12 Must Have Bourbon Books

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You upgraded from bourbon & coke, you have Glencairn glasses, and you even started reading this fantastic little blog: now what? It’s time for you to get educated, my friend! Bourbon writing has exploded in the past decade with scores of whiskey books lining the shelves in distillery gift shops and bookstores alike. These are just a few of the fantastic books out there if you are looking to explore more about bourbon. Cheers!

Must Reads

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

By Michael Veach

Michael Veach’s first book is the seminal work on Kentucky bourbon heritage and American whiskey in general. This very short book is jam-packed with information about all facets of bourbon production, from early farm distilling to nineteenth century commercial distilleries to the craft distillery movement, and everything in-between. Trust me, get a copy. Why don’t you already have one?
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Bourbon, Straight

By Chuck Cowdery

You might know Chuck from his blog, but he also wrote a fantastic volume covering a good deal of bourbon history and the market trends in bourbon today (including one of the best guides to modern distilleries that I have seen). He speaks in a very matter-of-fact tone and is extremely fun to read. This is a book for newbies and veterans alike, because no matter how long you have been drinking, Chuck will always be able to teach you something new!
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Bourbon Flavor Wheel & Tasting Mats

Makes the perfect Fathers' Day gift. Click, Download, and Give.
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Tasting Guides

The Bourbon Tasting Notebook

by Susan Reigler and Michael Veach

Susan Reigler, president of Bourbon Women, and Michael Veach, aforementioned bourbon guru, are the dream team when it comes to tasting guides. Carefully researched, thoughtfully written, and conveniently purse-sized (yes, I take it to liquor stores), this is a must for anyone who wants to start questioning what he or she likes in his or her whiskey. And, unlike many guides, Reigler and Veach do not assign points or grades to their evaluations—a feature I love.
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Read our previous review of The Bourbon Tasting Notebook

American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye

by Clay Risen

In his American Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye, Risen presents an almost exhaustive list of American whiskeys and their tasting notes for the home drinker. His witty notes and astute reflections make this tasting guide an absolute delight to read (plus he includes a fantastic section about bourbon history at the start). If you love all types of American whiskey, then go for Clay’s book!
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Bourbon History Buffs

Bourbon Empire

By Reid Mitenbuler

Reid has accomplished the inestimable task of chronicling the bourbon market in his volume, Bourbon Empire. In amazing detail, he traces exactly why and how bourbon is the way it is today. If you are interested in the way bourbon history impacts what is in our Glencairn glasses, this is the book for you.
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Whiskey Women

By Fred Minnick

It is a little-known fact that women played a huge role in distilling whiskey before prohibition, and Fred Minnick does an excellent job telling the stories of many distilling women which we have overlooked for the last century. Covering global whiskey history, this book is perfect for history buffs who want to see a new perspective on bourbon, scotch, and other whiskey production.
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Cocktail Crafting


By David Wondrich

Imbibe! is David Wondrich’s ode to Jerry Thomas’s Victorian guide, How to Mix Drinks. Wondrich fleshes out the nuanced cocktail language Thomas uses in his 1862 edition and subsequent volumes, so at-home cocktail makers can craft drinks from the Blue Blazer to the Whiskey Daisy. I can’t recommend this book enough, it is truly a gem on the shelf of any cocktail devotee!
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The Old Fashioned

By Albert W. A. Schmid

Schmid combines a love for cocktails and a dedication to history in his small volume, The Old Fashioned. If you love a good old fashioned and want to know its history, or simply want to try new recipes, Schmid combines these two elements into a fantastic book. And it’s in a convenient pocket size so you can take it anywhere!
(Don’t worry, if you prefer Manhattan cocktails, Schmid wrote the book on that too.)
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Toasts to the Greats

But Always Fine Bourbon

By Sally Van Winkle Campbell

But Always Fine Bourbon is a touching reflection on the life and work of Pappy Van Winkle. Part memoir, part history, and absolutely fantastic throughout, this is a must for any lover of the famous bourbon. Hey, if you can’t drink Pappy, you might as well read about him!
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Kentucky Bourbon Barons

By Chester Zoeller

Zoeller does it again by offering the stories of many of bourbon’s great names throughout history. Hitting the Samuels, the Beams, and everyone in-between, this is a fantastic guide to just who forged the trail for bourbon today. And cheers to them for doing it!
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Nerdy Bourbon

Bourbon in Kentucky

By Chester Zoeller

Bourbon in Kentucky is an amazing, exhaustive guide to all of the (very many) distilleries that existed in Kentucky before Prohibition. County by county, he lists each distillery and the information he has found on them. Although I think this is the saddest book in the world (so many lost distilleries!), it is still the first one I go to when I start bourbon research. If you are truly nerdy about bourbon, this is the book for you.
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The Birth of Bourbon

By Carol Peachee

Carol Peachee offers breathtaking photos of abandoned and currently operating distilleries in this amazing volume, The Birth of Bourbon. This is the perfect companion to Zoeller’s book in so many ways, especially since Peachee explores some of the very distilleries that appear in Zoeller’s guide. This is the volume for photography, bourbon, and history lovers alike.
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About the Author

Melissa Alexander

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Melissa is an aspiring bourbon historian who began her romance with bourbon the night of her 21st birthday. She is studying for her Master’s in History at the University of Cincinnati, and works at Historic Locust Grove in Louisville where she contributes to their hearth cooking, distilling, and dairying demonstrations. In her free time, she enjoys stitching reproduction historical garments for living history events, and, of course, spreading the bourbon gospel to anyone who will listen.