The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey
Charles K. Cowdery
If you're interested in learning more about American whiskey, then you owe yourself a copy of Bourbon, Straight. Quite simply, this is the best book on American whiskey that I've read. While the title refers to Bourbon, Charles Cowdery's comprehensive volume covers the big three of American whiskey: Bourbon, rye and Tennessee.
Cowdery, a Bourbon writer and publisher of the excellent newsletter, the Bourbon Country Reader, gives you all you need to get started on a Bourbon journey. His book presents the basics of Bourbon, what it is, how it's made and how it tastes, along with a good dose of history. He covers both the long history of whiskey in America and the stories of some of the big Bourbon families and distilleries.
I was most impressed by Cowdery's tasting notes, presented at the end of the volume. Cowdery eschews the typical free association tasting notes that are one of my pet peeves (...caramel, ocean mist, prune pits, late harvest dates, etc., etc.) Instead, he writes more detailed notes, consisting of several paragraphs as opposed to the more usual several lines. Instead of just naming flavors, he tries to give some context, explaining why he thinks a Bourbon tastes a certain way and giving some reason for the taste (mash components, barrel time, etc.). Everyone in the whiskey writing business would do well to read Cowdery's notes and take a few notes of their own.
A great example of his flair for tasting notes is his description of Eagle Rare, in which he senses lots of "candy" elements: "If candy corn actually tasted like corn, it would taste like Eagle Rare Single Barrel." Now that's a tasting note I can relate to.
If you are interested in Bourbon, rye or Tennessee whiskies, pick up a copy of Bourbon, Straight.