a read. Please get it - particularly if you are depressed. Hucklebridge mixes intellect with humor in a way that can only be described as intoxicating. Thank you Dane - wherever you are!
Kristi Thielen
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Never dreamed that a non-drinker like me could have so much fun reading a book about hooch. Mr. Huckelbridge has an engaging and completely irreverent style that grabs you on page 1 and won't let you go.

The history of bourborn is a history of Kentucky hill country, yes; but it also provides a history lesson about politics and social policy, social custom, changing gender roles, evolving industry, the rise of media and how marketing - and the whims of the American public - can make you, break yo
Bill Pritchard
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic! The delicious combination of the history of the United States told right along side the history of what can be argued is America's drink! Like Jazz and Blues in Music, Bourbon is American - starting (and continuing ) in the stills in Kentucky and Tennessee, the rise of this spirit was at Mt. Vernon with George Washington (who made is own and sold it). It continued with us thru the Revolutionary War, thru our battles with Britain, thru our own Civil War... it has been alo ...more
David Wilson
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm learning a lot about Bourbon, but also a lot of anecdotal and off-trail history of the US that is not always relevant. It's a quick, easy read, but sometimes the flip manner of the narrative is intrusive.
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting story - docked a notch for the author's too-flowery writing style.
Christopher Fox
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an American book written by an American for an American audience - thus the often repeated possessive adjective "our" as in "our country", "our Founding Fathers" etc. It is permissible however for non-Americans such as myself to read this without permission or a passport. If those two sentences seem rather flippant and casual that's the style of this interesting survey of an alcoholic spirit whose name is inextricably tied in with the U.S. and its history. Indeed to read this rather brea ...more
Bob Rosenbaum
The the book contained information that was new to me, and it kept me reading to completion. But I felt like it might have been written in its entirety based on knowledge gained from a single weekend of distillery tours on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The whole thing felt lightweight, superficial and a little bit annoying. Humor is a subjective thing, and perhaps Huckelbridge and I simply don't agree on what's funny, but his frequent editorial interjections struck me as sophomoric, obvious and re ...more
ruth gaustad
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prepare to raise a toast

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a drinker. That said, I do love a well researched, well written history. Mr Huckelbidge presents a wealth of resources/facts, and does so with a warmth, intelligence, and affection for his topic. Drinker or not, history buff or not, you shouldn't miss out on this wonderful book. Thank you, Mr Huckelbridge!!
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author strains the analogies but provides a few good anecdotes

The historical approach really lacked substance, strained reality, provided a lot of social justice and was much too long for the limited interesting material.
Michael A. Simmons, Sr.
An outstanding history of an American original

The author has done a simply delightful job in bringing the history of Bourbon to the reader. Even if you are a tee totaller this slice of Americana is very entertaining. Try it, you'll like it!
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insightful look into how bourbon developed along with our nation.

The book was well written. The writer chose an interesting focus and had a great pace as he told the story of how bourbon and America developed through the years in our nation.
Robert Fritz
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very entertaining book on the history of bourbon. More enjoyable than most any non-fiction book I've read about the specific history of something like this. I like the writer's style of humor. Highly recommended (I can loan this out to friends since it was a present to me).
Kurry Swigert
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The book provided a good history on bourbon. The author included a lot of bourbon-related info that sometimes added little to the book other than more pages. If you are a bourbon drinker, it is still worth reading.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was OK.

The earlier history in the book was very interesting and well-written. When we got into the history after World War II, I had a sense that there was less research and more stuff pulled from recent memory. It changed the readability of the book a bit.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this in fits and starts before, during and after a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It was easy to read and a fun overview of the history of bourbon in terms of production and cultural significance.
Keith Barros
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

Well written, very interesting, lots of facts and humorous too. A very enjoyable read. If like bourbon, this book is for you.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good read.....pretty short book but a good history with a healthy shot of humor.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some sections were not as gripping as others, but overall a pretty fascinating read.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting cultural history of America's native spirit. Nice light reading.
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative, but a little long for me. Not exactly what I was looking for and found myself just skimming along.
Donna D'Agostino
Great read

This was a fun book. It's a quick read and really informative. I didn't know learning about bourbon could be so fun.
Bruce Nieminski
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
278 pages
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Entertaining and fun read. Be sure to have a glass and bottle handy, it will make you thirsty as you read.
I couldn't get past the flowery language the writer uses. There is a bunch of interesting information and thoughts regarding the history of bourbon though.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m still brushing my teeth with a bottle of Jack.
Nick Carraway LLC
1) "Take a simple glance at bourbon's history, and the parallels become undeniable: a primary ingredient (corn) first cultivated by Native Americans. A distillation technique brought from Europe by immigrants. A recipe invented on the Western frontier. A spirit of rebellion born of social upheaval. A coming of age in the tumult of the Roaring Twenties. A global emergence in the postwar years. Sound familiar? From the Jazz Age to the Space Age, the Lost Generation to Generation X, bourbon has cre ...more
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Dane Huckelbridge was born and raised in the American Middle West. He holds a degree from Princeton University, and his fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Tin House, Literary Hub, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New Republic. His debut novel CASTLE OF WATER was published by St. Martin's Press in 2017, and his book NO BEAST SO FIERCE was published b ...more

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